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Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #13: Don Argott's and Sheena Joyce, "The Atomic States of America"

By Indiewire | Indiewire January 7, 2012 at 9:30AM

In 2010, the United States announced the first new nuclear power plant construction in over three decades. Last year's Japanese earthquake launched an international debate on the safety of nuclear power, and filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce will return to Sundance with a documentary on what a nuclear renaissance really means for us.
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Directors Don Argott and Sheena Joyce
Directors Don Argott and Sheena Joyce

In 2010, the United States announced the first new nuclear power plant construction in over three decades. Last year's Japanese earthquake launched an international debate on the safety of nuclear power, and filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce will return to Sundance with a documentary on what a nuclear renaissance really means for us.

What's it about? "The Atomic States of America" takes the viewer on a journey to reactor communities and explores the truths and myths of nuclear power.

Director Sheena Joyce says: "Don went to film school, but I was an English major, with an interest in investigative journalism. We both found ourselves working in the film industry in Philadelphia, but longing to try something new in our field. Don and I are a couple, so we took a risk and teamed up to make our first documentary, which turned out to be 2005's "Rock School."

"Luckily, the risk paid off, and we're now on our fifth film with 'The Atomic States of America.' We want to introduce the viewer to a person, place, or issue they otherwise may not come across. It's a powerful tool to making the world a little smaller, and with docs in particular, you have the chance to affect real change.

"The Atomic States of America"
"The Atomic States of America"

"This was a tough project from day one. We thought our biggest challenge was to take a huge topic, nuclear energy, and to make it accessible and interesting to everyone. However, we had no way of knowing that our biggest challenge would come on March 11th, with the disaster at Fukushima. We had been filming for a year at that point, and in essence, had to remake the film on March 12th. The tragedy in Japan reframed the dialog about nuclear power here and abroad, and affected our characters in ways we could not have previously imagined."

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.

Keep checking here every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers, Sundance Film Festival, The Atomic States of America