Kenwood Productions, Inc. is an independent film production company founded in 1988 and located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Kenwood’s four World War II documentaries, Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific, Pistol Packin’ Mama: Missions of a B-17, Fighting 17: The Jolly Rogers, and 17th Airborne: The Bulge to the Rhine, have received 11 prestigious film awards, including two Telly Awards, two Columbus International Film Festival Awards, and two New York International Film Festival citations.
Based on the earlier film work of Bill Semans, one of Kenwood’s founding partners, the original objective of the company was to produce a series of 13 films (The American Hero Series) documenting, through the use of interviews and archival materials, the combat experience America’s World War II soldiers. Ultimately only four films were finished and the interview portions of two additional films were shot, but due to a lack of ongoing funding the remainder of the identified stories were not completed.
Prior to the creation of Kenwood, Bill Semans produced Fighter Aces of World War II, the 1988 Military Video of the Year, as well as Ladies Sing the Blues, nominated in 1989 as Best Long Form Music Video of the Year. Bill was founder and producing director of the Cricket Theater in Minneapolis for 13 years. He produced and staged nearly 100 productions. Under his tenure the theater was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Regional Theater.
Bill wrote and directed the feature film, Herman USA, which was released theatrically in 2001 and since has had a successful run on domestic television as well as being distributed world-wide in more than 30 countries.
Most recently Bill wrote (with Roy Close) and produced the play Exit Strategy to successful runs in both Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Discussions are currently underway for a restaging in Minneapolis to be followed by a run in New York.
Jeff Hohman, the other founding partner and Co-Producer of Herman USA as well as the American Hero Series was, prior to his involvement in the film industry, a consultant to numerous video and publishing companies, as well as serving as a literary agent and book packager. Jeff worked for B. Dalton Bookseller for a number of years in several management capacities, including merchandise management and marketing.
While disappointed that circumstances prevented the completion of the series, the opportunity to work in each film with five veterans who served and fought together was the experience of a lifetime. From five crew members of a B-17 from the 8th Air Force, to five Navy fighter pilots of the Jolly Rogers squadron, to five members of the 17th Airborne, to five battle-tested Marines of the 1st Marine division, they were to a man remarkable individuals who openly shared their personal stories of combat and service.
In addition to the vets, the effort to see this series through brought the producers in contact with military historians, took them to the Pentagon, even to the halls of Congress and the White House in the effort to get the films funded and the World War II vets recognized for their service.
In recent years with Ken Burns’ series The War and the Tom Hanks/Stephen Spielberg seriesThe Pacific more attention has been brought to what has been called the Greatest Generation. When Kenwood’s series was being produced in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was little public awareness of the WWII vet and their stories. Now that their stories are coming to light Kenwood is proud to have played a small part in capturing some of these stories for posterity.