Storm Lake

A dogged family-run paper in Iowa gives citizens the scoop on forces threatening to overwhelm their precarious small-town existence.

Funding Initiative
Open Call

Jerry Risius

Risius brings over 25 years experience as DP on such projects as Generation Wealth (Sundance 2018) and The Devil Came on Horseback (Sundance 2007), and as Field Producer/DP on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Parts Unknown. He grew up on a hog farm outside Buffalo Center, Iowa, and knows this northwest corner of the state as few do.


Beth Levison

Levison is an Emmy and Peabody-winning independent producer in NYC. Her most recently produced film, WOMEN IN BLUE, about gender, race and violence in America through the eyes of female police officers with the Minneapolis Police Department, is being shown as a “Work in Progress” at AFI DOCS 2020. That film will broadcast on Independent Lens in 2021. MADE IN BOISE, Show more premiered at AFI DOCS 2019, was the series opener of Independent Lens’ 2019/2020 season, and is currently available internationally. Previously produced projects include the Emmy-nominated Personal Statement (PBS 2018) and 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide (HBO 2017). Levison is a co-founder of the Documentary Producers Alliance, faculty with SVA’s MFA program in Social Documentary Film, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Show less

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The Film

In northwest Iowa, the citizens of Storm Lake rely on Art Cullen and his family to deliver the news on their changing community -- a city of about 10,000 people steeped in communal values and pragmatism. Farmers spend their life savings on new equipment they hope will ensure their livelihoods. Immigrants arrive here—welcome and not—for their slice of the American Dream. State and county politicians make deals to appease growing corporate interests. Enter an old-school journalist who is dedicated to keeping his family’s biweekly newspaper, The Storm Lake Times, alive in an era when local journalism is dying. On a shoestring budget for 3,000 readers, Art Cullen unearths a conspiracy between Big Agriculture and City Hall that wins his biting editorials on the scandal a 2017 Pulitzer Prize. While he writes about the impact of climate change on Storm Lake’s ecology, his 27-year-old son, Tom, reports on a City Hall election upset, his wife Dolores churns out human interest stories, and his brother John covers a dangerous intersection with one-too-many accidents. Twice a week, come hell or high water, they work as civic watchdogs to protect their beloved hometown and the legacy of credible local journalism at large.