American Love Stories

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Karen Wilson
Bill Sims

Jennifer Fox (Producer/Director/Photographer)
Pat Cisarano (Original Music)
Jay Freund (Editor)
Jennifer Fleming (Co-producer/Sound Recordist)
Vicky Kenny (Co-producer/Post Production Supervisor)
Marcus Miller (Original Music)

Karen Wilson

Karen Wilson was born in 1950 in Delaware, Ohio to Robert and Martha Wilson. The second of three girls, Karen enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Prospect, Ohio (population of 1000), a rural white community in the heart of the state.

Karen's family, however, was not reflective of this typical conservative small town. Karen's mother, Martha, was considered unconventional. She worked a full-time job, acted as union representative for her fellow workers, and spent much of her free time active in local politics. As a result, Karen spent much of her time with her father. A master mechanic and town handyman, Bob was a natural storyteller with an eye for adventure. Through her parents' example, Karen learned to follow the beat of her own drummer.

As a teenager, Karen was quite popular; she had many friends, a spot in the Pep Club, and a boyfriend that other girls could only dream of having. However, once Karen started spending time with Bill, most of her friends disappeared. Except for their immediate family and a few loyal friends, the community that had once nurtured Karen and her family now severed all ties with them. Arson threats, police harassment and racist slurs became everyday fare for the Wilson family.

After their first daughter, Cicily, was born in 1972, knowing that they could not escape the prejudice staying in a small town, Karen and Bill moved to the larger city of Columbus, Ohio. During the years that Karen and Bill lived together in Ohio, their dog was killed and their car was set afire. In 1976, the couple decided they'd had enough and moved to New York City. In 1979 Karen and Bill were married, and in 1980 their second daughter, Chaney, was born. Today Karen is a successful businesswoman who spends most of her free time with her husband and children.

Bill Sims

Bill Sims was born in 1949 in Marion, Ohio. His parents, William and Georgia Mae Sims, grew up in sharecropping families in rural Georgia. In 1946, as part of the great migration North, Bill's parents moved to Marion, Ohio in search of a better life for their growing family. William got a job at a local steel mill and Georgia Mae became a domestic.

Bill, the third of seven children, grew up in a household where music and religion were staples. He remembers a close-knit black community of extended family and friends. In spite of growing up during an era where segregation ruled, Bill always attended integrated schools. He met Karen in the summer of 1967 in the resort town of Russell's Point, Ohio. The friendship they developed over the next few years sparked many unfounded stops and arrests by the county sheriff. It became routine for Bill to be taken to jail, where no charges were ever pressed. After holding Bill for several hours in jail, the sheriff's department would never release Bill to his parents; only Karen's mother was permitted to take him home to his family.

In 1972, the year Cicily was born, Bill enrolled in Ohio State University to study music composition. Already an accomplished musician, he later left the university to go on the road with the Four Mints as their pianist. After moving to New York City with Karen and their daughter Cicily in 1976, Bill continued his musical career. An innovative music project took him to San Francisco, where in 1979, he and Karen were married.

After returning to New York, Bill and Karen's second daughter, Chaney, was born in 1980. Bill then took a hiatus from music to stay home and raise their two daughters. Bill returned to music in 1988 as a vocalist and guitarist. His music has taken him around the world, but he regularly performs in and around clubs in New York City.

In August 1999, two CD's of Bill's music will be released with PBS Records, to be distributed by Warner Brothers. In his spare time Bill enjoys cooking, writing music, and spending time with his family.

Jennifer Fox

Jennifer was born in Philadelphia and educated at a Quaker school. At fifteen she was selected from a nation-wide competition to be part of the Eisendrath International Exchange Program, a six month exchange to Israel. Later, she spent six weeks in the Outward Bound Program at Hurricane Island in Maine. She attended the Writing Program at The Johns Hopkins University and the Film School at New York University. In Belize, Central America, she studied Marine Biology and Underwater Photography. She has since studied acting at the Stella Adler School and Playwright's Horizons, and writing with author Dina Von Zwick.

