One prepares for, but does not expect to win an Emmy, says Kirsten Kelly ’94 (pictured center in the above photo).
Yet at the 37th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards presentations this September, the PBS Independent Lens documentary The Homestretch, produced and directed by Kelly and her filmmaking colleague Anne de Mare, won the award in the long-form division for outstanding business and economic reporting.
The Homestretch follows three homeless teens in Chicago to underscore the pervasiveness of teen homelessness and to change the perceptions about homeless young people.
“We tried to look at homelessness in a new way,” said Kelly, “and to break down stereotypes of homeless youth. These kids are not drug addicts living under bridges. There are many reasons they are without homes—largely without any fault of their own—and they want a future for themselves.”
Kelly said that the recognition from the Emmy win helps the fight against teen homelessness by opening doors for the film to be shown in more locations, alerting more communities of the problem.
“You’re in this large ballroom filled with the best investigative reporters in the country,” she said. “It is a unique setting to raise the issue.”
There are 1.6 million homeless young people in the U.S.; 86,000 of them in the New York public school system and 22,000 in the Chicago public school system.
“Our biggest thanks are to our subjects—Roque, Kasey, Anthony and Maria—who bravely shared their triumphs and struggles with us during our four years of filming,” Kelly said in her acceptance speech.
The entire project took Kelly and de Mare seven years to complete.
Kelly is currently engaged in a number of projects and is in the early stages of another documentary project, following a retired Nashville cop as he trains police officers, judges and others to improve responses to domestic violence.
She’s also been brought in as a consultant at Calvin for a homeless student who enrolled and was accepted to the college.
“An issue sticks in your craw,” she said. “You can’t not do it. You are following a human journey, illuminating the real experience attached to an issue and honoring the complexity of it all.”