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Cartoon Snowflakes

Flashback to the stunningly harsh Winter of 2010-11. By the middle of March we were so delirious that this absurd snowstorm only made us laugh. The biggest, fluffiest snowflakes I have ever seen. Our buddy Justin Brown was on hand with his snazzy new camera, so why not turn it into a photo shoot?

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Review in The McDonough County Voice

We all know a man like Zielinski

By Patrick Stout
The McDonough County Voice
Posted May 13, 2011 @ 09:23 AM

John Zielinski was famous once. Through the efforts of former Macomb resident Ryan Walker, he may become famous again. “Zielinski,” a documentary by Walker and co-director Chase Thompson, was shown in Macomb on May 1.

An incredibly talented photographer, Zielinski’s work appeared in the 1960s and ’70s in Life magazine, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He is best-known for his photos of Amish families in Iowa and for an iconic photo that he took of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Walker and Thompson work at Columbia Access Television in Missouri, where Walker is program director. Zielinski literally showed up on their doorstep, using his background in journalism to host his own cable television series, kind of a “Wayne’s World” for conspiracy theorists.

Leaving the state of Iowa in anger and despair after losing the rights to his many books of photo essays in a contract dispute, Zielinski became a part of what some call the lunatic fringe. He became a crusader against human trafficking, drugs, and political corruption, and became an advocate for environmental responsibility.

In addition to his cable access show, Zielnski is a regular in the public comment portions of televised Columbia city council and school board meetings. Walker and Thompson took the vast archive of Zielinski’s video appearances, then shot personal interviews and family activities to also shed light on the man’s private life.

Thompson and Walker have chosen not to take sides in their presentation, leaving the audience to determine the state of Zelinski’s mind. Is he onto something, or is he over the edge?

In reviewing the documentary for Variety in February, critic John Anderson wrote: “The clear suggestion is that the door to Zielinski Land is off its hinges.”
Critic Alexis Hitt on the Internet site MOVE Movies in March offered a differing opinion: “Although Thompson and Walker never officially give their opinion on Zielinski’s claims, they show us that Zielinski is, in fact, not crazy.” Columbia Tribune critic Scott May took the middle ground: “Whether he strikes a chord or rubs you the wrong way, you won’t soon forget this fascinating character.”

For those who missed the Macomb showing, the documentary “Zielinski” may be ordered through Netflix or other Internet movie sources. Anyone who has ever wondered about perceived local cranks who show up on the streets with sandwich-board signs or appear on the televised city council sessions may gain a deeper understanding of their motivations by seeing this examination of the life of John Zielinski.

- Patrick Stout is a correspondent for The McDonough County Voice. He can be reached at

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Macomb Screenings Announced

Macomb native brings movie home

The McDonough County Voice
Posted Apr 24, 2011 @ 05:15 AM

Macomb, IL – Macomb native Ryan Walker will return home in May with his recently-completed documentary.

Walker, a 1997 graduate of Macomb High School, worked with Chase Thompson on the feature film “Zielinski.” The film will be shown twice on May 1 at the MidAmerica National Bank Conference Hall in the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center. The show times are 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Walker will host question and answer sessions after both screenings. Admission is $5

“I am thrilled to bring this film home to Macomb, where I receved so much creative encouragement over the years – from “Author of the Week” contests at Lincoln Elementary School to playing drums for Malted Milk Blues Band at the crowded Cafe,” Walker said. “I can still hear Mr. Murphy telling me ‘Too much crash cymbal….’ He was right.”

Walker attended Western Illinois University from 1998-2000 before transferring to the University of Missouri and graduating in 2003. He is the son of Ron and Leslie Walker, of Macomb.

“Zielinski” made its world premiere with two screenings at the 2011 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It was chosen from over 5,000 submissions.
Walker said the film has done well despite its $3,500 “shoestring” budget.

In March, the film was chosen for True/False, an international documentary film festival in Columbia, Mo. Nearly 1,000 people attended the four screenings.
In April the film screened at the AMC Kansas City Film Festival in the “Heartland Features” category.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Zielinski’s work appeared in “Life” magazine, the “New York Times” the “Chicago Tribune” among other publications. In a contract dispute, he lost $50,000 and professional credibility. Today Zielinski is described as the “most blacklisted author” in Iowa.

