Two Clinton School graduates from the Class of 2013 are making impacts in the world of documentary film. Maggie Carroll and Stephen Bailey continue to work on projects that educate and inspire through storytelling.
Carroll is a producer on the forthcoming Sony Music documentary about the life of singer-songwriter, actor, and activist Cyndi Lauper, “Let the Canary Sing.” Bailey recently served as producer and director of photography on “The Legend of the Underground,” an HBO documentary about the discrimination of LGTBIQ+ individuals in Nigeria.
“Producing can encompass a lot of things,” Carroll said. “For this job, it’s a blend of logistics and creative. Sometimes it means planning and managing interviews, other days it's going through old family photos with Cyndi to help better share her story. Working in documentary is great because you get to deep-dive into topics, have unexpected experiences, and learn new things constantly.”
Bailey's work on “The Legend of the Underground” began solely as Director of Photography but added more responsibilities as shooting continued. The documentary was nominated for Outstanding Documentary at the 2022 GLAAD Media Awards and is currently available to stream on HBOMax.
“I came onto Legend of the Underground as a director of photography,” Bailey said. “Together with the directors, we created a style and a series of visual devices that we hoped would help us break through existing tropes of Africa as well as provide the space to match our subjects' creative expression with poetic vehicles. As the project progressed, I became producer on the project, producing and shooting shoots on my own then joining the post-production team as a story producer and additional editor.”
Carroll previously worked on PBS American Portrait, a national storytelling project that tells individual stories through thought-provoking prompts. She said that her production work on “Let the Canary Sing” is, for her, a continuation of what she’s been doing for her entire career – storytelling.
“I've mainly worked in storytelling in one way or another,” Caroll said. “I even include the time I was an elf at Macy's Santaland in that — a lot of work goes into creating the magic and story of Santa for people. Any project where I've had the opportunity to work with people one-on-one, figuring out together how they/we can best share their stories. Gaining that trust is huge and special, if I'm proud of anything it's that.”
Bailey’s past work includes HBO’s “Level Playing Field,” an Emmy-nominated documentary that looks at social injustices through the lens of professional sports, and “Meth Storm,” which was filmed with the Renaud Brothers and tells the story of rural Arkansas users and dealers in an endless cycle of poverty and incarceration
He said that the most exciting aspect of his work on “The Legend of the Underground” was the collaborative nature of the production.
“One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Deji is reciting a self-inspired poem about a non-binary person moving to the U.S and being killed," Bailey said. "The visuals of Deji dancing in his room used in that scene came about naturally as we were speaking with Deji about how he would ideally express himself, without the pressures and notions of masculinity that he grew up with and that were currently being reinforced in New York City. He began to dance and our entire team fell in line with capturing this moment of insight and self-actualization.
“For me, being this deliberate in finding poetic ways with our subjects and collaborators in order to tell their story was a departure from much of the documentary filmmaking I had done in the past. And together with the directors' vision, these moments became some of the defining features of this documentary and lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my career.”
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