IDA Member Spotlight: Stacie McClam
Stacie McClam is a filmmaker and former 10-year educator who has taught across the United States and abroad. Stacie is the Founder of School Dismissed, a film production company focused on exposing K-12 public education issues through film. Her goal is to use art as advocacy by bridging education, film, and law. Currently, she and her team are in production for a documentary about a mother who was jailed for using her parents' address to enroll her daughters into a different school district. She is also a producer for an upcoming documentary entitled Bar Daddy: The Al Jenkins Story premiering in March 2023.
IDA: Thank you for your time Stacie! Please introduce yourself to our members and tell us a little about your background.
STACIE MCCLAM: When I was in first grade, I began getting bused to schools outside of my neighborhood. I lived in a Black middle-class neighborhood. The closest school to my house was only five minutes away. I didn’t understand why I took a bus to a nearby city 20 minutes away. I was bused to gifted schools outside of my neighborhood for my entire K-12 public education experience. I was always one of the few Black and Latinx students in the gifted program with majority White and Asian students. I always wondered why my neighborhood school was not “good enough.” My grandmother was a teacher in segregated Virginia so I was well aware of the importance of education and that everyone does not have equal access to a quality education. As a result of my experiences in school, including facing discrimination in high school, I decided to become an elementary school teacher.
IDA: What drew you to the documentary field?
SM: I attended law school in between my teaching career. My purpose in attending law school was to understand how the law could be used for education justice. I graduated from law school and returned to the classroom. In 2018, I resigned from the teaching profession after experiencing teacher trauma in schools across the United States. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I knew that I could not handle staying in the education field even if outside of the classroom, and I didn’t want to practice law. I hired a screenwriting coach hoping that I could use film to raise awareness about education issues. During one of my coaching sessions, my screenwriting coach said that my writing sounded like a documentary, and not fiction. That was the first time that I ever considered documentary filmmaking.
IDA: Can you tell us about the project you are working on right now? When did you know you wanted to make a documentary about the subject?
SM: My current project is about Ohio mom, Kelley Williams-Bolar, who was jailed because she used her parents’ address to enroll her daughters into her parents’ school district. This is a crime. Her parents lived 5 minutes away - same zip code, but different school district. Kelley and her father were tried together. Kelley was charged with 3 felonies and faced 5+ years in prison. Fortunately, the governor reduced her felonies to misdemeanors. Kelley’s father was found not guilty on the charges, however, he was found guilty in a separate trial on related charges. He was sentenced to a year and died while in police custody. The film will explore current education issues and how school zones are based on redlining.
I hosted a show called Teacher Talks on an internet radio show called Tribe Family Channel. Kelley, the documentary participant, was a guest on my show, and I was a guest on Kelley’s show. I was moved by her story and wanted to learn more. In December 2019, I reached out to her about making a documentary about her story. I have no background in filmmaking, and didn’t understand what making a documentary would entail and the impact that it would have on my life. I wanted to use film to tell this important story because the media is powerful in shaping our perspective and for policy change.
IDA: What is one thing you like to do as an exercise in finding joy?
SM: Finding joy to me means self-care which includes taking care of myself by taking breaks, making a cup of coffee or tea, lighting candles, and walking in nature. Sometimes I think documentary filmmakers can easily become consumed with the story especially if it’s a biographical documentary like mine. As a first-time filmmaker who has taken on the responsibility of telling someone else’s story, I unconsciously put myself under unnecessary pressure. This is my third year of production, and I am learning how to find joy in the simplest things in life like going on a grocery run to Target brings me so much peace lol!
IDA: What has your experience been like as an IDA member?
SM: As an emerging filmmaker, I appreciate the wealth of information offered by the IDA. Being a member keeps me updated on current topics in the industry, and the workshops have provided me with helpful tips. I have learned a lot from the Works in Progress sessions and enjoyed networking at the Getting Real conference last year.
IDA: How can our members learn more about your project, contact you, or get involved?
SM: I would absolutely love for you to be the first to know about our social impact campaign that aligns with the documentary! The film website is www.RobbedTheDoc.com. Be sure to sign up for our email list. My film production company website is www.SchoolDismissed.com. You can email me at email@example.com and follow me @staciemcclam on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.