For 25 years he has dedicated his life to exposing human traffickers, pedophiles, drug dealers and Satanists.

The documentary film tells Zielinski’s story with 47 years of source material, new interviews and music by Mark Speckman.

The filmmakers began collaborating at Columbia Access Television, a non-profit organization in Columbia, Mo. Walker has produced over 150 programs for CAT and programmed over 2,500 as its program director.

In 2007, Zielinski was penniless and ran out of gas in Columbia, Mo. He soon found his way to CAT, where Thompson was working at the desk and Walker was editing a show. He carried in a muddy VHS camera and told the men, “There’s a tape stuck in here that will bring down the U.S. government. Can you help me?”

Walker said that started an investigation that led to the film’s production. To watch the film trailer, read the filmmakers’ blog or see photographs visit

Copyright 2011 McDonough County The Voice. Some rights reserved

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Review in MOVE Magazine

‘Zeilinski’ peels back labels

“Zielinski” is a look into the odd, conspiracy-driven world of published author and journalist John Zielinski, who currently resides in Columbia. Working for more than three years on the documentary, Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker not only document Zielinski’s life, but create a profound yet unresolved sense of discontinuity for the audience.

Quickly, the audience learns how brilliantly intelligent and incredibly talented Zielinski is in his field, as an author and photographer. We are introduced to various books he’s written. We see images from his documentation of the Amish, his home state Iowa, and most notably, his gritty portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.

Despite these accomplishments, we see Zielinski’s ultimate mission is to investigate and uncover the corruption and cover-ups in the system. It is this mission that has led to Zielinski being both the most blacklisted author and politically exiled in his home-state of Iowa. He makes allegations on a variety of issues from child sex trafficking to drug lords, but is never able to actually create solid proof or evidence. These allegations have caused many to dismiss Zielinski and label him a crazy, loon. Although, Thompson and Walker never officially give their opinion on Zielinski’s claims, they show us that Zielinski is in-fact not crazy.

Thompson and Walker explained at a Q&A after the film that though Zielinski wanted the documentary to be an expose on uncovering these conspiracies in the political system, they decided to focus on Zielinski and his life because they found it to be more interesting. This decision gives the audience a chance to look past the labels Zielinski has obtained over the years.

The film does not have a narrator, but rather the story of Zielinski is told through various interviews and clips of Zielinski himself. To get an even deeper look into Zielinski’s life, Thompson and Walker interview the people that have been closest to Zielinski. The flow of these different perspectives created a unique intimacy. We meet his past co-workers and his family, including his ex-wife who admits that Zielinski is one of the most talented men she knows.

Through this insight, Thomson and Walker were effectively able to capture the raw, intensity of Zielinski, which evoked a strong, emotion of empathy. But Thompson and Walker don’t try to connect the overall story of Zielinski’s life; they leave that for the audience to decide.

Posted to MOVE Movies by Alexis Hitt at 2:11 p.m., March 5, 2011

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Article in Leavenworth Times

Q5: John Zielinski

Leavenworth, Kan. — John Zielinski is a former Leavenworth resident and former investigative reporter, he is the author  of 22 books and controversial conspiracy theorist who is the subject of a new documentary called “Zielinski” which is playing at the AMC Theater in Kansas City Saturday night.  He currently lives in Columbia, Mo.

1. A documentary is being shown Saturday night in Kansas City called “Zielinksi” about your life. Why did they make a movie about you?
The movie is not strictly about me but about the struggle I have had to inform the public about what has been going on in the country with regard to missing children, child slavery etc. I went to Leavenworth High School until sophomore year and the journalism teacher pounded away at me once keeping me until 5 o’clock to instill who, what, when, where, why and how.
Jump ahead to 2007 when two young buddy film makers Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker found me and began backtracking my work while viewing all the video footage I have saved over the years and three years later they had a completed film made up of recent footage along with film, that had been shot 20 years ago. …The film is me in action over a more than 20 years period, while I was making dozens of other programs including “The Amish: Between Two Worlds” for National Public Television and three others that were shown on Ohio Public TV dealing with the Amish.

