Executive Director, Shirley Road Productions
As she watched Ed Bacon scamper around the scaffolding that surrounded City Hall, Frances McElroy thought, “This is what I’m supposed to do with my life.”
It was 2004, and she was producing a WHYY documentary about the then-94-year-old Bacon and the 21 years he’d spent as director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. It had been 20 years since McElroy joined the public television station as a grant writer. She’d worked her way through the ranks, learning as she went. Among her most challenging experiences was covering the 1985 MOVE Commission hearings as they unfolded. “It was difficult subject matter for the people involved and for the city,” she says. “But it was so important that we reported it.”
That same ethos informs McElroy’s choices at Shirley Road Productions, the company she formed in 1991 and named after the Narberth street on which she lives. “We make documentaries by selecting topics that interest and concern us from a community perspective,” she says.
Among them: Ballycastle (2004) and Mirror Dance (2005), for which McElroy won back-to-back CINE Golden Eagle Awards. In 2009, she received a coveted Pew Fellowship to produce Making Waves, which delves into the growing diversity in the sport of rowing. It’s similar in theme to the current Shirley Road production, Black Ballerina, which she hopes will be a conversation starter. “I’ve met such amazing women who’ve worked so hard and accomplished so much,” McElroy says. “I can’t wait to share their stories.”