Alumni

During his senior year, Clay Tweel, ’03, came across a dilemma many undergraduates experience: What do I want to do with my degree?

A history major, Tweel had taken a few film studies courses, written his senior thesis on World War II movies, and interned at a film studio. A few months after graduation, he helped with the production of Cry Wolf, a thriller filmed at UR. These experiences were enough to convince Tweel to move to Los Angeles to start his career as a documentary filmmaker.

Understanding that people are all similarly flawed and beautifully unique is a pathway.

Today, Tweel has directed several films, including the award-winning Gleason, about a former NFL player with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Out of Omaha, which followed the lives of twin brothers in Nebraska for eight years. Most recently he co-directed the popular Netflix docuseries The Innocent Man, based on novelist John Grisham’s nonfiction book about two men who sat on death row for crimes they did not commit.

“A lot of my work is through the lens of a particular character,” Tweel said. “And through their experiences, the audience is able to see and interpret topics of discussion.”

On any given project, Tweel combs through thousands of documents (more than 20,000 for The Innocent Man), watches hours of film (more than 12,000 hours of home videos for Gleason), and captures the stories of his subjects — all while trying to juggle several projects and maintain a work-life balance with his young son. During the making of Out of Omaha, for example, he finished three other films and a docuseries.

Sharing the untold stories of people from “all walks of life” is what motivates Tweel.

“Understanding that people are all similarly flawed and beautifully unique is a pathway for viewers to learn something about themselves while safely exploring someone else,” he said. “If I can get close to doing that, then I count that as a success.”