2. You are known as a conspiracy theorist. What kind of things have you investigated and written about?
If I said to you I think there might be little green men! That is a conspiracy theory. If wikileaks put out document showing the government has for years been negotiating with green space aliens am I still a conspiracy theorist?
In Iowa I wrote nice pleasant picture and word books about the history and heritage of the state. In 1983 the Sutherland Printing Company issued new brochure claiming to be the publisher of all my works and four years and five attorney later they were verified by the court system of Iowa.
In my case the Sutherland Printing Company now calling itself Sutherland Publishing Company submitted a single typewritten sheet of paper that state I owed them $20,000. The document was unsigned. I had $11,000 worth of cancelled checks and receipts, the judge ruled I owed $20,000. It was such a kangroo court that my young inexperience attorney the only one left out of five asked for a mistrial; Judge Dan F Morrison told her: “You try that and I will have you up on charges.”
Jim Ahern identified C.M. Manly, city attorney of Grinnell, as the judge buyer, the fixer if you wanted to take care of any trial in the state.  I took my case all the way thru the Iowa Supreme only to have them uphold the lower court decision. I am the only publisher in the history of the International Standard Book Numbering system to have a court dismiss it as proof of who a publisher was. Conspiracy anyone?

3. Your work has been controversial and even blacklisted in some circles. Why has it received such harsh criticism?
Don’t they all hate you when you are right? I never expected the kind of push back I got from the University of Iowa where Bill Casey the long-time publisher of The Daily Iowan told a journalism faculty member. “You know you were seen taking to John Zielinski, you know you can get fired for that.”
… I believe much of my problems stem from the fact that Iowa has been called by several organizations the Switzerland of America where the CIA launders all its major drug money. With the help of law officers I was shown a building in Des Moines were the officer said: “This is where they make kiddie porn, we can’t touch it because someone important owns it.” He also showed me the Satanic sites which I exposed on WHO Talk Radio Des Moines on Jan Michaelson show July 17, 1991. On it I bought Ted Gunderson, former head of the LA FBI and fifth highest ranking member of the FBI when he retired.  … I met and became friends with E. Lee Orr, a Kansas City Homicide Detective who spent his last five years before retirement investigating nothing but Satanic homicides, and Dr Judi-Ann Densen Gerber who described herself as the top of a pyramid of 600 psychiatrists and psychologists dealing with the occult. She told me: “I have seven women patients who have eaten their own children.” This was called a fetal Eucharist. Lee Orr knew about this and investigated in Leavenworth and at the Fort.
Today, thanks to the KC Star series from Dec 13-18, 2009, we know such places do exist. From the date of the show to now Jan Michaelson and WHO talk radio will not respond to me. They are part of the film.

4. Tell us about your connection to Leavenworth. Did you grow up here and do you still have family and friends here?
My sister Sharon Sharff lives down the street from you (The Times) and the Zielinski’s are all over the place. I was born in Cushing Hospital on July 17, 1940, and until a fire destroyed them, I had my birth certificate with my foot print and a bill for $5, the cost of delivery.
I grew up in Leavenworth and Kansas City, my early years were in Leavenworth, I went to Sacred Heart School. I went to the movies a lot when it used to cost only 14 cents and if I didn’t have money I went down to the railroad tracks and picked up pop bottles discarded by the railroad workmen, rinsed them and turned them in for 2 cents each til I had enough to go to the movie, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. I remember seeing Smiley Bernet (western character actor) on the stage at the Hollywood. The movies were a part of my life and although I have written many books, I have also produced and edited many film of which Zielinski is made up like a jigsaw puzzle.

5. How did you get started as an author and investigative reporter?
I was working for the school newspaper in my sophomore year … I cannot remember my teacher but he spent more than two hours after school one day making me into a journalist. My degrees were all in English but I was writing the news and feature stories from that time on and an occasional editorial. If it is said you are official a writer when you have published a million words I think I hit that sometime in my 30s and to this day I continue to write and produce programs which I think will inform the public.

