Arielle is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and creator of the Belonging in the USA docu-series. She has been featured in several publications, including The Independent's “10 to Watch Filmmakers in 2018” list. Since graduating NYU's Tisch School in 2001, she has used filmmaking as a tool to promote self-reflection, empathy, revolutionary listening and the healing power of storytelling.
Arielle founded Legacy Connections Films in 2005, harnessing the power of filmmaking to help families heal, reflect and imagine together. After making over 100 personal documentaries for her clients, from shorts to features for over a decade, tackling themes and issues related to family dynamics, addiction, mental health, and connection or lack thereof, Arielle decided to branch out and create the Belonging Series. In 2009-2010 she had independently produced and directed a 6-part local public television documentary series called “Belonging in Boulder: Unexpected Stories from Your Neighbors” for which she received a Hugo Television Award in 2012. That series inspired this documentary film series project.
Arielle has a history of giving back starting with volunteer work as early as junior high school until today. She has lived in Chicago, NYC, and briefly in Los Angeles and Argentina. After receiving her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in experimental theatre, she studied directing and then taught at the famed Second City Theatre in Chicago. A sense of humor is central to all her art. As an actress, writer, and director, her films and prior television show reflect the very personal, improvisational storytelling style of live theatre and life itself.
JJ has been working as an editor for the past ten years. From New York, to Chicago, to Boulder Colorado and back, he's worked on a wide variety of films and videos, continually sharpening his natural ability to tell stories through film. After learning the craft from NYC editors Alan Oxman (Welcome to the Dollhouse), Geoffrey Richman (Murderball), and Kate Sanford (The Wire), he worked as an Associate Editor on the SXSW-awarded documentary 'Manhattan, Kansas', an Assistant Editor on two Comedy Central series and the Abel Ferrara documentary, 'Odyssey in Rome' as well as editing a short documentary directed by Edet Belzberg (Children Underground). Since relocating to Chicago he's edited a wide-range of content from shorts to feature-length documentaries to music videos, live events, and corporate work.
As a composer and musician, JJ has spent parts of the past 15 years playing as a multi-instrumentalist in nationally touring bands, on the road, in the studio, and appearing in the major venues around Chicago. His most recent collaboration was with the artist Crow Moses, recording in-studio with producer Pat Sansone of Wilco.
RANDI KALISH—Executive Producer
Raised on Long Island, NY and currently living in Colorado, Randi Kalish believes stories connect us at a base level, a human level. In 2009, after working as a broker and a stay at home mom, she embraced her love for learning and returned to graduate school in Chicago for her Education Specialist license in School Psychology and ventured into a new phase of her life. Through raising her own children and supporting the needs of children and their families every day, she is drawn to opportunities that facilitate the sharing of stories within safe arenas.
What Randi appreciates most about the Belonging Series is the belief that each of us has a story to own and to tell. As we allow ourselves to hear the stories of others with an open and compassionate heart, without judgment, we have the potential to do the same for ourselves. She feels that storytelling is our legacy, and there is no better way to belong than to be allowed the opportunity to own our own story with honor and respect for ourselves as well as others.
Lara is a pianist, songwriter and composer. She received her Masters in music composition from Northwestern & has composed for Redmoon Theater, Chicago Public Schools, Forte Chicago among others. She was nominated for a Jeff Award in 2009.
In addition to her work as a composer, Lara worked as a Musician-in-Residence at Rush Children’s Hospital through Snow City Arts Foundation from 2005 – 2011. In 2007, as part of her work with the children at Rush, her project Up, Up and Away! was featured on Chicago Public Radio.
Alexis is multi-media director working in theater, puppetry, dance, site-specific and immersive performance, and animation. Her works of multi-disciplinary theater have been produced internationally and across the U.S. She has earned support from The Jim Henson Foundation, HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place, Chashama Arts, the Automata Residency Program, the CalArts Center for New Performance, and the City of Santa Monica. Alexis Macnab is currently Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts & Dance at Sonoma State University.
MEREDITH ZIELKE—Additional Camera
Meredith Zielke is a filmmaker and cinematographer. She works mainly in experimental documentary and large scale video installation. Her films have showed in numerous national and international festivals, conferences, galleries, educational institutions and community centers. Awards include: The SFFILM 2017 Documentary Film Fund, Graham Foundation Grant to Individuals, the Filmmaker Fund Grant, Gelman Travel Fellowship, Invited participant: Spotlight on Documentaries at IFP’s Independent Film Week Forum, and Featured filmmaker at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Film, Video, New Media and Animation department.
KATANIA "KAT" BROWN -- Virtually Irreplaceable Executive Assistant
Kat is a freelance virtual assistant and owner of Virtually Possible 365. She left the corporate environment in 2019 to launch her own business venture, which would allow her to use the skills and talents she has acquired over the past 25 years to help other women in business. She believes the best thing about launching her business is the freedom to pick and choose her clients, which is why she was eager to join the team.
She manages the day to day tasks, but more importantly she keeps Arielle on task. She manages our social media, which allows her to express her creativity. She is the primary caregiver for her mother, who suffers from vascular dementia. She and her mother were featured in a documentary about the challenges of being a caregiver of a loved one with dementia Today Was a Good Day The experience of the documentary was so profound it led her to create and publish her a journal called " Love Notes A Caregivers Journal". Kat enjoys traveling with her boyfriend, making a great cocktail and spending time with rescue fur-baby Jett.
CHRISTIAN JAMES--Festival & Screening Coordinator 2019
A Trinidad & Tobago native, James graduated in 2014 with an MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia College Chicago. He interned at the 2014 Cannes Film Market with a foreign sales agency, and was a participant of the Rotterdam Lab for producers at the 2015 International Film Festival Rotterdam. In 2017, James in the role of lead producer, released his debut feature film Green Days by the River in theaters and festivals worldwide. James brings a multi-dimensional and multi-cultural perspective to the team of the riveting documentary-series "Belonging in the USA"