In 1980, Jennifer formed her own production company, Zohe Film Productions. She produced, wrote and directed two narrative shorts, entitled Pomello: One Day and a Boy (1980), and The First Illusion (1981). She worked as an Assistant Producer and Writer for the nationally syndicated television program, PM Magazine, and on the production of several shorts for WNET's Sesame Street.

She produced, directed and wrote the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning feature documentary, BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE. The film, completed in 1987, provided a portrait of the last days of an aristocratic family living in war torn Beirut, Lebanon. To make BEIRUT, Jennifer won funding grants from Valley Filmworks (1983), The Max M. and Marjory Fisher Foundation (1984), The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (1985), Public Broadcasting Stations (1986) and WGBH Television (1986).

BEIRUT was released theatrically in seven countries and televised in seventeen countries worldwide, including an American broadcast as a Frontline Special in 1991. Invited to over twenty of the most prestigious documentary film festivals world-wide, it won seven international awards. Considered an art film, BEIRUT is often used in film theory and criticism classes in film schools around the world, as well as in history and Middle East studies courses. BEIRUT was available for educational and commercial home video in December of 1991 on Essenay Video.

In 1989, Jennifer worked as a director and cinematographer to spend a year and a half videotaping the world tour of the Tibetan Buddhist Lama, Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche. She recorded over sixty hours of videotape, covering thirteen countries, including a two week visit with Namkhai Norbu's close friend and Nobel Prize Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The footage is currently part of an extensive Buddhist archive in Archidogo, Italy.

Jennifer is currently beginning the distribution of AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, a 10-hour documentary series she produced, directed, and photographed for Public Television, to air in the fall of 1999. Produced through her company, Zohe Film Productions, the series chronicles a year-and-a-half in the life of the Wilson-Sims, an interracial family living in New York City. Jennifer shot more than a thousand hours of footage of the family during five years, making AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY one of the most comprehensive and profound portraits of one family ever produced.

AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY has screened at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, the International Forum section of the 1999 Berlin Film Festival and the 1999 Visions du Reel, Nyon. The screening of a television series of this magnitude is unprecedented in the history of Sundance and rare among other festivals. The BBC and ARTE have purchased a five and a half hour version of AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY.

Jennifer is the executive co-producer of ON THE ROPES, a feature-length documentary produced, directed, and photographed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen. ON THE ROPES examines the lives of three boxers at Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy Boxing Center. At its premiere at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, ON THE ROPES was awarded a Special Jury Award. The film is funded by Fox Lorber and TLC and is currently seeking theatrical distribution before its television broadcast. She is also executive producing MESSAGES IN IMAGES, Kit-Yin Snyder's feature-length documentary that explores the personal journey of a traditional Chinese artist in the modern world. The film, currently in pre-production, is anticipating completion in 2000.

Jennifer has lectured about documentary filmmaking in numerous festivals and universities in both Europe and America. She was sent by the United States Information Service to give seminars on independent filmmaking in Pakistan and India. Jennifer is currently teaching filmmaking at New York University's School of Film and Television and Film Video Arts in New York. She previously taught at The School of Visual Arts for two years. She has just completed the feature length screenplay, Lila: A Fairy Tale and is now developing a treatment for her new feature, The Horse's Tale. She is one of three filmmakers featured in the film, The Heck with Hollywood, a portrait of the trials and tribulations of independent filmmaking in America.


BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE (Producer, Director, Writer)
1988 Best Film of the Year, Sundance Film Festival, United States
1988 Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival, United States
1989 Golden Eagle Award, C.I.N.E., United States
1989 Grand Prize Best Film, Cinema Du Reel, Paris, France
1989 Discovery of the Festival, Press Award
Women & Cinema, Argentina
1989 The Young Forum Selection, Berlin Film Festival, Germany
1989 Golden Gate Award, San Francisco Film Festival, United States
1990 Best Screenplay of the Year, Societe Civile des Auteurs Multimedia (The Writer's Guild in France), France
1992 Screened at Input, The International Television Conference,
Baltimore, United States

ON THE ROPES (Executive Producer)
1999 Special Jury Award, Sundance Film Festival, United States

Pat Cisarano
(Original Music)

Cisarano is a veteran of the New York scene, singing everything from melt-the-ice-in-your-jack-and-coke funk to shed-a-tear-with-me blues, to grab-yo-honey-and-squeeze soul, to smooth and sweet reggae. When Cisarano covers the classics she insinuates herself into each song's emotional core so even the most familiar song seems her own, and her originals, like the exquisite ballad, "Sugar Melts in the Rain" or the uplifting "True Love" are so instantly memorable they seem to be standards.

Cisarano majored in Fine Arts at New York's School of Visual Arts. Before becoming involved with her first band in Woodstock, Cisarano studied acting at John Strassberg's "Real Stage," was a founding member of Geraldine Page's repertory company, "The Mirror Theater," and acted for Spanish television and movies. Cisarano has performed with Tony Bennet and his band, the Ralph Sharon Trio, Paul Rogers (Free, Bad Company), and Slash (Guns N Roses). Cisarano received the "Shure Microphone Best Female Vocalist" award in 1994. She is a founding member of "The American Acoustic Roots Orchestra" with Mr. Bill Sims Jr. Cisarano's work appears on such compilations as "Third Rail Screamin'," "In Your Ear," and "Flowers of the World." Cisarano's first solo CD, for Rave on Records, is entitled "True Love."

Cisarano co-wrote the theme song for AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY with Warner Bros. recording artist Bill Sims, who is also one of the subjects of the film. Cisarano's song, "True Love" is included on the soundtrack album on PBS Warner, and on her second solo CD of original music entitled "ah", which is due for release in September.

Jay Freund

Jay Freund has a distinguished film career that spans 20 years and a broad range of documentary and dramatic features. In his early years, he served as a researcher on the CBS News series World War One and later wrote, directed and edited the acclaimed documentary, The American Game. His editing credits include the multi-Emmy Awarding-winning television movie, Playing for Time; the dramatic theatrical features Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Trip to Bountiful, Forever Lulu and The Wash; and the documentaries The Eye of Memory, Steel into Structure, Appalachia: Rich Land, Poor People and the PBS version of Beirut: The Last Home Movie.

Jennifer Fleming
(Co-producer/Sound Recordist)

Jennifer Fleming holds a BA in Art/Semiotics from Brown University and studied filmmaking at the New School for Social Research and Global Village Video in New York. As the communications director for California and Washington health care campaigns sponsored by the Service Employees Union, Fleming produced and directed a series of creative informational films, including A System Out of Control, Uniting for Our Future, It's a Homecare Thing and Our Side of the Speculum about women health care workers.

Vicky Kenny
(Co-producer/Post Production Supervisor)

Trained in theater at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Kenny's credits as an associate producer include such documentaries as Jerusalem: The City Touched by God and Teddy Kollek: A Life Story. Her on-staff duties as an associate producer at Yale Roe Films includes the creation of sales, marketing, training and fund-raising videos for major corporate and non-profit clients, including AT&T, Parade Magazine, the Elie Wiesel Foundation and The Abraham Fund.

Marcus Miller
(Original Music)

A world-acclaimed bassist, composer and record producer, Miller is renowned in jazz circles and regarded as a "musician's musician." In addition to his own recordings, Miller has produced albums for Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, David Sanborn, Luther Vandros and Al Jarreau. He also wrote the musical soundtracks for the feature films Low Down Dirty Shame, Siesta and Boomerang, as well as "Da Butt" for Spike Lee's School Daze.

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