Divided We Fall to Join New Day Films!

We are pleased to announce that we have been offered (and accepted!) distribution for Divided We Fall by New Day films!  New Day is a film distribution co-op founded by feminist filmmakers in the 1970s seeking a way to distribute their films.

This is such a great fit for us on so many levels.  We look forward to participating in a workers’ co-op, we’re excited to meet other filmmakers with a passion for social issue oriented storytelling, and we’re honored to have Divided We Fall included in a catalog with so many Academy award nominees.  Incidentally, New Day also has one of my all-time favorite union films: Union Maids.

New Day distributes films to the educational market.  Early next year, our film will be available on the New Day website, with options for streaming or DVD.  When our launch is initiated, I’ll ask you to recommend Divided We Fall to your local library, educational institution, or community group.

It’s now almost exactly 5 years since I took a giant leap of faith and decided to make a film about our historic uprising.  It’s very gratifying to bring the project to fruition, with a high point of this year our screening at the Wisconsin Film Fest and now a wonderful distribution opportunity.

Thanks so much to all of you – for your work during the Uprising, your amazing contributions to our film, and your support over the years.

Happy Holidays and all the best in the New Year!



WHEN:      Tuesday, November 14th, 6 p.m.

WHERE:   Milwaukee Central Library
814 W Wisconsin Ave, Community Room 1

                     “America is about to be Wisconsinized.”
                                   –Paul Buhle, historian

With Wisconsin activists gearing up for next year’s election and the Supreme Court set to hear Janus vs AFSCME – a case which could eliminate public sector union dues nationwide – there is no better time to revisit our historic 2011 protests!

The latest film about the iconic 2011 Wisconsin labor protests, Divided We Fall, screened at the Wisconsin Film Fest, the Reel Work labor film fest, and Laborfest in San Francisco this year. Now activists in Milwaukee can see it free at the central library! Director Katherine Acosta will be available for Q and A and DVDs of the film offered for sale following the screening.

Check out our website and see a trailer here:

Join us to relive the exhilaration and positive energy we generated campaigning together back in 2011, take a sober look at our strengths and weaknesses, and return to organizing invigorated and ready to strategize victory this time!

First-time filmmaker Katherine Acosta goes beyond the iconic images of the protests to ask organizers a simple question: What went wrong? —Rob Thomas, Capitol Times

Weaving citizens’ videos with numerous interviews, the film offers new information, revealing what happened behind the scenes… This film will be studied by future historians. — Esty Dinur, The Isthmus

By far the best representation of the occupation and uprising that I’ve read/seen/heard. I loved it. — Harriet Rowan, capitol occupation organizer

Read reviews and director interviews here:

Follow us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/dividedwefallthemovie


We enjoyed a great reception at our screening at the Reel Work Labor Film Fest in Santa Cruz on the 23rd!  The audience was small – only a few dozen persons – (one of the fests founders, Jeffrey Smedburg, said they go for “quality over quantity”) but all were enthusiastic about the film, all stayed for the Q and A, and all had substantive comments and questions.

They’re all serious activists and we made some good contacts, including an educator who is going to help with creating educational materials to go with institutional licenses for the film, a professional film critic who praised our work, and provision by organizers of a list of other labor fests, most of which I hadn’t heard of.

They were also a fun audience.  Like audiences at the Barrymore here in Madison, they are vocal, booing the bad guys, cheering the good guys, talking back to the screen. I loved it.  I like to sit in the back so I can get a sense of how people are reacting, and it was great fun to watch them watching the film.

Interestingly, they seemed especially inspired by the disability action scenes.  They laughed and cheered when activists responded to a request to leave the GOP headquarters where they were having a sit-in, by saying, “We haven’t decided to leave yet.” And when Barb Vedder, one of the main disability activists, rolled back into the capitol when activists re-took it following passage of the bill in violation of the open meetings law, they began clapping for her before she even got a chance to say, “Here we go again!”

Overall, it was a wonderful experience.  Many thanks to Reel Work organizers and volunteers!

Wisconsin Film Fest and Books Mentioned at Our Q & A!

So we had our screening for the Wisconsin Film Fest last Sunday and it was a fantastic experience!  WiFF director Ben Reiser, and all the WiFF staff and volunteers could not have been more gracious and helpful.  We had a great audience turn-out and Q and A after the film.

I mentioned two books at the Q and A that I want to share here.  The first is a Labor Notes book, How to Jumpstart Your Union.  The book tells the story of how the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) revamped the Chicago Teachers Union and staged a successful strike action in 2012.  They did it primarily by transforming their union from a “service” union (you pay your dues and the union officials provide the service of negotiating your contract – little involvement by rank and file members) to an “organizing” union – where everyone is involved in union activities to some degree.

What really impressed me was that CTU Prez Karen Lewis refused to settle that strike until all the teachers had a chance to read the contract and vote on it!  THAT is democracy in a union – and democracy fosters solidarity.

It’s a great book – well-written, a slim volume, easy-to-read in a couple of evenings.  I highly recommend it.

