Telling stories: Filmmaker uses his craft to capture the spirit of NEO folks in his documentaries

Documentary filmmaker Carl Kriss enjoys telling the stories of everyday Clevelanders and local businesses and how they make Northeast Ohio a better place.

Documentary filmmaker Carl Kriss Until summer of 2021, Kriss was working as a photojournalist for WKYC Channel 3’s special projects department and had built some experience making documentary films to tell those stories.

Last year, Kriss was thinking about becoming a fulltime filmmaker when he met Destiny Burns, founder of CLE Urban Winery on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, and he knew he had to share her story.

“Northeast Ohio is home to so many people, and I think many of us come back to pursue our dreams later in life since there is such a strong community,” says Kriss. “It's really a place where you can take risks and also stay true to yourself, and you can see that in the community Destiny has created at her winery.”

The winery was about to mark its fifth anniversary, and Kriss thought a documentary on Burns and CLE Urban Wintery sounded like a good way to celebrate.

“He just emailed by out of the blue sky and asked me if I’d be interested in [doing a documentary with him],” Burns recalls. “I was like, heck yeah, what’s not to love about that?”


Creating Community Through Wine: The CLE Urban Winery Story from Carl Kriss on Vimeo.

So, last summer Kriss sat down with Burns to begin interviews and make “Creating Community Through Wine: The CLE Urban Winery Story.”

In turn, when Burns heard that Kriss wanted to be a full-time filmmaker, she says she wanted to support his dream. “He has a wonderful eye and a great gift, and I wanted to help give him his start,” she says. “It took a great amount of time—over six months—for eight minutes of film.”

“Creating Community Through Wine” premiered in November to a group of about 40 people at CLE Urban Winery, 2180 Lee Road,

Burns was pleased with the final product. “It just turned out so wonderfully,” she says. “When I saw it, I cried. I had never seen it all stitched together. I sent it to my daughter in Virginia, and she cried. I couldn’t be more proud.”

The screening also served as a fundraiser for Dobama Theater, just down the street at 2340 Lee Road, Graffiti HeArt made a live demonstration of painting a wine barrel, which was auctioned off. In total, the guests raised $200.

Burns did indeed help Kriss get his start in starting his own business. Since the two met, he quit his job at WKYC, launched Heartland Productions. “Meeting Destiny and hearing her story helped motivate me to start my own production company,” says Kriss. “[The company] focuses on producing short documentaries for local businesses and nonprofits in the Midwest.”

Still from filmmaker Carl Kriss’s doumentary “Creating Community Through Wine: The CLE Urban Winery”Kriss initially moved to Cleveland from Los Angles in 2019 to direct and produce the documentary feature “Bring It Home,” which tells the stories of five families affected by the closing of the Lordstown GM auto plant. The film was featured at 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS.

Currently, Kriss is using a Satellite Fund grant he received from SPACES to produce a short documentary about the history of the Fairfax neighborhood from the perspective of Carolyn Greene, a lifelong Fairfax resident, community activist, social worker and newly-hired Cleveland Clinic employee.

Burns will show Creating Community Through Wine" again when she is the keynote speaker at WIn (Women In Networking) Cleveland's annual benefit luncheon this Friday, Dec. 10.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.