“I want the viewer to feel Virginia’s anger at a system that refuses to change, her passion as she decides to take on the powers that have denied her a say in her child’s education, her fear when she understands the influence of those who wish to stop her, her pride in herself and her community as they rise to the occasion, and ultimately, her joy when she achieves her goals.” — Director R. J. Daniel Hanna
R. J. Daniel Hanna is a Toronto-born, Arkansas-raised writer, director, and editor. He has directed commercials for Coca-Cola, Subway, Cole Haan, and numerous other brands, but his true passion is independent cinema that can ignite social change while delivering a powerful human story.
His feature screenplays have received dozens of awards and accolades, with his script Shelter Animal making the Top 50 Scripts (out of 8,000) in the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Nicholl Fellowship. His short film SHELTER, starring Clea DuVall (ARGO, ZODIAC) and April Grace (WHIPLASH, MAGNOLIA), played at the SAG Short Film Showcase and won the Audience Award from the NewFilmmakers LA festival, among other accolades. His most recent award-winning film, EVERYTHING, is based on a true story of a mother searching for a bone marrow donor for her daughter. It was featured in the Wall Street Journal and is spurring reform in the marrow donation industry.
Working both in narrative and documentary form, Hanna also brings an editor’s eye to his sets. Films he has edited have won awards from the Emmy Foundation, the Director’s Guild of America, BAFTA, the USC Editing Faculty, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and dozens of film festivals. Hanna is repped by the Gersh Agency and Luber-Roklin Entertainment.
“I’m thrilled to have directed the film adaptation of Virginia Walden Ford’s inspiring struggle to bring educational opportunity to the most disadvantaged children in Washington, D.C. This is an important story that I feel privileged to have brought to the screen.
“For me, the most exciting and rewarding aspect of making a film is putting the viewer in the place of the protagonist and allowing them to live vicariously through her. My goal is to show the audience an empathetic character in Virginia, making them feel the hopes and dreams she has for her son, as well as her pain when she realizes that a better life is not ahead of him.
“It’s the emotional ride that is most fascinating to me, but it has bigger rewards. By focusing on this one woman and her cause, we will tell a universal story that sparks questions in scores of people across the U.S. about why they don’t have more of a voice in their children’s education.
“Through empathy and strong storytelling, we can change people’s minds by touching their hearts.”