A $300,000 MacArthur grant for Lending’s 4-year doc

Filmmaker Tod Lending with doc subject Robert Henderson

A $300,000 GRANT from the MacArthur Foundation was awarded to Oscar-nominated filmmaker Tod Lending, for his important new feature-length documentary, All the Difference.

Typically ambitious, the doc will be four years in production as Lending follows two young African American men from Chicago’s  downtrodden Englewood neighborhood through their four years at prestigious colleges.

The two subjects are Robert Henderson, now 19, who is going into his sophomore year at Lake Forest College on a full scholarship, and Krishaun Branch, 18, who enters Fiske University in Nashville this fall.

Lending says he chose these two after interviewing 50 boys at Urban Prep High School, a South Side charter academy for young men, and narrowed the selection “to the most compelling and interesting stories.

“The purpose of the film is to look at the barriers, challenges, struggles they face as they try to make it through college,” he says.  “They come from Englewood, where 35% of the high school students graduate; of these, half go to college and half of this number graduates.”

Lending will shoot the two subjects at their respective schools at least once a month during the school year, “depending upon what’s happening with them.” He started filming last year, when Henderson started college and Branch graduated high school.

His co-producers are Baltimore based Joy Thomas Moore, who heads a social media production company, her son, Wes Moore, author of the 2010 book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, and Nomadic Pictures’ Bhagyashree RaoRane.

The MacArthur Grant will go towards the doc’s $900,000 production budget  Three other foundations have contributed an additional $93,000 in grants for extensive four-year community engagement: $50,000 from the William Penn Foundation; $30,000 from the Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation and  $12,000 from Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Lending’s feature length Legacy, a 2001 Academy Award nominee for best documentary, went on to win 20 other top prizes.  Lending has produced a dozen socially significant documentaries over the past 20 years that have aired on PBS.