SundanceTV Film Powers Ancestry’s 'Railroad' Story

Descendants of slaves learn family histories
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Some stories take more than 30 seconds to tell.

SundanceTV, working with client Ancestry and its agency OMD’s Content Collective, has created a powerful film that brings together the descendants of slaves and abolitionists involved with bringing people north on the Underground Railroad.

Filmmaker Sacha Jenkins was enlisted to direct Railroad Ties, which tells their stories in time for Black History Month on TV, online a at the Sundance Film Festival.

The effort also comes as Ancestry is announcing 70 new and updated regions for consumer of African-American descent, adding detail to the people and places in their family histories.

“This is a collaboration where the stars were truly aligned. Ancestry trusted their idea in the hands of an intuitive and thought-provoking filmmaker, Sacha Jenkins. It’s the kind of partnership that sends us, as champions of our partners’ creative visions, over the moon,” said Katherine Dore, creative director of AMC Entertainment & executive producer of Railroad Ties.

To create the 23-minute film, Jenkins and Ancestry gathered a group of Americans on Dec. 17 at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn to tell a story about the Underground Railroad.

The people Ancestry invited didn’t know about this part of their family background and were surprised to the information at the church, a stop on the railway where slaves were once sheltered. One by one, their connections to the Underground Railway, and to the others in the room were revealed.

A woman finds out about her family's history in Plymouth Church.

A woman finds out about her family's history in Plymouth Church.

In addition to finding out more about their families, some met new family members.

“SundanceTV has a celebrated film legacy which carries over into telling best in class brand stories,” said Lauren Hali, VP of integrated marketing at Sundance TV. “When Ancestry came to us with this important story, we jumped at the chance to tap into our community of Sundance Film Festival filmmakers to give it a unique voice.”

Railroad Ties was released Sunday at the SundanceTV HQ at the Sundance Film Festival. The full film will be airing on twice SundanceTV and once on AMC Network during February. Ancestry will have a “presented by” credit inside the film.

The film will also be accessible on other platforms including digital streaming at ancestry.com/railroadties, and social media.

Additional content will live online, including behind the-scenes imagery from the shoot, content from the film festival and interviews with the people involved in making the film.

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