Here is a link to CTU Prez Karen Lewis on Democracy Now in 2012 describing how they did it.

The other book I mentioned in our Q and A following our screening at the WiFF was Joe Burns’ Strike Back.  Like How to Jumpstart Your Union, Strike Back is a slim, well-written, easy-to-read volume you can finish in a couple of evenings.  Burns packs a lot of interesting labor history in the book.  His central thesis is that we need to bring back work stoppages of various kinds – work-to-rule, blue flu, and full-fledged strikes to “reignite public sector unionism.”

Another important idea Burns develops is that public sector unions, in particular, need to foster alliances with people in the community that they serve.  When public sector unions were on the rise in the 1960s and early 1970s, they often did this.  So social workers might advocate not only for their own pay and working conditions, but also for the clients that they served.  In turn, those clients would support the workers when they had a work stoppage.  More recently, the CTU under Karen Lewis also did this – for example, working with community groups trying to stop school closures.  And when the CTU went on strike, the community had their backs.

Burns is a labor lawyer and ably refutes objections to public sector unions in clear language lay people can follow.  I can’t recommend Burns’ work highly enough!

Scott Collins: A Grassroots Activist Pens His Review

If you read only one review of Divided We Fall, please read Scott Collins over at Savage Cinema.  It’s long – but well worth the time.  Collins was actively involved in the capitol occupation, and like Harriet Rowan, who is featured in our film and created the Info Station, believes that we accurately represented the capitol occupation.

Further, Collins also “gets” in a profound way what we were trying to convey in this treatment of the Uprising.  One (of many) examples:

Acosta does include moments and individuals from when our state-wide struggle became nations and even global, with images of filmmaker Michael Moore and former MSNBC host Ed Schultz’s visits to our state making the cut in this film.  But, Acosta very smartly never slides her subject matter into any sense of celebrity.  She elicits a razor sharp focus upon the common, everyday Wisconsin individuals who found it within themselves to rise to this unprecedented occasion, and in doing so, all of them (in my opinion) became Civil Rights heroes in the process…

This paragraph really brought tears to my eyes as that was EXACTLY our goal.  Yes, Tom Morello is a great guy.  And who doesn’t enjoy Tony Shalhoub?  Yes, Dennis Kucinich has great political insights.  But this is not their story.  It’s the story of ordinary Wisconsinites doing the extraordinary to stand up for what they believed was right.

Over and over through the review, Collins indicates that our message, our intent, succeeded with him.  One thing I have observed through reviews and interviews for Divided We Fall is that our film really resonates with grassroots activists, while what I call “establishment liberals” are often either baffled or irritated.

Check out Collins’ amazing review!  Then head over to the Wisconsin Film Festival 2017 Film Guide, get your tix, and join us for the screening on April 2nd at the Barrymore! (Be patient for a sec until the pop-up that takes you directly to our film appears.)

Truthout: Trump Is Following Scott Walker’s Playbook

OUTSTANDING article in Truthout.org with contributions by three amazing people featured in our film: Labor organizer Charity Schmidt, long-time leader of Madison Teachers, Inc John Matthews, and .veteran editor of The Progressive Matt Rothschild. I was going to reprint some quotes, but the whole article is incredibly important.

These activists describe what happened in Wisconsin in 2011 – and the implications for the nation with the Trump presidency.

“We knew when Walker was elected that there would be a shift in state politics toward austerity policies and defunding public education and services, but few foresaw how severe and swift that shift would be,” [Charity] Schmidt explained. “The attacks were immediate, and just like Trump, he wasted no time in announcing controversial legislation, and started with acts that would be the most polarizing.”

As historian Paul Buhle says, “America is about to be Wisconsinized.”

Read the whole article here.

movie - drumline at Wisconsin protest

Thoughts on Ruth Conniff & “Next Steps”

As a first time filmmaker, I’m very grateful and honored that the editor of the Progressive, Ruth Conniff, was willing to take a look at our film on the 2011 Uprising, Divided We Fall, and offer her thoughts.  One part of her opinion piece on the next step for progressives following this year’s general election particularly caught my eye.  Conniff describes our film as “dispiriting” and invokes the late great historian Howard Zinn to warn against “ideological purity” among progressives.  Citing her 2004 interview with him, Conniff describes Zinn’s position:

You can be part of a movement that criticizes Democrats from the left, and also vote for the least-worst option at the polls…. Movement politics is a long-term effort, not to be confused with short-term campaigns.

In a verbatim quote from that 2004 article, Zinn says:

I’m arguing that social action is more important. But it doesn’t mean that who’s in the White House is of zero importance.

Writing in the Progressive in 2008, Zinn expands on this idea:

Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice (emphasis added).

In that same article, Zinn goes on to explain that New Deal policies of the 1930s were “not simply the result of FDR’s progressivism”- that strikes and other bold actions, such as defying the police to resist evictions, were crucially important.

