Michael Farrell


ALEC 393 Digital Image & Storytelling


Michael Farrell is currently also the Special Projects Manager for NET, Nebraska's statewide public broadcasting organization. He is a forty-five year veteran in public broadcasting, forty-three of which have been spent in production and management in Nebraska and the Great Plains.

His areas of specialization include history and humanities documentaries as well as programs about diverse topics such as rural and environmental issues, the fine arts, opera, ballet, jazz and blues. His most well-known award-winning production was In Search of the Oregon Trail, which aired three times on prime-time national public television and was one of the top ten most-watched PBS programs in its premiere year of 1996. His 90-minute special The Platte River Road won the coveted National Cowboy Hall of Fame award in 1992.
He also co-produced, directed and wrote "Great Plains - America's Lingering Wild" a documentary adaptation of the photo essay book by Michael Forsberg. The program was completed Spring 2012 and has been distributed by PBS and seen in all fifty states and is in foreign distribution.

From 1998 to 2009 Michael Farrell lead the network's forty member TV production team managing an annual budget of close to $3 million in local, regional and national projects. He now serves as Principal Investigator on many major grant funded initiatives as well as helping to develop new projects and partnerships for NET.

Beginning in 2006 he has also lead the effort to establish an internship program at NET for students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's colleges of Journalism and Fine and Performing Arts (Film) and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Michael Farrell also teaches classes in Advanced Documentary and Digital Imaging and Story-telling and is available for independent study projects with select students.

Current Projects

THE PLATTE BASIN TIME-LAPSE PROJECT -- A multimedia/multi-year project to create a time-lapse portrait of the Platte River Basin from its origins in the mountains of Colorado to the dams and reservoirs of Wyoming, and through the agricultural prairie and Sand Hills regions of Nebraska and on to the river's confluence with the Missouri. Forty-five DSLR camera systems are recording one picture per hour for every daylight hour for several years. The resulting time-lapse videos are presented on a website providing information, education and a user forum about "where the water comes from, where it goes and how we use it."

Along with the basic web presentation of the Platte Basin Timelapse project Michael Farrell and Mike Forsberg are co-producing a two hour PBS quality documentary about the Platte River Basin and the wildlife, habitat and other water related issues facing it. They are in the first year of what will be a three to four year production timeline. They also have a two year "direct to the classroom" educational project that will provide STEM related learning objects based on PBT content to students and teachers in the Nebraska Public Schools, funded in part by the Nebraska Environmental Trust.


THE CAPITOL MURALS (1998) 60-min. This documentary follows the five-year public art process of selecting and creating the final artwork for the Nebraska State Capitol. Funding from the Nebraska Arts Council. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

TEN CENTS A DANCE (1998) 60 min. Andrea Marcovicci, internationally respected cabaret star comes to David City, Nebraska to perform her solo tribute to the town's most famous daughter, thirties torch singer, Ruth Etting. Funding from the Nebraska Arts Council. Producer/Director/Writer.

NEBRASKA'S HISTORIC PLACES (1997) 15-18 min. x 5 Co-production with the Nebraska State Historical Society. Each program offers a video history of one of the NSHS's five historic sites. Funding from the Institute of Museum Services, a federal agency. Co-producer/Director/Writer.

IN SEARCH OF THE OREGON TRAIL (1996) 3-hrs. This major documentary challenges and interprets the myths of the Oregon Trail story. Funding from CPB, PBS, & U.S. Dept. of the Interior, private foundations. Narrated by Stacy Keach. PBS airplay spring 1996 - placed in the top ten for national ratings in the ‘96/‘97 season. Aired four times on PBS nationally. Broadcast rights renewed by several western states twice additionally for four airplays in three years. Continues to generate revenue through pledge and vhs/dvd sales. Chris Award, Columbus Int'l Film Festival; Cine Golden Eagle; Finalist, NY Film and Video Festival, 1996; Gracie Award, American Women in Radio and Television; Finalist, Great Plains Film Festival, 1997. Five years in the making. Producer/Director/Co-writer/Grantwriter.

