Films: If You Build It

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If You Build It

If You Build It

USA, 2012, 82 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Social Issues, Teen
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Patrick Creadon
Producer: Christine O'Malley, Neal Baer
Editor: Nick Andert, Daniel J. Clark, Doug Blush
Cinematographer: George Desort
Principal Cast: Emily Pilloton, Matthew Miller

In 2010, humanitarian designers/life partners Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller went to economically depressed Bertie County, North Carolina, where they taught a group of high-school students to design and build a variety of projects in the hopes of reviving their crumbling rural hometown of Windsor. The program, “Studio H,” instructed students how to design and construct things including chicken coops and a (still-in-use) farmers’ market pavilion. Along the way the group faced overwhelming challenges—including the loss of school-board funding—but remained tirelessly optimistic.

Documented by award-winning filmmakers Patrick Creadon and Christine O’Malley, If You Build It is more than a film about a high-school design class; it is a portrait of the underrepresented voice of the American recession. Pilloton and Miller inspired students to think of solutions and feel empowered to be the change they wanted to see. Student Erick Bowen described it by saying, “We would walk in and do something to contribute to the world, and always leave feeling accomplished.”

The film is a discussion of ailing rural America, education reform, and teens fighting the odds to build a better future for themselves and for their community. The idea that design—or a pair of idealistic outsiders—can be the remedy to Windsor’s ills is a bit clichéd, but the documentary reveals the epic plight of those most affected by the recession but who have largely remained voiceless, and a sliver of hope for change.

In cooperation with Denver School of the Arts

For information on group rates and community partnerships please contact Karla Rodriguez at



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