The one and only Brad Lichtenstein, legendary filmmaker


courtesy Brad Lichtenstein

Brad Lichtenstein (left) and Claude Motley (right) pose at the Emmy Awards

This year, Brad Lichtenstein, professional filmmaker and Shorewood resident, won a 2022 Emmy Award for ‘Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking.’

From the age of 15, Lichtenstein expressed interest in social justice, working with Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis during high school.

“[When I got the volunteer position], my world turned upside down because I was hanging out with a civil rights legend,” Lichtenstein said. “I was learning about the civil rights movement first hand…which exposed me to even more social issues.”

During that time, John Lewis worked for the Voter Education Project, which prompted Lichtenstein to work for the Southern Regional Counsel, an umbrella nonprofit organization. 

A sponsored film featured was The Uprising of 34, a story about the General Strike of 1934, where hundreds of thousands of textile workers walked away from their jobs. 

“I [got to] meet those filmmakers, Judith Helfand, who was a college grad-school student at the time, and her partner George Stoney, who was one of the godfathers of modern documentary,” Lichtenstein said. “I hung around with them and it got me interested.”

What started off as a passion for social justice quickly turned into an interest for sharing these stories through film.

“I was enrolled in a PhD Philosophy program at NYU but I [became] more interested in film,” Lichtenstein said. “At a certain point I [realized] I didn’t want to finish my PhD, and [George Stoney] connected me with my first internship with a company called Vanguard.”

After working as archival footage researcher and an associate producer, Lichtenstein created Ghosts of Attica, a documentary featuring survivors of the 1971 Attica prison riot. 

“[Ghosts of Attica] was the first film of mine that started to get real attention,” Liechtenstein said. “That is really what got my career going in terms of being my own producer and director of projects.”

Liechtenstein’s films tend to center around a variety of real-world issues, with a special focus on the theme of social justice. Precious Lives and When Claude Got Shot address gun violence, while Almost Home explores aging and the lives of caretakers. In making films about racial issues, Liechtenstein stresses the importance of representation on and off screen.

“There is certainly a lot of me addressing racism in my films, and oftentimes I collaborate with Black directors because I think representation really matters,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s not just the content in the film but the approach to making the film that matters.”

When Claude Got Shot, one of Lichtenstein’s more recent films, follows his friend Claude Motley after a devastating attack and the effects on his life as he knows it. 

Restorative justice is a prominent theme in this film, along with addressing more than just the threat of gun violence.

“The most important things were to really look for ways to take the humanity that Claude shows in that film and translate it into action,” Lichtenstein said. “Claude is a spokesperson who talks to prosecutors and members of the judicial system about the theme of humanity and restorative justice. And that has an impact. People change because of that.”

From a larger lens, Lichtenstein is attempting to provide a new outlook on working with gun violence.

“We’ve been able to use [When Claude Got Shot] to promote violence prevention strategies that worked, [and other] alternatives to creating more jails and putting more young people in prison,” Lichtenstein said. 

Lichtenstein believes his job comes with many rewards. 

“I enjoy the back and forth with the audience and getting [the subjects of the film] to realize that their story is really appreciated and important,” Lichtenstein said. “The best part for me has to be getting to tell these stories, which is rewarding personally.”

With an initial release in March of 2021, When Claude Got Shot brought Lichtenstein and his company, 371 Productions, to achieve the 2022 Emmy for ‘Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking’, after completing five years of filming.