Video Spotlight: Q&A With Board Member & Documentary Producer Jennifer Pelling

Jennifer Pelling, Circles USA Board Member and Director of the San Diego-based Tsuha Foundation, recently took on another role with CUSA: producer of our new 9-part documentary film series. As part of September’s nationwide premiere celebration, Jennifer shared some favorite memories of her experience as a filmmaker on this ambitious project.

Jennifer, how long did it take to capture enough footage for 9 short films?

We spent 4-6 hours with each person, doing interviews with them—plus their Ally—and shooting b-roll.

Tell us about visiting Circles Upstate SC in Greenville County, South Carolina.

We did more interviews with this chapter than any of the others, and our schedule was packed. But somehow we also had a ton of laughs with Bruce and Diandra. It was Valentine’s Day when we visited, and we definitely felt lots of love within this community. If anyone is ever visiting, I would definitely suggest getting some of Amber’s cupcakes. They are AMAZING.

How was your time with Circles of Troup County, GA?

Even though we got in late, Sherri [Brown, executive director] had us stop by her home so she could give us bags of local goodies. During the weekly meeting, we didn’t get a chance to eat dinner so they packed up homemade meals for us to take home…including a vegan plate for Natalie. Shout-out to Rebekah, a film student who volunteers in the chapter—she was a fantastic assistant for our team while we were there!

Let’s move North. What are some of your favorite memories of Circles of Green Bay, WI?

We had a great time taking Candy’s tour of Lambeau Field. Candy is a former Circles trainer who now leads tours of the legendary stadium. And we still talk about how much fun we had hanging out with Amber and her amazing daughter Ryott. A funny memory is that when we interviewed Tricia and Jen, they had to sit on an upside-down highchair since we couldn’t find a stool.

Next up, please tell us all about Circles Davis County, UT. 

The positive energy of everyone in this chapter was off the charts! When we were walking around town with Lamont to shoot b-roll, it seemed like he knew every person we walked by. And it was impressive to see so many local leaders and elected officials engaging with the chapter in the weekly meeting.

Wow, you saw so much of the country through your team’s lens. What is your goal as a filmmaker when working with Circle Leaders and volunteers?

In every chapter, we appreciated how kind and open all the Circle Leaders, Allies, staff, and volunteers were. The filming process can sometimes take awhile, and everyone was SO generous with their time and energy. I hope we were able to relay how much Circles people care about each other and how transformative it can be. We would love Circles to spread to more people and communities!

Watch the complete 2022 CUSA documentary series on the Circles USA YouTube Channel.

Special thanks to: Jennifer Pelling and her filmmaking team; Circles Green Bay, WI; Circles Troup County in LaGrange, GA; Circes Davis County in Clearfield, UT; and Circles Upstate SC in Greenville, SC.