A Diplomat of Consequence

: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


A forgotten hero.  A man who stood alone and was willing to risk everything to do the right thing.


Ebenezer Bassett had been an abolitionist and activist during the Civil War. After the war, friends such as Frederick Douglass pushed President Grant to appoint black Americans to senior government positions. Bassett became the first American to integrate the diplomatic corps, leaving a lasting impact on U.S. foreign policy.


This film will differ from most purely historical documentaries due to the narrative and natural drama of Bassett’s life and service in Haiti. The look and style will be contemporary noire and the documentary will run 60-90 minutes. We will use archival photographs, Department of State cables, and present-day footage to show the different environments of Bassett’s life. In order to merge two very different sources of b-roll, we will use filters and masks on the present-day footage and interviews, to make them match the archival material more precisely. The coloring will be generally darker in order to emphasize the passage of time. Advanced after-effects will help bring 19th century photographs to life, further connecting the past characters with the current interviewees. Interviews with historians and diplomats that put Bassett in context and bring to life his accomplishments. Mixed archival images (photos, sketches from magazine and newspapers and actual newspaper headlines from Connecticut, Washington, and the Caribbean will give familiar historical ties to the audience. That will be supplemented with voice over narration and voice actors that will be used for a small number of characters (Bassett and Douglass in particular). Original musical score will incorporate tradition early American and Caribbean rhythms as well.


Christopher Teal - Drirector/Producer/Writer
A career diplomat with the U.S. State Department, Christopher Teal most recently served as the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Nogales, Mexico. He oversaw programs on bilateral security, economic and trade promotion and cross-border exchanges between the United States and Mexico. Chris is currently on a sabbatical fellowship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is directing a documentary on the first African-American diplomat, Ebenezer D. Bassett. The film, A Diplomat of Consequence, tells the story of this ground-breaking diplomat and examines the legacy of racial diversity today, nearly 150 years after his appointment. Chris’s prior diplomatic assignments include: Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico; Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru and consular and press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In Washington D.C. he also worked at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center in charge of the African portfolio and in the European Bureau overseeing public affairs for Southern Europe and the Caucasus. Before joining the Foreign Service, Chris worked with award-winning journalist Juan Williams on their biography Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary about the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Published by Times Books/Random House in October 1998, The New York Times listed it among their most notable non-fiction works of the year. Chris’s biography about Ebenezer Bassett, entitled Hero of Hispaniola, was published in 2008.

Bailey Netsch - Production Assistant/Editing Assistant
Bailey Netsch is the videographer, production assistant and lead researcher. A recent graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, Netsch has produced several documentaries, including one on Somali refugees in the United States entitled “Speak” https://vimeo.com/189092498 and “The Balkan Route” on the plight of Balkan refugees https://vimeo.com/221821543

Lawrence Clamage - Camera/Editing
Additional shooting and editing support comes from documentarian Lawrence Clamage https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Clamage

Dr. Bill Silcock - Consultant
Consulting support comes from Dr. Bill Silcock, professor at Arizona State University and former television journalist and documentarian whose work has appeared on PBS. https://cronkite.asu.edu/about/faculty-and-leadership/faculty/silcockbio


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