The arduous lifestyle of a traveling tent circus often contradicts the romantic notion of “running away with a circus.” This film documents the daily routines of the small, family-owned Franzen Bros. Circus. While focusing on those aspects of the circus that are not generally accessible to the circus audience, Cotton Candy and Elephant Stuff captures the magic and the routine of circus life.
29 minutes | 1979
Blue Ribbon, American Film Festival, New York
CINE Eagle, Washington, D.C.
Merit Award, Athens International Film Festival, Ohio
First Prize, Marin County Film Festival
Third Prize, FOCUS Competition, Los Angeles
Judges’ Choice, San Francisco Art Institute Film Festival
Student Film Award, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
British Short Film Festival
Los Angeles Filmex
Baltimore International Film Festival
Atlanta International Film Festival
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York
Arden House Public Television Seminar
Conference on Visual Anthropology, Philadelphia
Midwest Film Conference, Chicago
International tour of Academy Award-winning student films
Impact, CNN (excerpts)
“… one of the best circus films ever…” – Educational Film Library Association
“… the film is nice to watch… it’s colorful and sometimes exciting and even a bit glamorous…but it’s also gritty, realistic, and funny at times…”
– Marin Independent-Journal
When I was 17, I spent a weekend as a ticket-taker at a travelling carnival that came to the small California town where I was working for the summer. The drunken musings of a “carny” as he watched the structures being torn down and stowed for travel made me wonder about the lifestyle of this itinerant group. Some years later, I decided to learn more about the people who inhabit the world of travelling carnivals and circuses. My research led me to the Franzen Bros. Circus that came into existence when Wayne Franzen left his teaching job to act on his dream. The circus was in its fourth season of operation when we made the film.
With a two-person crew (Thomas Ott on camera and me on sound), we travelled with the circus for four weeks through Illinois. The group moved to a different town every day, put on two shows a night, and left before sunrise to travel to the next site. It was by far the most exhausting shooting schedule of all of my films but our efforts paled in comparison to the responsibilities shouldered by the workers and performers who we filmed. The circus went of business in 1997 after Wayne Franzen died.
Producer, Director, Editor – Jan Krawitz
Cinematographer – Thomas Ott
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Jan Krawitz is available for speaking engagements with her films at conferences and universities. She also conducts master classes and presents public talks about documentary film as a Visiting Filmmaker.