Documentary filmmaker Nicholas Bruckman has won numerous awards for his body of work, including the Audience Award and Special Jury Prize at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival for the Ady Barkan documentary Not Going Quietly. With similar recognition from Sundance, the Emmys, the IDA, and the Critics Choice Association, Bruckman is no stranger to acclaim from critics and audiences alike.

But as CEO and Founder of People's TV, Bruckman is particularly proud of the company's recent nomination — alongside close collaborators at the Simons Foundation — for their 'Stories of Impact' series in Best Video — Branded Entertainment Series at The 28th Annual Webby Awards. Each 'Stories of Impact' episode highlights a granteee of the Simons Foundation's Science Sandbox program. The public is invited to vote for the series HERE.

Bruckman sat down with SHOOT! Online to discuss the 'Stories of Impact' series and highlight some of his favorite moments across the series.

The ‘Stories of Impact’ series is a collaboration between People’s Television and the Simons Foundation. Each episode highlights a grantee of the Foundation’s Science Sandbox program. What was the collaborative process like in crafting each video and telling the story of each partner?

The Science, Society, and Culture team at the Simons Foundation supports some of the coolest science nonprofits in the country through its Science Sandbox program, and those nonprofits are often led by interesting, quirky, and passionate people who have dedicated their lives to bringing science into culture and to underserved communities. As the Simons team has a keen eye for what organizations to support, our creative team looks closely at the stories of each of the grantees and their personal journeys to identify the narrative and visual arcs that will make for a great film in the series.

One important component for us is to not always spotlight top leadership at the nonprofit like an executive director, but instead someone else in their ecosystem, like a student riding the Biobus (a mobile lab made out of a repurposed school bus) for the first time.

We worked closely with John Tracey, Ivvett Modinou, and the rest of the Simons team, who are great science storytellers themselves and gave our directors refreshingly free reign to bring their work to life. Through more than 7 years of working together with Simons, it has evolved from a traditional agency-client relationship to a true creative partnership from script to screen.

How did this collaboration between People’s Television and the Simons Foundation first come together?

I first connected with the Science Sandbox team in 2017 at Pioneer Works, the incredible culture & science institution in Red Hook founded by artist Dustin Yellin. Years later we ended up profiling Dustin’s larger-than-life artwork and vision for Pioneer Works along with Cosmologist Janna Levin in an episode of Stories of Impact, which is one of my favorites. One of the amazing things about the series is the opportunity to film with luminaries like Dustin and David Bryne, as well as kids from rural Alaska to Brooklyn, and everywhere in between.

‘Stories of Impact’ highlights several fascinating projects, including David Byrne’s Theater of the Mind. Do you have any personal favorites amongst the impactful stories you have shared?

In addition to the Theater of the Mind and Pioneer Works stories, I love Pondlife, about a scientist who studies the microbes in the waters of Manhattan, including a puddle right outside our Chelsea production office! It’s truly impossible to pick favorites as there are so many incredible stories: we’ve profiled dancers, scuba divers, theater performers and amazing museums like the Exploratorium in San Francisco and New York Hall of Science. Check out the full series on our Webby page!

People’s Television has gained a reputation for creating numerous award-winning documentaries, including Not Going Quietly and Valley of Saints. How does your creative process differ across short-form and feature-length content?

We strongly believe that the same storytelling principles apply to creating features as applies to short form content, which is why we strive to nurture our award-winning film & TV directors and bring them to our client partners’ branded projects. For us it’s about the power of character-driven storytelling, and leading with heart and authenticity, knowing that audiences connect with people first before issues. Most importantly, we encourage our brand partners to take creative risks with us. There is an ocean of short form commercial work out there, and if you are not taking risks and doing something new and innovative, it won’t break through the noise. 

The ‘Stories of Impact’ series is currently nominated for a Webby Award for Best Video – Branded Entertainment Series. What does that nomination mean to you?

This is our second Webby nomination, and while we have received major recognition from Sundance, SXSW, the Emmys, the IDA, and Critics Choice for our feature film projects, this is some of the most prestigious recognition our branded work has received, and we’re thrilled for our partners at the Simons Foundation and all of the directors on this series.

What other exciting projects are in the pipeline for People’s Television?

We launched our latest feature documentary Minted (about the wild world of NFTs) at this past Tribeca Film Festival, and are excited to announce its distribution soon. Meanwhile we are working on a new episodic TV series in collaboration with a major brand, and just launched a new documentary profiles project with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation about Black Maternal Health, which is an incredibly important issue to me.