A SAND HILLS STORY (1993) 60-min. Traces the natural, social, and environmental history of the Nebraska Sand Hills. Funded by Nebraska Humanities Council, Central Educational Network, and the Shoemaker Family Foundation. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

DON DOLL'S VISION QUEST (1993) 30-min. Biographical profile of the internationally respected Jesuit photographer as he completes an extensive portraiture project with the Lakota people. Funded by The Nebraska Arts Council. Gabriel Award, 1993. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

GINSBERG AND GLASS ON THE ROAD, (1992) 60-min. Performance program featuring the poetry of Allen Ginsburg read by himself and the music of Philip Glass performed by himself. Taped at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Producer, Director.

JULIE WILSON'S SONG BOOK (1991) 60-min. Performance by the Queen of Cabaret, Julie Wilson, and her accompanist, William Roy, performing songs by George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, and Harold Arlen. PBS airplay Fall 1992. Funded by Nebraska Arts Council. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

THE PLATTE RIVER ROAD (1991) 90-min. Places the controversy over the future of the Platte River system in an historical and environmental context. Funded by Nebraska Humanities Council, The Ford Foundation, and CEN. Western Heritage - National Cowboy Hall of Fame Award, Best Documentary; Regional Emmy Nomination; Gabriel Award Certifi¬cate of Merit; CEN distribution; CEN Best Cultural Documentary honorable mention; U.S. Industrial Film and Video Festival certificate for creative excellence. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

THE RETURN OF THE SACRED POLE (1990) 30-min. After 100 years at Harvard's Peabody Museum, and decades of controversial negotiations, the Sacred Pole of the Omaha Tribe is returned to them in a moving, emotional ceremony. Funded by the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium. National distribution through IPS. Screened at 8th Annual Native American Film & Video Festival, National Museum of the American Indian; Two Rivers Film & Video Festival; Native American Film & Video Festival of the Brooklyn Museum; Festival dei Popoli, Florence, Italy; Award of Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology, American Anthropological Association, 1991. CINE Golden Eagle, 1992. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

THE LAST OF THE RAINWATER BASINS (1990) 30-min. Environmental history/nature program concerning the loss of wetland habitat in a critical region of the Central Flyway. Funded by the EPA. CEN distribution. Producer/Director/Grantwriter.

PICTURE NEBRASKA (1989) 60 min. Documentary highlighting the work of nine Nebraska based photographers whose work was selected in a statewide competition. Funded by the Nebraska Arts Council. Producer/Director

DANCE OF THE CRANES (1988) 60-min. Follows the construction and installation at Omaha's Eppley Airfield of John Raimondi's 60-foot bronze abstract sculpture depicting Sandhill Cranes. CEN Award, Best Cultural Documentary 1989. Producer/Director/Writer.

DANCING TO GIVE THANKS (1988) 30-min. Documentary about the 189th Annual Omaha Indian Tribal Pow-Wow featuring and interpreting tribal dancing and other traditional events and ceremonies. Funded by Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium. Award of Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology, American Anthropological Association 1990. Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

THE TRIAL OF STANDING BEAR (1987) Feature length drama about the Ponca Chief Standing Bear's struggle for freedom and status as a human being in the eyes of the law. Script supervisor/Editor.

LITTLE TOWNS LIKE THESE (1987) 60-min. Documentary about the history, development and future of the rural Midwestern town, emphasizing the economic and social changes of the 1980s. Funded by humanities organizations in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Minnesota, CEN, and The Ford Foundation. CEN distribution. 1988 Cindy Award, Special Achievement; Silver Certificate, 1988 Chicago International Film Festival; 1989 Ohio State Award (merit award). Producer/Director/Writer/Grantwriter.

BACK AT THE RANCH (1986) 60-min. Documentary exploration of the ranching industry in the American West, with a special emphasis on three ranch families. Hosted by Richard Farnsworth. Funded by PBS, CEN, and humanities organizations in Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah. PBS airplay January 1987. Silver Screen Award, U.S. Industrial Film Festival. Co-producer/Director/Editor.

KEITH COUNTY JOURNAL (1985) 60-min. Screen adaptation of essays by naturalist author John Janovy, Jr. Studies the fragile interdependence of the natural systems of the Nebraska Sandhills. PBS airplay July 1987. First place local information program CPB Awards, 1986; Finalist, 29th Annual International Film & TV Festival of New York, 1986; 1st Place CEN Awards, 1987. Producer/Director/Grantwriter.

YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (1985) 60-min. Performance program tribute to Harry James featuring the Harry James Orchestra and vocalist Helen Forrest. PBS Festival broadcast, SIP purchase. Director.