It’s worth remembering that FDR was in office and collective bargaining for private sector workers was the law of the land when auto workers launched the great Flint sit-down strike in 1937.  But FDR took a hands-off approach (reminiscent of President Obama’s inability to find his “comfortable walking shoes” and join Wisconsin workers in 2011!)  Striking workers had to summon the strength and tenacity to occupy GM’s Fisher Body #1 plant for 44 days to force unionization of the auto industry.

The Flint strikers also had the advantage of time to craft a strategy – something activists here in Wisconsin did not have in 2011.  On the fly, thousands of people brought their creativity, ingenuity, and intelligence to bear creating one of the largest sustained protests – and the only occupation of a state capitol – in US history. Our film is intended to both celebrate that action and to critique – with the goal of starting a conversation about how we can win next time.

Already, activists in La Crosse have contacted us about screening our film as part of a series of events to kick off a progressive agenda in conjunction with the Millennials March.  This is exactly the way I hoped this film would be used.

Significant social change has never occurred without sustained direct actions.  As Zinn told Bill Moyers:

We’ve never had our injustices rectified from the top, from the president or Congress, or the Supreme Court… No. The changes, important changes that we’ve had in history, have not come from those three branches of government. They have reacted to social movements.

I agree with Conniff that when we’re done “obsessing” over Trump, it’s time to get to work building a grassroots movement for social change.

Don’t miss what is probably the last chance to see Divided We Fall this year at the Driftless Film Festival on November 4th!


Successful Public Premiere!

We had a great turnout at the Sundance for our first public screening last night – beyond my expectations. Many thanks to all the people and organizations who helped to get the word out! We’re so pleased – and even more so with the thoughtful comments and ideas from the audience.

There are so many intelligent, progressive-minded, and creative people in this state! We just have to get to work building a grass-roots movement to reverse the damage done to workers rights, our public institutions and our democracy in Wisconsin.

“Peaceful Protest Pushed Back 100 yards. Why?”

Fascinating video by ReZpectOurWater; evokes so many conflicting thoughts and emotions. When should we allow ourselves to be pushed into “free speech zones” and when should we stand our ground? Maybe if thousands more would join these protesters…

After the premiere of our film, which had scenes of the capitol eviction, where people who were not willing to be arrested were directed to one area, and those who were directed to another, an older woman came up to me and said: “We have to get over this idea that we can’t get arrested. We got arrested in the ’60s.”

I remembered the “fill up the jails” strategy deployed by the Southern Christian Leadership conference in Birmingham, Alabama during the black civil rights movement – and how those kids bravely went to jail singing.

I don’t mean to minimize the danger involved, especially in these days of tasers, police willing to shoot as a first resort rather than a last, etc, etc. But what will it take for the will of the people to be heard?

All blessings, respect, and good energy to these courageous protesters! #StandwithStandingRock

Successful Private Premiere!

Just before the screening, a thunderstorm exploded.  The sudden heavy downpour and high winds flooded roads and created dangerous driving conditions, preventing some of our guests from attending.  Others took their seats dripping wet.  We started late, to allow as many to get to the theater as possible before the screening began.

Then about 70 minutes or so into the screening, the Blu-ray skipped.  Seconds later, it stopped completely.  I felt sick.  Rick ran up to the projection room where there was nobody in attendance.  Apparently, projectionists do double duty as concession stand staff.  The culprit, Rick believes, was a greasy fingerprint on the disc.  There were no scratches.

Ultimately, the film resumed without further glitches.  One MIGHT think all this resulted in a disastrous screening.  But the premiere, like life and all political struggles, presented challenges to overcome – but those challenges don’t necessarily predict defeat.

Despite the weather, we had a great turnout.  We had good food and stimulating conversation at our reception afterwards.  We got to meet some of the many people who generously contributed video and photos to the project.  We got to hear the reactions of some of the interviewees who appeared in the film (almost universally positive!)  And we connected with people who offered opportunities to promote our film.

So far we have in the works:

  • A review upcoming in the Isthmus
  • Two interviews on local radio
  • A screening of a clip from our film at Fighting Bob Fest
  • A screening of our film in Spring Green, Wisconsin
  • A screening in Argentina!

And much more.  Follow this page for details in the coming days and weeks.  OUR FIRST PUBLIC SCREENING WILL BE ON 8/25 AT THE SUNDANCE HERE IN MADISON.  We’ll provide a link where you can buy tickets in a few days.

Meantime, we again wish to thank all those who helped to bring this project to fruition – the Wisconsin Uprising Archive (a community archive of citizen-produced media), individuals who donated video and photos, our interviewees who contributed time and insights that strengthened our critical analysis, and our family and friends who supported and encouraged us during this 3 ½ year project.  We are deeply grateful for your generosity.

Finally, we wish to thank our amazing post-production team – Gretta Wing Miller and Aarick Beher of Downtown Dailies/Blue Studio.  Gretta’s hard work, impressive editorial skills, and creative inspiration together with Aarick’s finely-tuned ear and painstaking work as sound engineer made it possible for us to produce the film we imagined.  And it has been great fun working with them!

Here’s a little sneak peak of a section of the poster Gretta is working on…