October/November 2023 This month, Carmel Monthly is pleased to feature Carmel resident Ashton Gleckman on the cover. We have published previous articles over the years on Gleckman’s work as an award-winning director and gifted composer, and now we are honored to discuss Gleckman’s eight-part docuseries “Kennedy.” Marking 60 years since JFK’s assassination, “Kennedy” is set to premiere Saturday, November 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT with three back-to-back one-hour episodes. The following three episodes air Sunday, November 19 and the final two air Monday, November 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. “Kennedy” was made possible by the collaborative talents of Blackbird Pictures and Academy Award®-winning production company RadicalMedia and is narrated by Peter Coyote. The docuseries chronicles the life, leadership and legacy of the youngest U.S. president elected to office and features interviews with Conan O’Brien, members of the Kennedy family and several individuals who were intimately involved in John F. Kennedy’s life and/or administration during his presidency. Gleckman, who directed, edited, co-scored and produced the docuseries, worked closely with the documentary film company Drew Associates to include excerpts from the groundbreaking films of documentarian Robert Drew. The series also utilizes extensive resources from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library archives and many other sources to weave together this compelling narrative of JFK as an influential figure in American history. The Genesis of the Project At 14 years old, Gleckman developed a passion for film scoring and composition that led to a remarkable series of projects. In 2018, he even caught the attention of Academy Award®-winning composer Hans Zimmer (“Gladiator”), who dubbed him the “boy with bat ears” and offered him a job. In 2019, Gleckman embarked on his directorial debut with the release of "We Shall Not Die Now," a feature-length Holocaust documentary that premiered at the Heartland International Film Festival. Following its success, his sophomore film, "The Hills I Call Home," is an intimate profile about a small town in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. Gleckman, now 23, is set to premiere his third project with “Kennedy.” When we sat down with Gleckman to discuss the project in detail, we began the conversation with “why?” Why JFK, and why did Gleckman feel that the 35th president’s life was an important subject for him to explore as a young documentarian? “One of the things that I’m grateful for is that my parents introduced me to cinema at a very early age,” Gleckman shared. “What I mean by ‘cinema’ is classic historical films, and as a result, I grew up reading about and loving history. I have a connection with the subject of World War II and the Holocaust because my great-uncle was one of the liberators in one of the camps. Since an early age, I’ve been interested in history and how events throughout the years have led us to where we are now.” Gleckman’s interest in JFK stems from his early education and a fascination with the late president’s iconic speeches. “’Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,’” Gleckman reflected. “Those words have always stuck with me as I’ve progressed in my career. I had just finished my second film and was looking for subjects that fascinated me. The more I have sunk into the history of JFK, the more I realized it’s a story that really is the American story. JFK was a guy born in 1917 and lived a relatively short life — 46 years. But he accomplished so much, and he inspired an entire generation through his speeches and oratory gift. He was struck down before he could do more. What I wanted to do with this series was to step away from Dallas and step away from the assassination and conspiracies. I wanted to focus on Jack Kennedy the man. This good-looking, charismatic, well-spoken, reckless but fascinating, brilliant individual who, to this day, is a bit of an enigma. We still don’t totally understand him, and I tried my best to really get into his mind. Why remember JFK? His is a great story that tells us what public service means, and in a world today where we are increasingly disillusioned with the state of affairs, it's a story I think we need.” A Commitment to Telling JFK’s Story For the last three years, Gleckman poured himself into books written about JFK, researched artifacts via the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and conducted more than 80 interviews with members of the Kennedy family, the Kennedy administration and historians to best chronicle the life and legacy of JFK. Gleckman and his crew, comprised of only three people, traveled to 25 states and spent time in locations that were important to JFK’s personal and political life stories. “I think one of the coolest moments was to be in Hyannis Port , where we filmed a couple of interviews,” Gleckman said. “The ‘Ambassador’s’ house looks the same, basically. That’s the big home that people have seen in photographs where JFK is playing football on the lawn with his siblings. It was an amazing experience.” Gleckman had unprecedented access to several first-hand sources that include ‘Agent Number 9’ Clint Hill, a legendary former Secret Service agent who served in Kennedy’s administration and four other U.S. presidents’ administrations. Hill is known for his act of bravery on November 22, 1963 — shielding Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy and the fatally wounded president with his body as the car raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital. “I was able to interview , who is 91, and had the amazing privilege of filming him for 16 hours in California,” Gleckman said. “That’s the next film that I’m working on and am close to finishing filming. We hope to have a film festival run with ‘Agent Number 9’ beginning in 2024. That’s the goal.” When asked about meeting and interviewing Conan O’Brien, Gleckman shared, “Conan is a former board member for the JFK Library Foundation. He’s a lovely person who was excited to talk about JFK. I think he feels a lot of connections to the story, having gone to Harvard University, been born in Boston, and, of course, coming from the Irish Catholic heritage. He naturally feels a kinship to Jack Kennedy.” Gleckman added, “There was a moment in the middle of the Conan interview when we were sitting in his studio and I thought to myself, ‘I’m interviewing Conan O’Brien! What am I doing here?’ It suddenly felt like I was in a dream. And then there was this funny moment where, in the middle of filming, Conan paused and suddenly said, ‘You know, I’ve never had to card a documentarian before.’ He was, of course, referring to my age.” Success Stems from Support and Encouragement The brilliance of Gleckman’s star has only begun to shine. Though, he humbly acknowledged that it is with the support of his family, friends, colleagues and community that he has reached extraordinary heights so early on in his career as a filmmaker and composer. Gleckman also expressed his gratitude for The HISTORY® Channel’s interest and support in this docuseries. “Kennedy” is produced for The HISTORY® Channel by RadicalMedia in association with Blackbird Pictures and Drew Associates Inc. Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serve as executive producers for RadicalMedia. Ashton Gleckman serves as producer for Blackbird Pictures. Eli Lehrer, Mary E. Donahue and Zachary G. Behr serve as executive producers for The HISTORY® Channel. “I was very fortunate to partner with Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick,” Gleckman stated. “Their production company is a remarkable Oscar®-winning documentary production company , and I was fortunate to meet these really great and, most importantly, very experienced people that have this steep history in making docs and in distributing them.” Gleckman continued, “Literally, everything I’ve done is because my parents not only supported it — they encouraged every idea that I’ve ever had. It’s a lot of fun to include my family in the journey, and when there are a lot of tiresome, very anxious days combing through 170-plus hours of footage and I need to decompress, I take walks, get fresh air and spend time with my family. That’s how I do it.” A screening of “Kennedy” will take place on November 13 at the Paley Center and will include notable guests such as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the late Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter. A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to “Kennedy.” The series will stream the next day on The HISTORY® Channel app and history.com and will be available to own wherever you purchase your favorite series. For more information, please visit: history.com/shows/kennedy.