I grew up in Olympia, Washington, the eclectic and quintessentially Pacific Northwest town.
My first documentary film was on Route 66, the historic highway. For me it became a journey into the stories of hundreds of small towns, main streets, and unique proprietors struggling to survive against the onslaught of freeways and franchise blight. The documentaries I produced helped spark a Route 66 revival, luring travelers back to the Main Street and the Mother Road.
Later, I moved to Buffalo, New York. Here, in the ultimate underdog town, I made a series of films that chronicled and catalyzed the ongoing renaissance of a once-moribund rustbelt city. And just east of downtown, I found a historic old saloon and I converted it into my edit studio.
To this day, I’m driven by the agony of America’s homogenization – and the thrill of seeing communities survive and thrive when they rediscover and celebrate their unique character, identity, and story.
With my friend Chris Elisara, I founded First+Main Films with the belief that storytelling can help build community, and preserve and revitalize the places we all love.
CHRIS ELISARA FOUNDER & PRODUCER
Growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, during the era of “free-range kids” I experienced cities as safe and enthralling places to be and grow up.
Around 2008, John introduced me to the design ideas behind the urban experience of my childhood, and in 2009 we teamed up to create an award-winning film on urban design for the Congress for the New Urbanism.
Ever since, I’ve been a champion for urban design that makes people’s lives better. I went on to serve as a board member for The Congress for the New Urbanism (2014-2018), and co-founded the Better Cities Film Festival which collects, curates and presents the very best films on the theme of making better cities, towns, and neighborhoods.
Today, I'm a "free-range" advocate for cities and places. I continue to produce the Better Cities Film Festival (now based in Detroit), I'm active in international work through UN-Habitat, which works for a better quality of life for all in an urbanizing world. And I serve as Studio Lead and Senior Fellow for Placemaking at Duke Divinity School's Ormond Center.
Stories about cities, towns, and neighborhoods to foster civic pride, build community, and spark imagination.
Let's Tell Your City's Story.
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