Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis smiling in front of a dense cornfield

Aaron Woolf, Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney standing on a dirt road along a field, next to a camera on a tripod

The Filmmakers

From filmmakers Aaron Woolf, Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney:

Sometimes the best measure of the health of a culture can be found in the way it deals with the fundamental things––food, clothing and shelter. In the case of America’s food, we find ourselves on a path that brings us cheap and tasty short-term benefits, but at a deepening long-term cost to ecological and human health.

Our first hope for KING CORN’s impact is that it will help viewers reconnect with the simple but critically important question of where our food comes from––and will motivate all of us to eat in a way that reflects our values. Family farms and rural communities, soil and human health all stand to benefit when consumers bypass the industrial food chain and buy from a farmer they can shake hands with.

Looking beyond the drive-through or the farmer’s market, though, we hope KING CORN will help new audiences take an interest in the federal farm policies that so profoundly influence the way we eat. That vast (and admittedly boring) piece of legislation called the Farm Bill remains the single biggest driver in American agriculture. By reshaping the Farm Bill as something of a Food Bill, we can help Congress design a subsidy system that makes sure America’s cuisine is nutritious as well as abundant. With the Centers for Disease Control predicting that one in three current first-graders risks developing type II diabetes during their lifetimes, this work is critical.

In the end, the goal of KING CORN is to help start conversations big and small about the way we farm and eat in modern America. We hope you’ll join us in keeping the conversations going.

One figure holding a camera in the direction of two other figures, silhouetted against a lake at sunset

Aaron Woolf's three favorite films:

(Ian and Curt would’ve said things like Field of Dreams and 2001: A Space Odyssey, so they got overruled.)

L'Atalante (1934) FRANCE
Jean and Juliette take a barge to Paris. It's kind of a fairy tale; kind of a documentary; kind of a surrealist dream—I miss the characters when I don't see this film for a while.

Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) CUBA
Tomas Guitierrez Alea's masterpiece. A mix of documentary and fiction. A poignantly lost protagonist and a film powerfully rooted in place and time without falling prey to the ideological pressures that surrounded its production.

Brother's Keeper (1992) USA
This is one of the first documentaries I remember seeing in a movie theater. The immediacy of the story and the larger-than-life presence of the characters made me want to be a documentary filmmaker.

Their advice for aspiring filmmakers:

Find the smallest focus possible for your film. If only we’d done the same! In our case, it turned out that even the story of one acre of corn was a colossal topic, and we were still left with dozens of storylines that died a lonely death on the cutting room floor. (Don’t ask us about the seven-part lecture series on the History of Agriculture we dressed up for and delivered in our basement.... but do look for it on the DVD—it’s ridiculous). If we were doing it all over again, though, we would’ve decided early on that our focus had to be on the thing that brought us to Iowa in the first place—food——and we would’ve had a much easier time cutting the film down to size.

Their most inspirational food for making independent film:



Aaron Woolf
Aaron Woolf received a master’s in film at the University of Iowa, but got the bulk of his education working in the field in Lima, Mexico City, Los Angeles and New York. In 2000, Woolf directed Greener Grass: Cuba, Baseball, and the United States, a WNET-ITVS co-production that received a Rockie Award and aired nationally on PBS. In 2003, he directed Dying to Leave: The Global Face of Human Trafficking and Smuggling, which won an Australian Logie Award and a Rockie nomination, aired on the PBS series Wide Angle, and was presented at the State Department and the United Nations. Woolf’s films have also been broadcast on the Sundance Channel, ARTE, RAI and SBS, and he has lectured at Stanford University, UCLA and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is the founder of Mosaic Films Incorporated and an avid mountaineer.

Curt Ellis
Curt Ellis grew up in Oregon and studied American history at Yale College. Ellis has worked in construction and politics, but was assisting on the sets of fast-food commercials when he started work on KING CORN. In 2005, he collaborated with Ian Cheney to create the short film Two-Buckets for WGBH, and is is releasing The Greening of Southie, a documentary about the first residential green building in Boston.

Ian Cheney

Ian Cheney grew up in Boston and Maine and attended Yale College and the Yale School of Forestry. Prior to starting work on KING CORN, Cheney worked for a food distribution company and studied food markets in West Africa. He and Curt Ellis collaborated on the short film Two-Buckets and are releasing The Greening of Southie, a documentary about the first residential green building in Boston.

Jeffrey K. Miller
Jeffrey K. Miller has directed and edited numerous short films, comedy sketches and commercials, including spots for Converse and the U.S. government. He was an assistant director on the IFC film The Baxter and is a founding member of the New York sketch comedy troupe Trophy Dad. Miller is enrolled in film school at Columbia.

Sam Cullman
Cullman served as cinematographer for Eugene Jarecki’s Sundance-winning documentary Why We Fight and associate producer for Giuliani Time. He is founder of the New York new media production company Animated Advocacy.

The WoWz
The New York anti-folk band The WoWz is a collaboration between Simon Beins, Sam Grossman and Johnny Dydo. Their releases include Brudders, Long Grain Rights and Cool Dump, along with the EPs Nicotine Bubble Gum and Go Figure. Iowa recording sessions for KING CORN were produced by two-time Grammy nominee Bo Ramsey.

Read about the making of KING CORN >>

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