Bonus question: Now that your life has been made into a film, what do you plan to do next?
I do not plan on slowing down but speeding up my publishing once again as we break through the blacklist and I believe war criminals trials will be in order for some in this country if I an other can live long enough to bring the conspiracy theory documents and proofs forward.
Shortly after the five showings at the True/False Film festival someone put ZIELINSKI up for consideration on Netflix.  I am told that once we have 1,000 people who put it on the cue it will be permanently available, so if friends and relatives cannot get to the one showing in Kansas City they will have a opportunity to get it thru Netflix.

[published on April 9, 2011]

Copyright 2011 Leavenworth Times. Some rights reserved.

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REVIEW in Go! Magazine

Locally made ‘Zielinski’ provides an unforgettable character study

By SCOTT A. MAYThursday, April 7, 2011

In “Zielinski,” Columbia-based filmmakers Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker have patched together one of the most intriguing locally produced documentaries I’ve seen. It’s the riches-to-rags story of John Zielinski — journalist, photographer, author and self-appointed arbiter of the truth. Whether he strikes a chord or rubs you the wrong way, you won’t soon forget this fascinating character.

I grew up in Iowa and vividly recall Zielinski’s famous portraits of the state, particularly his candid documentation of Amish culture. For me, this creative period of his life is the most interesting, not the conspiracy theories, media confrontations or label as the “most blacklisted author in the history of Iowa.” His photographs were magnificent — in many cases world-famous — and his accomplishments enviable.

The filmmakers provide no voiceovers and refrain from editorializing about what’s presented on-screen, instead allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions based on interviews and clips. Much of the archival video is of extremely poor quality, which actually adds authenticity and mystique. The clips tend to jump willy-nilly between time periods, but the fact Zielinski stays on message throughout lends credence to his convictions.

The film does a good job contrasting vintage Zielinski with his current sad state of affairs. The man is obviously intelligent but has weathered several professional and personal storms that have left him eccentric and obsessive yet, surprisingly, not without a wry sense of humor.

In the end, you’ve got to admire that. Overlook the low-budget production values and oddly mismatched soundtrack, and “Zielinski” provides a uniquely compelling character study well worth seeing.

**** out of 5 stars

Reach Scott A. May at This article was published in Go! Magazine on page 4 of the Thursday, April 7, 2011 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune.

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On a scale of 1 to 10 . . . give your rating of ZIELINSKI on IMDb.

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Outtakes from Columbia Daily Tribune article

Ryan:  We both met John at Columbia Access Television. Chase signed him up for membership and cleaned the VHS camera with a toothpick and some rubbing alcohol. They got the footage and John aired his first program on CAT – “Conspiracy of Silence.” I was at CAT almost every day learning how to edit, and John kept dropping off more materials – dvds, books, photos. We were amazed by his energy and his screen presence, not to mention the stories he was telling us about human traffickers, pedophiles, drug dealers and satanists. Chase and I agreed to make a 10 minute film about John. We shook on it, and John agreed. After a few months of research we knew there was enough material for a documentary feature film. It took us a very long time to sift through everything and piece together the facts of John’s life. He has been extremely cooperative.

Chase:  Like John, we had to investigate. Only we were not interested in making a documentary about child slavery, the occult, drug runners or anything like that. We wanted the story to be about John.

Ryan:  We went out of our way to stay as neutral as possible in the film. We set out to tell the story of Zielinski, not the story of child slavery or drug trafficking or satanism. We did want to establish the fact that John is not alone in what he is saying. But the film is definitely not told from John’s point of view.

Chase:  We’ve been lucky to have some great people support our efforts. Paul Pollmann (Amsterdam) made our poster and the text for the film. It was a pleasure working with him and communicating with him via Skype. It was funny, when we would Skype, he would have a beer and we would have coffee. My friend and colleague Chad Freidrichs asked tough questions about our story from the beginning. He also provided us with tech support when we were ready to export to HDCam. Nate Truesdell, Aaron Little, Kerri Yost, Kelvin Walsh, Lucas Oswald, and Kim Sherman have all been there through the process. Columbia has everything and everyone you need to make a film.

Ryan:  We did a lot of research and applied to 3-4 festivals per month, starting with Sundance and Slamdance in September. Slamdance was the first one to reply. They called Chase the night before Thanksgiving. I was in Massachusetts with family – watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” with my cousins. For a moment it felt like more than three years of work was suddenly validated. Then reality set in and we got back to work – because we won’t be satisfied until everyone gets a chance to see ZIELINSKI.

