Compelling works

Circuit Films creates documentaries that captivate and educate the Island.


Circuit Arts, like its founder and everyone who works for this stellar organization, bursts with creativity and a profound dedication to building community through accessible, meaningful, and diverse art experiences, year-round and Island-wide. Its multiple facets include the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, Cinema Circus, the Vineyard Drive-In at the YMCA, Martha’s Vineyard Children’s Theater Camp, and Circuit Films.

Like many good things, Circuit Films came about from a spark during a conversation. Artistic and executive director Brian Ditchfield explains, “Some ideas you work on over years. This was not that. In 2017, Thomas Bena, founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, and I were chatting, and one of us tossed out the idea: ‘There are stories to be told here. What if we were able to do that?’ Then we got a generous grant from an anonymous donor to see if the idea had legs, and in 2018, we began. It has grown exponentially and become an integral part of the organization.”

Ditchfield is quick to credit the director of Circuit Films, Ollie Becker, and his team, Danielle Mulcahy, Tim Persinko, Tom Ellis, and a rotating roster of freelancers, for Circuit Films’ success. Becker, who had grown up here and spent a decade working in Los Angeles producing unscripted series for television networks like CBS, History, and Discovery, returned to the Island with his family to take the job. He muses, “At first I was skeptical, questioning, ‘How much production work can there be on the Island?’” But as word spread about the stories they were telling, more work began to follow.

Circuit Films is a full-service video production company specializing in telling authentic and engrossing stories through feature-length documentaries and shorts, promotional videos, online content, and web and TV series. They work closely with clients in all stages of production, from development through distribution. To date, Circuit Films has worked with some 20 nonprofits across the Vineyard. There is no singular model. Sometimes clients come to them with money and a set project, in other instances an organization approaches them with an idea, and they mutually fundraise. Becker adds, “Sometimes there isn’t even a client, like with the Great Pond documentary, which we felt compelled to make, and it was entirely grant- and donation-funded.” The first of the series, “On Our Watch” engagingly documents the health of these spectacular coastal ponds, and what our community is doing to help by following the efforts of the Great Pond Foundation, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, as well as several community members (available online at

Ditchfield stresses, “The mission of Circuit Films is to really tell the stories of the Island, and so that is a metric we use to evaluate what films to make.” Becker, referring to their new film, “Waiting to Continue: The Venezuelan Asylum Seekers on Martha’s Vineyard,” says, “When 48 Venezuelan migrants are suddenly dropped off at Community Services, of course, that’s a story we’re going to tell. We’re so lucky to be able to have full-time filmmakers on the ground here to deploy instantly and capture that story, and know that we’re going to figure out how to fund it after the fact, which we’ve been fortunate to be able to do.” The resulting film, which debuted at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival last month, and will be screened this summer, is a captivating local retelling of the manufactured three-day crisis on the Island before they were transported to Joint Base Cape Cod for further assistance. It features interviews with the Venezuelans and Vineyard residents who supported them.

While “On Our Watch” and “Waiting to Continue” are the first two pieces that are fully their own films, they have done several short documentaries for Island Housing Trust, several promotional shorts for FUEL, MVCS, Sail MV, Gathering Growth Foundation, Sassafras Earth Education, IGI Island Grown Schools, M.V. Fisherman’s Preservation Trust, the Charter School’s 25th anniversary, Island Climate Action Network, and Vineyard Preservation Trust.

Just as there is no single model for how a project comes about, so too are there many ways they get made. Becker says, “It’s really different depending on what we’re documenting, but 98 percent of what we do are traditional documentaries, so it’s really figuring out who we are going to get to be the storytellers to feature. As much as we tell the stories with our films, we are also capturing storytellers.” Ditchfield chimes in, “Sometimes we’re working with an organization that really has a very specific story to tell, and sometimes we’re discovering it as we go. Each one is different. It can be through talking heads, and they’re really going to inform you. And other times it’s far more observational, and you are going to watch the piece unfold. Or it can be very character-driven, and you just follow the person on their journey.”

What is consistent throughout is the team’s ability to build compelling works that resonate as you watch whatever the story shows. And ultimately, that’s what you want as a viewer — to witness something that touches both your heart and mind.

For more information about Circuit Films and examples of its work, see Submit suggestions for Island stories you would like to see told at