PLOWING UP A STORM (1984) 90-min. Documentary history of farm radicalism on the Great Plains. Chicago International Film Festival Merit Award. PBS airplay June 1985. Clips aired on ABC News Nightline, February 1986. Producer/Director/Co-writer/Grantwriter.

BLUES FROM THE ZOO BAR (1983 and irregularly for the next ten years.) 30-min. x 24. Live on tape performances by blues greats at Lincoln's internationally known blues bar. Producer/director.

JOHN NEIHARDT: WORDSENDER (1983) 60-min. Biographical documentary of Nebraska's first Poet Laureate and the author of Black Elk Speaks. Visuals researcher, editor, script consultant.

HAND ME DOWNS (1982) 30-min. x 3 Documentary series highlighting the rich heritage of folk music, dance and folk arts on the Plains. Hosted by Roger Welsch. Producer/director.

SHELDON FILM THEATER (1979 to 1983) Irregular series featuring foreign features, American independent and documentaries. Also featured in depth interviews with visiting filmmakers. Produced in association with the Sheldon Film Theater at UN-L (now the Mary Riepma Ross Theater). Producer/program host and interviewer.

HIDDEN PLACES (1979-1980) 30-min. x 3 Documentaries about little-known historic sites in the American West; "Ancient Places," "Two Routes West," and "Three Mining Towns". Three PBS airplays. Western Heritage Center and Cowboy Hall of Fame Award, 1982; Silver Medal, 24th International Film and TV Festival of New York, 1982; Silver Plaque, 17th Chicago International Film Festival, 1982. Cinematographer/Editor.

HOOTIE'S BLUES (1978) 30-min. Film biography of Kansas City blues pianist Jay McShann. London Film Festival Award of Excellence, 1979; European Distribution through TCB Releasing, 1979; Airplay on ZDF Network, West Germany, 1980; BBC, Great Britain, 1982; PBS as part of SWINGIN' THE BLUES series, 1981, 1982. Producer/Director/Cinematographer.

ARTISTS IN THE SCHOOLS (1977) 60-min. plus 20-min. x 3 Full-length broadcast documentary and three classroom shorts about the Nebraska Arts Council's Artists in the Schools program. Highlights five in-school residencies across Nebraska. Program concept and grant proposal, photographed and edited.

TIMELINES (1977) 30-min. Documentary about Seward, Nebraska artist Reinholt Marxhausen and fifty residents of the New Cassel Senior Citizens' Center focusing on Marxhausen's attempt to change the ways the residents see themselves and the aging process. Photographed and edited.

WRIGHT MORRIS: REPOSSESSION (1976) 30-min. X 2 Educational documentaries about the literature and photography respectively of Wright Morris, the Nebraska native who achieved national respect for his pioneering work with the photo/text format and later as a novelist and short story author. Photographed and edited.

JAPAN: THE LIVING TRADITION (1976) 30-min. x 32 Educational series on the culture and history of Japan. Produced by the University of Mid-America. Ohio State Award. Editor of acquired footage sequences.

TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER (1975) 30-min. Process program featuring household, consignment and farm auctions. Includes consumer advice from auctioneers and professional buyers. Photographed and edited.

THE HIRED HAND (1975) 60-min. Documentary about the old-time ranch hands in the Beatrice and Broken Bow areas of Nebraska. Cinematographer.

A SENSE OF PLACE (1974) 60-min. Documentary about nine American landscape painters and their relationship to the places in which they live and work. Based on the exhibition by Alan Gussow, featuring Thomas Hart Benton, Wolf Kahn, Keith Jacobshagen and others. Photographed and edited.

DOWNSTAGE CENTER (1974) 45-min. Documentary about community theater in Nebraska. Photographed and edited.

PICK IN BY THE RIVER (1972) 30-min. Filmed sequences for a performance program about the Brownville Old Time Fiddlers Contest. Central Educational Network Award for Best Cultural Affairs Program, 1972. Cinematographer.

PERFECT STRANGERS (1971); COMMA, (1970); A DAY IN THE LIFE (1970) Student films produced at the Institute of Design Master's Degree program. "Comma," was a finalist in the 6th Annual Chicago International Film Competition's Condition of Man 60-second film competition.