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As we put the finishing touches on our “25 New Faces” list — which comes out this week — I’ll note the latest project of one of last year’s selections, director Alrick Brown. Last fall he had his Sundance hit Kinyarwanda arrive in theaters, and now he’s directed an episode of a new ABC series, Final Witness, that airs tomorrow night, July 18 at 10PM EST on ABC.

The Wall Street Journal covered this show this past weekend, describing the style as “Sundance-era poetic indie film”:

Over seven Wednesdays each stand-alone true crime story dramatized and documented on “Final Witness,” braids a deceased victim’s fictionalized first-person voice-over with ambitiously staged re-enactments and interviews with actual friends, relatives and law enforcement. The result is a unique docudrama hybrid anchored in both the truth of fact and the emotional truth of fiction. “I’ve done a lot of work in true crime and one of the biggest problems I had with [the genre] was the convention of the neutral, removed voice-of-God narrator,” said executive producer Christine Connor. Instead each show’s titular victim is “a character with a point of view telling a story, not some spoken inventory,” she said.

“Final Witness” departs from the tabloid TV pack in the degree of craft and care evident in visually and emotionally engaging re-enactments. Shot with limited resources and using actors who are improvising from actual scripts, “Final Witness” re-enactments resemble Sundance-era poetic indie-film material more than the factual lock-step of typical true-crime fare. Indeed, the show’s creative stable includes a dozen NYU film alumni and two Sundance Film Festival directing veterans.

Last year, Nick Dawson wrote about the series for Filmmaker. Here, he talks with Brown:

The show operates with a small team on a very tight schedule – each hour-long episode is turned around in just 14 weeks – yet Alrick Brown found the toughest aspect of Final Witness was that each story was “dealing with real people and real tragedies. There is an added level of responsibility to get it right, or at least get it as close to right as possible. The family and friends of the victim will be the first audience, and they will be the judge. And you have to entertain but also honor the memory of their loved ones. You can’t learn that from a book. Fortunately, the show’s producers came with that level of integrity.”

How did Brown break through from independent film to television? There was a bit of luck involved — a director on the show got pregnant and had to drop out of an episode — but, more than that, a lot of hard work. Here, from an IFP panel last month, is Brown discussing the stamina, dedication and humility needed to break through barriers.

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