Three Americans join a growing nomadic movement living out of vehicles—seeking meaning outside a society that failed them. When the cost of radical freedom takes its toll, their individual journeys build to a collective discovery: love is the most meaningful thing of all.
This is the real-life Nomadland: part social issue documentary, part road movie, told through the interwoven stories of three unforgettable characters on the precipice of personal transformation.
Sixty-year-old Jo Lynn escapes an abusive marriage by moving into a minivan, then sets out on a quest for love and acceptance. Twelve-year-old Leilani struggles to come of age after her family, seeking adventure and togetherness, abandons the rat race and moves into a 350-square-foot RV. And Bob Wells, the nomadic movement’s star evangelist, repudiates the American Dream as he crusades to build a new society on the fringes of civilization.
When road life confronts all three with unforeseen adversity, their individual journeys build to a collective climax—and a single truth shines through: True meaning and purpose are not merely within. To love and be loved is the most meaningful thing of all.
Together, these lyrically intercut stories reflect urgent crises of meaning and affordability in America, ultimately offering a powerful message of hope.
HOW WE WORK
A couple in filmmaking and in life, we are a nimble two person team—both directors and crew: Vanessa shoots, Josh records sound. The ability to stay small allows us to embed with our subjects for long stretches of time.
We’re learned a lot of the skills we’re using to live off the grid from the subjects of our documentary. We’ve criss-crossed the country in our Honda Civic, camping out of a tent on public land, cooking on a propane stove, and using a modified bucket for a toilet.
We're grateful to the nomadic community for teaching us how to experience the epic grandeur of America in a whole new way. That grandeur will be the canvas on which our documentary unfolds.
Director | Producer | Cinematographer
Vanessa Carr has worked as a director of photography for a decade, filming documentaries and series for PBS, HBO, Disney+, Showtime, FX, and others. Most recently, she was a staff director of photography for the upcoming Disney+ series On Pointe and The New York Times' documentary television series, The Weekly (FX/Hulu), which was nominated for nine Emmy Awards. Vanessa co-produced Heroin: Cape Cod, USA for HBO and Stickup Kid for Frontline, and shot both. She holds a master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley. Nomads is her first feature documentary as a director.
Director | Producer | Sound
Josh Gleason is a director and producer of documentary film and television. He co-directed The Disrupted, an observational feature about America's struggling middle class that premiered at DOK.fest Munich in 2020. He directed and produced True Believer, a short doc that played at festivals around the country, including the Ashland Independent Film Festival and the Nantucket Film Festival--and streamed on The Atlantic. He’s directed and produced numerous programs for PBS, including episodes of American Experience and Finding your Roots. Before becoming a filmmaker, Josh reported and produced stories for NPR.
Rachel Shuman is a documentary editor and director based in greater New York City. Some recent film editing credits include True Believer (Ashland Independent Film Festival 2019), Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf (DOC NYC, 2017), One October (Full Frame, 2017), and Brothers (DOK Leipzig, 2017). Rachel has also worked as an editor on nonfiction programming for A&E, History, and MTV, and is a proud board member of the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship. Originally from Boston, Rachel received a BFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York.