Published on September 21st, 2015 | by Thomas Ritchie


Iowan Cindy Waitt has two films in Emmy Awards competition

It's a rare event to be nominated for an Emmy. But to have your work receive two nominations, in the same category is near impossible. But that's the news that Sioux City's Cindy Waitt got this summer when she learned that two projects she championed - "Private Violence" and "Bully" - were nominated in Outstanding Informational Programming Long Form category. "Bully" also was nominated for Best Documentary. The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be announced on Sept. 28 in New York City. Waitt is an Executive Producer, with Gloria Steinem and others, of the HBO documentary “Private Violence, and is the Executive Producer of the award winning documentary “Bully.” She serves as Director of the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, a board member of the Waitt Foundation, and the Kind World Foundation. Prior to her 22-year career in philanthropy, she worked with at-risk youth and their families for 10 years. We recently got a chance to sit down with Waitt over lunch and learn about these two projects and what's next for the Sioux Citian. Question: You are nominated for 2 Emmys in the same category. How did it feel when you heard the news? Answer: I received two texts about 30 seconds apart. One from "Bully" director Lee Hirsch, then one from "Private Violence" director Cynthia Hill. It was a bit surreal, but in a good way. And the strange thing is that they were right next to each other in the category of "Outstanding Informational Programming – Long-Form". I've said that I see some symmetry to that. The issues are linked. private-violence-sundance-5Q: Tell me briefly about the two films that have been nominated and how they came to be. A: I met the amazing domestic violence activist and advocate Kit Gruelle, who was the visionary behind the "Private Violence" project, in Del Mar, Calif., in 2005. At that time, she was hoping to do a film about the history of the anti battering movement in America. In about 2007, our talented director/producer Cynthia Hill and her team came onto the project, and as she watched Kit Gruelle work and they met Deanna Walters, the central character, the film and story started to come together. Cynthia and her husband Rex Miller, who did the cinematography, and the whole team are just outstanding. I've always said it took a long time, as I think the issue was tougher to fund than "Bully". Gloria Steinem, who came on board in early 2009 after I spoke with her at a fundraiser in New York, has always pointed out the difference in funding time between Private Violence and Bully. But as long as it took to complete, we seem to have run into what I'd call "earth angels" who helped us at just the right time. Gloria was one of those angels. "Bully" came to our Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention educational consultant, Dr. Alan Heisterkamp and I in spring of 2009 when Lee Hirsch reached out to us. Lee and I had one of those "I so get you" connections on the phone, so I invited him and the wonderful Cynthia Lowen, to visit us in the summer of 2009. The issue of school bullying was beginning to be discussed as the result of several tragic suicides of young people across the country, and we all felt it was the right time, right place for what they then called "The Bully Project." Almost immediately I knew they were the right team, both being passionate, committed, creative, and super smart. They had some initial funding, but were struggling, and the Waitt Institute was able to help get them through production. My brother Ted was great. He watched a three minute clip Lee put together and then just turned to me and said, "How much do you need?" I'll never forget that. After they opened at Tribeca in 2011 and the Weinstein company came on board, it got noticed, to say the least! What was so remarkable about both film teams was their level of commitment, even at times when funding dried up or hadn't kicked in. They all kept at it, not knowing the outcome. I don't think any of us could have written this script where we're all at the Emmys at the same time, same category. Q: What was your goal in producing these films, both of which address violence prevention? A: I'm a social worker, and my goal is always the same. To not only shine a light on a subject, but to help create positive change. We saw that in the outreach of "Bully" and their impact has been tremendous. We are really beginning to see that with "Private Violence" as well. I'm working on a piece about how the issues are linked. Here's just a couple of points from that. As early backers of both films, we believe that violence in the home and bullying in school must be treated as co-equals. They are inextricably linked, and the data backs it up. A 2011 CDC study told us that kids who witness violence in the home are more likely to be bullied, and more likely to become bullies themselves: It’s time to see that the first time some children see or witness violence is not in the school yard: it’s where they live. Q: You have championed causes that often do not get a lot of light shined on them. What's next for you? A: I haven't talked much about the next film I'm involved with yet. It's called "Audrie and Daisy", and it covers the high school sexual assault cases of Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott. The film team is Actual Films, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, great filmmakers. As with Private Violence, both Kind World and the Waitt Institute for Violence prevention gave early support. More very soon on this one.

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I love food, cycling, family, music, social media and especially Sioux City. Got an idea for a story - shoot me a note at siouxcitynow1@gmail.com.

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