Abby Ellis, an award-winning producer and director, is the 2020 Hollyhock Filmmaker-in-Residence. Most recently, she wrote, produced and directed the FRONTLINE documentary Flint’s Deadly Water, a two-year investigation into one of the largest Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in US history, which occurred amid Flint’s lead poisoning crisis in 2014-15.
The film exposes financial motives that led to the deadly outbreak, the negligence of officials who allowed it to continue and the efforts to obstruct the legal and scientific investigations around it. Most importantly, the film examines the death toll in Flint only to find that the actual number of deaths is likely many times higher than the official count of 12.
Flint’s Deadly Water was recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation with the Jack R. Howard Award for Broadcast and was nominated for an Emmy award, Peabody award, and a finalist for both the IRE awards and Livingston awards.
Her other FRONTLINE documentary, American Patriot: Inside the Armed Uprising Against the Federal Government, is about how one family’s fight against the federal government invigorated armed militias and “patriot” groups — helping them grow to levels not seen in decades. Through exclusive footage, the film exposes a controversial, undercover FBI operation where agents posed as documentary filmmakers for over a year, in an effort to obtain evidence against the Bundy family.
Prior to working with FRONTLINE, Ellis worked on the original docu-series, America Divided, where she produced films around the housing affordability crisis in New York City, the lead contamination crisis in Flint and the criminal justice system in Chicago. The show, executive produced by Norman Lear, Shonda Rhimes and Common, earned an Izzy Award and an Acting for Justice Award. And before that, Ellis worked at VICE where she produced and edited a dozen news and culture films for VICE on HBO, Vice News, and Vice.com.