Tribune article – 23 Jan 2011

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Interview on “The So-Called Good Life”

“The So-Called Good Life” on KOPN 89.5fm is hosted by local DJ extraordinaire Kelvin Walsh. The day before True/False Film Festival, we appeared on the show with composer Mark Speckman to promote ZIELINSKI. Take a listen, son.

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Looking Back on T/F

Check out the story I threw together for It is meant to be read fast, and I recommend you hold your breath as long as possible while you read it. This will help give you a sense of what Ryan and I were feeling during the festival.

Local directors look back on True/False experience

[published March 16, 2011]

Opening Night

Columbia has to be one of the top-five coolest places to live. When we are asked “Where are you guys from?” we answer proudly, without hesitation, Columbia, Missouri!

This town made “Zielinski” possible, and it was such a great feeling to see it play on our home stage, The Blue Note, on opening night. We had a great audience that night. Four hundred strong and all ready to hear John’s story. It was so cool to see the audience chanting ZIE-LIN-SKI after the film.

Ryan Wylie was the moderator of our Q&A. Class act.

My favorite moment was when someone asked John: “You’re such an amazing photographer. Why don’t you just stick to that, man?” John replied, “If some of you would get out there and help expose child slavery, then maybe I could go back to being a photographer.” Amazing!

Hung out with Ted and Matt. Lost my briefcase.

Day 2

Found my briefcase. Made it to Broadway Brewery for our interview on NPR. Fat breakfast. Nap. Panel discussion about whether we are laughing at or with our film subjects. Tornado!!! Get to the basement! Screening at The Hive. Said goodbye to The Pasta Factory. I worked there for four years and met my lover there. The restaurant is moving west by Hy-Vee. P-fac, downtown will miss you.

Went to say what’s up to Ted at The Blue Note, and we watched “KNUCKLE.” Made my way to the @ction party. Way cool. Good peeps. Even got to see Rob Rassmussen, one of the stars in “Zielinski.” Went home early to get some sleep for the True Life Run at 8 a.m.

Day 3

Early start. 5k run. So cold. 26:16. Fattest breakfast in the world.

Noticed a familiar face on the front page of the Tribune. It was the three of us (John, Ryan, Chase) from the Thursday night screening at The Blue Note.

It should be noted that page two had two articles on human trafficking and child pornography. You could hold the paper up to the light and see John’s face peeking through. Great press! John is loving it.

We geared up for our Saturday night screening at Little Ragtag. We went to see Chad Freidrich’s film, “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth.” It was a packed screening at The Globe Theater.

After the Q&A, I went to get ready to introduce our film while Ryan went to The Blue Note to show his short film for Gimme Truth. I talked with Becky and Mark about all kinds of stuff. Films, bombs, weird laws and the new Chow Wagon.

Ryan made it back in time to do the Q&A. We had a great discussion with a wide variety of intellects. Two women had a very heated debate during the Q&A. It was nice to have the pressure taken off for a minute and sit back and watch the show.

It was late and time to go to another party. The super secret party was the jam! Ran into Channing Kennedy. It’s been a while, bro. That was cool. Also ran into my old friend Zeb. Way cool. Stayed out way too late and did the zombie walk home.

Day 4

Woke up to a text saying, “See you in 15 minutes.” I’m supposed to be at this breakfast. Luckily I still had my clothes and shoes on. I made it there, no problem, and had some great conversation with some of the female filmmakers from the festival who were interested in Citizen Jane. Breakfast was served on the top floor of the Tiger Hotel. Sweet view. I think I saw Fulton.

Time for lunch. Used a coupon, ate a sandwich. Fair trade. Took it real easy. Getting ready for the last screening of our film at Windsor Cinema. Around 300 people watched “Zielinski” that night. We had a wonderful Q&A and headed to the closing night reception.

On our way downtown I noticed that the moon was waxing again. With just a sliver showing, we were escorted downtown with an ear-to-ear smile. How perfect. I had nothing left and went home afterward. I hear the volunteer party was tight. They deserve a night of madness to shake off all the questions they have had to answer. See you next year. Long live True/False!

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