Kevin McLaughlin is the producer and director of Riot. He is also the film's writer and editor.
Since graduating from Seton Hall University and earning a Master's Degree in Television and Film from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, Kevin McLaughlin has worked in commercials, features, broadcast, documentary, cable network, corporate, and educational television in a career that spans more than 20 years.
His credits include everything from elementary school science programs to America’s Most Wanted and The Uncle Floyd Show. He continues to be involved in a wide variety of productions throughout New York and New Jersey. Kevin has been a department head on several landmark independent features, and is currently involved in developing several more. Kevin recently served as Head Writer and Supervising Producer on Where Health Works, a 3-part series created for PBS TV, and is now acting as Post-Production Supervisor on the TV series Big Dogs.
An accomplished editor, Kevin has written, produced, and directed over 400 programs, including 2 winners of the Gold Award from the International Television Association, and a Silver Medal winner at Chicago’s INTERCOM competition. He is the author of the feature screenplays Dreaming Out Loud, The Finger, Pinch Me! And Brothers in the Ashes. The Pinch Me! script was honored as a winner of the Long Island Film Festival Screenplay Competition.
As a writer, Kevin is known for spinning funny, heartwarming tales featuring characters who seem remarkably like real people. His one-act play, Andy & Eve (A Rock & Roll Comedy of Biblical Proportions) played to tremendous audience response in its off-Broadway run in the Fall of 2002.
McLaughlin is also the creator and producer of the TV show Downtown Film Fest, featuring Adrienne Shelly, Ally Sheedy, and Gill Holland. The pilot was included in the Vail Film Festival, and the 1st Annual Independent TV Festival in Los Angeles.
A former track star and member of a relay team that was ranked in the top 5 nationally, McLaughlin is still a devotee of rapid forward motion. Though no longer competing, he retains the work ethic, intensity, and dedication of a champion athlete.
Paul Schoenberger is a long-time collaborator of Director Kevin McLaughlin, with a lengthy history of successes in producing, directing, and shooting film and TV projects. He's created branding campaigns and corporate profiles for numerous Fortune 500 companies, and recently served as Producer and Director of Photography on The Weather Channel's hit series Coast Guard Alaska. He is a graduate of Montana State University and winner of the Gold Award at the International Film & TV Awards, and the Greshier Award for Best Documentary in the Northwest.
Andre Braugher first scored widespread attention with his role on the television series Homicide: Life on the Street as Detective Frank Pembleton, a self-righteous, fiery, unyielding, Jesuit-educated police detective. He received Television Critics Association awards for individual achievement in drama in 1997 and 1998. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for best actor in a drama series in 1996 and 1998, winning in the latter year. He has also starred in the films City of Angels and Poseidon. Braugher narrated the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. On stage, he was honored with an Obie Award for his turn in the title role of Henry V at New York's Shakespeare in the Park Festival. He was also one of the leads in the TNT series Men of a Certain Age, and currently appears as a cast regular in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, for which he also received an Emmy nomination.
Score Composer and Performer
Rahjta Ren is an eclectic world-class musician constantly seeking expansive directions for his musical expression. He is a Newark native and a life-long friend of the film's director. Rahjta's music industry achievements include being awarded a gold record as keyboardist, composer, co-producer and arranger in the contemporary jazz genre. He is a former recording artist for RCA/Novus Records, now creating music on his own terms. On his current release, Mindfulness, he was pianist, synthesist, composer, arranger and producer. For Riot, he created a series of piano-based themes to underscore the power and emotion in each and every scene in the film.
Since Riot features numerous witnesses with 50-year-old memories never before recorded, there were many gaps in the visuals needed to tell this story. To the rescue: Gary Giacomarra, the illustrator who created the re-enactment drawings featured throughout the film. Gary attended Rutgers University and Queens College, majoring in Criminal Justice and Art. His plans to become an artist were sidetracked by a 20-year stint in the New York Police Department. Upon retirement, he returned to his love of art, and resumed his studies at the Art Students League of New York. Riot is his first major art assignment.
As a serious music fan, Riot's director, Kevin McLaughlin always strives to have a great soundtrack in anything he produces. In this case, he's been very lucky to have some of his favorite music artists contribute to the film's soundtrack.
Long-time collaborator Willie Nile offers Hard times in America, the perfect jangling-rock summation of the mood that gripped Newark during the hot summer of '67. Willie is a world-renowned singer/songwriter who counts Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Pete Townshend among his devoted fans. His albums have consistently appeared in major critics' top ten lists year after year. The New York Times called him "One of the best singer-songwriters to emerge from the New York scene in a long time." His anthem One Guitar was recently named "Best Social Action Song" by the Independent Music Awards.
Garland Jeffreys is a legendary singer and songwriter who has enjoyed a long career, with fans around the world. He is known for many chart hits, including Wild in the Streets, Matador, and a spirited cover of 96 Tears. Bob Marley once called him "the best reggae singer in America." But he is far from limited to that genre. As a man with varied ethnic roots, he draws on multiple cultures for his musical influences, and brings in elements of rock, folk, jazz, R&B, and latin sounds. Likewise, his songs often address issues of race and identity. For Riot, Garland performs an on-camera version of one of his sharpest critiques of racism, Don't Call Me Buckwheat.
In the segment of the film that explores the many ways that neighborhoods were changed by the riots, special attention is given to McLaughlin's original stomping ground, the Vailsburg section of Newark. That chapter of the film is introduced by James Maddock's My Old Neighborhood, a sweet and melancholy ode to one's roots. New York radio legend Vin Scelsa called Maddock's work "heartbreakingly beautiful and exquisitely crafted." Maddock's recent album "Sunrise on Avenue C" won the New York Music Award for Best Americana Album.
This project would not have been possible without the generous contributions of several photographers. Jim Lowney, a former staff member at The Newark Evening News and The Asbury Park Press, contributed a number of shots from 1967. Robert Peterson, a freelance photojournalist who worked extensively with Life Magazine, was able to recover a trove of fantastic color shots from his days on the streets of Newark. Bud Lee, another of the great photojournalists of the '60's, published widely in Life and other national publications, contributed some great shots, including his shocking Life cover shot of 12-year-old Joey Bass lying still in a Newark street after being hit by a policeman's shotgun blast. And L. Craig Schoonmaker, a blogger, activist, and the coiner of the term "gay pride" contributed a number of shots of current-day Newark.