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Documentary produced by TAMUC faculty member premiering at SXSW Film Festival
By Texas A&M University-Commerce
Mar 7, 2024
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Commerce, Texas -- A documentary chronicling the life of Liz Carpenter that is associate produced by Texas A&M University-Commerce Distinguished Professor Dr. Jessica Brannon-Wranosky is set for its screen debut at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, scheduled for March 8-16 in Austin, Texas.

The film, titled “Shaking It Up: The Life and Times of Liz Carpenter,” explores the life of prominent journalist, feminist leader and former John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson White House staff advisor Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Sutherland Carpenter. A Texas native, Carpenter was an ardent supporter of many feminist causes including serving as a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus and co-chaired ERAmerica, traveling the U.S. to advocate for the “Equal Rights Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. 

Her 1969 memoir “Ruffles and Flourishes” was a best-seller that chronicled her time as Press Secretary and Chief of Staff to former First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. Carpenter passed away in 2010 at the age of 89.

Brannon-Wranosky is an associate producer on the film and the film’s lead historical advisor, which is produced and directed by award winning filmmaker Abby Ginzberg and Liz’s daughter and biographer Christy Carpenter. She says she first met Christy a few years ago, as she and Ginzberg were beginning plans for the film. They soon invited Brannon-Wranosky to join the project.

Dr. Jessica Brannon-Wranosky, distinguished professor at A&M-Commerce, has co-produced a documentary on prominent feminist icon Liz Carpenter that will premiere at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. (photo by A&M-Commerce Marketing and Communications.)

“The prospect of this documentary was appealing because there was a lot about her that highlights women’s roles in politics and public life in the twentieth century,” Brannon-Wranosky said. “She was a larger than life personality, often center stage and even often in the roles to decide who was in the spotlight. It seems that everyone who met her has a ‘Liz Carpenter story’ to share, and this fact really showed through in the process of making this film”

Those interviewed in the documentary include Dan Rather, Gloria Steinem, former Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb.

Brannon-Wranosky, who specializes in women, gender and sexuality through her work as a historian, said that Liz’s background was another factor that spurred her to participate in the documentary.

“Liz was very Texan and proud of it,” Brannon-Wranosky said. “As a multiple generation Texan myself, it’s interesting to see how that part of who she was played itself out on the world’s stage and shaped how she did things.”

The documentary isn’t Brannon-Wranosky’s first foray into filmmaking. She served an advisor for and her research and publications were used as the basis for “Citizens at Last,” which tells the story of women in Texas and their fight for suffrage leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. The documentary aired on PBS stations globally starting in 2021. She has also co-produced five short films that will debut this year.

Brannon-Wranosky adds that she hopes filmgoers take away Liz’s “larger than life” story when seeing the documentary and realize her impact on women’s roles and access as a whole.

“Liz embodied a version of second-wave feminism,” Brannon-Wranosky said. “Women like her shaped the times she lived in.”

“Shaking It Up: The Life and Times of Liz Carpenter” is scheduled for three showings during the SXSW Film Festival:

March 10, 11 a.m. at the ZACH Theatre, 202 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

March 13, 6 p.m. at the Violet Crown Cinema, Screen 1, 434 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

March 13, 6:30 p.m. at the Violet Crown Cinema, Screen 3, 434 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

For tickets and venue information, visit the SXSW website. Learn more about the film at the documentary website.