Exploring the Life and Works of Nancy Noel Through a Documentary Film

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August/September 2023


Over the last decade, I was honored to not only cover the late renowned painter and activist Nancy Noel and produce several articles about her work and philanthropic endeavors, but I was also fortunate to have earned her respect and friendship. And it is with great humility that I am able to produce one more article to share with her fans and friends — an exciting announcement!

Noel’s sons, Alex and Michael Kosene, along with fellow collaborators Sami Mustaklem and Amy Pauszek, are sharing Noel’s life and works in a feature-length film, “Art and Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel” that will premiere this October.

A Brief Synopsis of the Documentary

The documentary is a journey into the mind and spirit of Noel, who created not just paintings but a life that became her art’s inspiration.

Shortly before Noel passed on August 16, 2020, she sat down with her son Alex for an audio interview. This documentary is a precious collection of interviews with Noel, archived video and photos of Noel’s expansive library of original works and newly recorded interviews with Noel’s family, friends, fans and collectors.

Art and Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel

It will also utilize many events and institutions around Indianapolis for opportunities to screen the film, including documentary screening to classical scores by Carmel Symphony Orchestra Artistic Director Janna Hymes.

This powerful documentary is slated for its world premiere screening on October 7, 2023 at the prestigious Heartland International Film Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana. A second showing will take place on October 13, and locations/ticket information is now available at hiff2023.eventive.org.

Additionally, “Art and Soul” will be submitted to international film festivals, art gallery exhibits and women’s conferences.

Meet The Creative Team

Producer Amy Pauszek has worked as a key producer and publicist on several award-winning feature films, shorts, TV shows and commercials. She’s also a freelance photographer for magazine and newspaper publications and for local and syndicated television productions.

Art and Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel

Throughout her career, Pauszek has been intentional about the projects on which she works, and this particular documentary on Noel is no exception.

“My goal as a filmmaker is to make documentary films that truly make a difference,” Pauszek expressed. “I want to make films that highlight individuals who are or have done extraordinary things and when people leave the theater after watching [the film], they are inspired and feel empowered. It’s important to me that the documentaries I am involved with offer education and a new dimension or take on life. Art and Soul will give viewers a whole new perspective on Nancy Noel. With this feature documentary, Alex and Sami have been a joy to work with. Both are so professional, and I know that as a director, Alex appreciates me as I appreciate him and what we both bring to this film.”

Editor Sami Mustaklem has worked in multiple roles of content creation from writing, directing and editing films to producing and developing original ad campaigns as a partner at 3rd Strand Productions. Mustaklem’s works also include short films, TV documentaries, music videos, masterclasses and more.

Mustaklem met the Kosene brothers years ago in Zionsville, Indiana. Mustaklem’s parents owned and operated Zorbas, which used to be located off Main Street in the early 2000s.

I asked Mustaklem how daunting it is to be charged with editing an astronomical bounty of footage, interviews and photos related to Noel and her expansive collection of original art into a manageable timeframe conducive to a feature-length documentary.

“There’s a lot of editing that’s a bit of a black box,” Mustaklem explained. “You don’t know what you’re going to put into it, and all you know is that there will be an output. The [editing] process is not that dissimilar from the way that Nancy talked about creating her paintings. My favorite story of hers was when she told me about her painting ‘Sitting Bull.’ She said she turned off the lights and painted. When she turned the lights back on, there he was. And when it comes to the act of editing, it’s a similar process. With this documentary, it’s more like writing a story. With all of the different interviews and images that we have at our disposal, there’s just so much to play with and so many talking points to engage. It’s sort of beautiful in the way that it [the creative process] doesn’t work until the rhythm kicks in, and once you figure out [the film’s] rhythm, it all just suddenly works.”

Director Alex Kosene has worked in Hollywood, sports television, independent films, and advertising. He is the founder of 3rd Strand Productions, a video production company based in Brooklyn, NY. For the last 30 years, Kosene has had the privilege of writing stories about his mother, Nancy Noel.

I spoke with Kosene about the genesis of the documentary and about this incredible team that is making it all possible along with the support of many individuals, organizations and supporters of his late mother.

“This film is a continuation of a project we started in late 2020 into ’21, which was a short film about Nancy for her Celebration of Life event,” Kosene shared. “It was part of an exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I think, at that time, Sami and I thought there was a feature-length film there to explore, but I don’t know that we had any intentions of really producing a film this soon. The reason why we are doing this [film] right now is really because of Amy [Pauszek] and because of her belief in the film. She really was the catalyst of this documentary. And Sami said this could be really cool, that my mother was really inspirational to people, and I have a lot of great footage. We realized that what we had in 10 minutes [of the short film] could be over an hour and still be really entertaining and dive deeper into those things that people may want to know about my mother that I take for granted because I grew up with her. I still find her mysterious, but not nearly as mysterious as people who knew of her.”

Kosene continued, “Micheal [Kosene] and Kathy Pierle are producers on an executive level and are responsible for helping us access a lot of the archival materials, providing interviewees and donations that we’ve needed to make the film. Michael is a successful entrepreneur and is making it possible for us to do what we do, in terms of assets and resources. And Kathy — who was my mother’s everything for 35 years — is essential to Michael and I having anything to do with my mother’s business and her art.”

When asked what the most rewarding part about directing this documentary has been, Kosene thoughtfully replied, “We’re unpacking those chapters of her life and those interests of hers, whether it was Africa, the Amish, her own spirituality, and all of these things, as you know, when you sat down with Nancy, you’d experience a shift in perspective because of the way she talked about these things. Nancy had her own perspective that was unique. She was passionate and engaging. And I think that’s part of what is going to come through this documentary. It’s a deeper dive into Nancy Noel’s view of the world and how she created her artwork.”

Kosene concluded, “The most gratifying part of this journey, so far, has been me sitting down and asking people about their experiences with Nancy — hearing stories that I’ve never heard before. I get to rediscover my mother again … which is really exciting.”

Art and Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel
Photo by Jennifer Driscoll Photography

Be sure to purchase your tickets to the world premiere of “Art and Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel” or the second showing. And be sure to follow “ART & SOUL A Portrait of Nancy Noel” on Facebook!