Made in Boise (Working title)

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


Four women find purpose carrying babies for strangers in Boise, Idaho - America’s unregulated and unofficial “surrogacy capital” - but encounter unexpected complexities along the way.


In this frontier town of Boise, Idaho, an unexpected industry has emerged - surrogacy. Here, one in fifteen mothers will carry a baby for a stranger at some point in her life. Its local hospital, St. Luke’s, developed and runs the best surrogacy program of its kind in the country. MADE IN BOISE is the story of women who find purpose carrying other people’s babies here - the unregulated and unofficial “surrogacy capital” of the United States - but encounter unexpected complexities along the way.

The film weaves the stories of four surrogates and the biological parents whose children they carry. Nicole owns Boise’s largest surrogacy agency and employs the other subjects we follow. She’s a no-nonsense CEO and to her, surrogacy is old hat - she’s carrying her fourth surrogacy baby as we meet her. In Nicole’s view, she provides a life-changing opportunity for deserving parents from around the world, including couples facing infertility, gay couples, and single people. The other surrogates share Nicole’s point of view, though they’ve all arrived at surrogacy for different reasons. Chelsea, a relatable mom-next-door and surrogacy second-timer, sees it as a way to process the stillbirth she suffered eight years ago. Cindy, inspired by the unique families coming to St. Luke’s hospital, where she’s a NICU nurse, decides to become a surrogate for the first time at 42 - possibly biting off more than she can chew. Sammy, 26, is a mom, nail technician, and another surrogacy newbie, whose friends and Mexican family are apprehensive about her choice. 

Surrogacy may be unfamiliar to many, but it is on the rise. The number of surrogate births in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled in the last twenty years. Globally, surrogacy is on the uptick, too. Parents from around the world choose Boise because of its reputation for being wholesome and welcoming, because of its ready pool of surrogates, and because surrogacy here is more affordable than in competing places. And yet, as is often the case with pregnancy and parenthood, surrogacy is unpredictable and complicated. Told primarily through the surrogates’ point of view, MADE IN BOISE explores the humanity behind this practice, the maternal health issues it provokes and the reasons why it’s booming in Boise. The film also investigates how and why surrogacy is indelibly connecting this all-American city to families all over the world. 


I’m inspired by the way verité filmmaking lays the contradictions of real life bare - the way humor can be right around the corner from the most serious moments. With this film, I’m taking a character-driven storytelling approach that lets those moments unfold.

While I’m a filmmaker, I’m also a painter. Before I lived in space-challenged New York apartments, I loved working on big canvases. Like any painter, I work close to my surface, where you can see brushstrokes and detail, but I always step back to see the big picture. My approach to this documentary is just like that. Intimate verité scenes of our surrogates —Nicole and the birth of Shannon’s baby, Chelsea opening up about her stillborn child, Cindy stuck on the couch, helpless on bedrest, Sammy’s heart-to-heart with the friend who introduced her to surrogacy—are shot up-close, so that small details come to life. These scenes nest in wide, symmetrical suburban tableaus—inspired by narrative films like THE TRUMAN SHOW—contrasting the complications of the surrogacy process with an illusion of perfection.

Music is important to me. Inspired by the scores of Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman, our composer Melisa McGregor (who has worked with Elfman for over ten years) is developing a musical palette that will alternate between playful plucking violin, big sweeping strings, and heartbreaking vocals.

Finally, animation will bring to life WhatsApp messages and texts between international parents and their surrogates.


Beth Aala - Director/Producer

Beth Aala (Director/Producer/Camera/additional editing ) is a three-time Emmy award-winning producer and recipient of a Peabody Award for her documentary work at HBO. Beth’s most recent feature documentary, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, which she co-directed and produced, premiered at Sundance 2017. Beth was nominated for the 2015 News and Documentary Emmy Awards for her film Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (Toronto Int’l Film Festival, 2013), which she directed and produced with Mike Myers. It won the 2014 Hollywood Film Award for best documentary. Her directorial debut, Pool Party (2010) is the untold story of Brooklyn’s McCarren Park Pool and played in festivals around the world.

Beth Levison - Producer

Beth Levison (Producer) is a seasoned independent producer/director and the recipient of two national Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards. Her most recent film, Personal Statement, produced in association with Reify Films and Latino Public Broadcasting is the opening night film of the 2018 AFI DOCS film festival.  Prior to this, she produced 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide (Hot Docs, 2017), which was broadcast on HBO in 2018 and supported by the Sundance Documentary Film Program. Previous projects include The Trials of Spring (Human Rights Watch Int’l Film Festival, 2015), and her independent documentary directorial debut Lemon (DOC NYC, 2011), which was executive produced by Impact Partners and Russell Simmons, shown at festivals around the world, and broadcast on PBS stations nationwide.  She is a co-founder of the Doc Producers Alliance and faculty with SVA’s MFA Program in Social Documentary Film.

Jenni Morello - Director of Photography

Jenni Morello (Director of Photography) is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer. She received critical acclaim for her work in Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s One of Us, (Toronto Int’l Film Festival, 2017) currently on Netflix. Films that Morello has shot have screened on PBS, HBO, Showtime, Discovery, and Netflix and have been supported by Sundance, ITVS and Ford Foundation.

Alex Pitz - Story Producer

Alex Pitz (Story Producer) has worked as a writing consultant on non-fiction projects for Vice, The Front, and Vox Media. She’s associate produced and co-produced documentaries for HBO, Univision, and Fusion, including HBO’s The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm (2018), the Emmy-nominated Everything Is Copy (2016), and the GLAAD Media Award-winning Crossing Over: Stories of Immigration and Identity (2014).

Jen Fineran - Editor

Jen Fineran (Editor) is best known for her eclectic non-fiction storytelling including Alison Klayman’s AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (IFC Films), which won a Sundance Special Jury Prize and earned Jen an Emmy nomination. She recently edited TAKE YOUR PILLS (Netflix) and EVERYBODY KNOWS… ELIZABETH MURRAY (PBS American Masters). Jen received her M.A. in Film Studies from Emory University.

Melisa McGregor - Composer

Melisa McGregor (Composer) is an LA-based and Canadian-born composer, violinist, producer and Sundance Lab Composing Fellow. Since 2008, she has worked as a composer's assistant to Danny Elfman on many diverse film scores, from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) to Joss Whedon's Justice League (2017).  She recently scored Susan Sidelman’s short film, Cut in Half, now on Showtime.


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