Weeks after Occupy Wall Street began its live-in protest at Zuccotti Park in 2011, the movement decided to make a monumental statement by marching across the Brooklyn Bridge.
NYPD were not amused.
More than 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested in a major police action that day, creating a real-life drama unlike anything filmmaker Audrey Ewell had ever seen.
From her Brooklyn apartment, Ewell watched a live stream of the arrests on her laptop, until the feed suddenly vanished.
“The person who was filming, their batteries ran out and it shut off and so I was like, wait, what’s going to happen next?” Ewell told TakePart. When she tried to find news on television about the arrests, she was shocked there wasn’t any coverage.
“And I just felt like, wait, why aren’t there six helicopters out covering this? This is a big deal—this is the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City!”
That night, Ewell and Aaron Aites went down to Zuccotti to see what was going on for themselves. It wasn’t long before the duo would decide to create 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film.
The professional documentarians (they’re behind Until the Light Takes Us, a chronicle of Norwegian black metal) soon learned they were better equipped to document the movement than many of the people involved in it.
“We were the only people there that night that were filming with reasonably professional equipment, and we were the only people there with lights. And people came up to us and they were thanking us for filming. And that really got me,” said Ewell.
The very next day, steeped in the spirit of the Occupy movement, Ewell and Aites decided to create a collaborative documentary. Ewell put out some press releases calling for collaborators who could follow a few rules (no propaganda, for one) and submit footage from protests from all over the country.
In the end, empowering filmmakers all over the country made it as if they had “little armies everywhere” and helped them craft a solid documentary that doesn't look like a bunch of YouTube clips strung together, Aites said.
“Watching a lot of the news coverage you would think this was an uprising of economists, not people being affected by all these issues,” Aites said.
Positive or negative, the coverage often seemed out of touch with the realities he encountered during the making of the film, Aites said.
“At first they were just really minimized by the press, they were spoken of very condescendingly and if there was anything that those people were it was earnest,” Ewell said of the Occupy protesters. “They hadn’t been afforded even the most basic respect of people taking the time to figure out why they were there.”
The documentary begins airing on Pivot Tuesday night. See when it’s scheduled to air here.