Digital short films and special events aim to spark conversation about whether where you live affects how you live 

March 21, 2022 – NEWARK, NJ – NJ PBS, New Jersey’s public television network, announced the launch of the 21 film series this week, a special multiplatform initiative rooted in life stories from each of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Produced by the network’s news division NJ Spotlight News, 21 will feature short documentaries in which individuals from each of New Jersey’s 21 counties tell their own stories.  A dynamic website and live events will accompany the films to showcase and spark discussion about the state’s quality of life, health and geography.  The project seeks to discover if where you live affects how you live. Read the blog post here.

“New Jersey is home to so many diverse people with unique stories to tell,” said NJ Spotlight News Sr. Managing Editor Jamie Kraft.  “This film series features a mosaic of personalities and shares the extraordinary endeavors of ordinary New Jerseyans working to create change in their communities. Their stories will inspire Jersey pride while examining the social determinants that affect each person’s quality of life, going beyond physical health to evaluate their social, financial and cultural lives, and the systems set up to support them.”

“NJ PBS is a multiplatform content provider and 21 is a prime example of the innovative ways we can engage with our audience and give New Jerseyans a voice,” said NJ PBS General Manager Joe Lee. “We want NJ PBS to serve as a proverbial water cooler around which citizens and communities can gather and discuss important issues like those addressed in this project.”

Each 6-to-10-minute documentary profile tells the story of a single individual making an impact in their county.  These segments stream on the project’s landing page on the NJ PBS website, MyNJPBS.org/21,  accompanied by county snapshots with statistics, resources and more.  A series of community outreach screening events are being planned to gather citizens together and stimulate conversation about life within New Jersey’s diverse counties.

To date, the project has captured stories from four counties and will roll out more over the next year.

  • Atlantic County: Cookie Till believes food creates purpose to enhance a community.
  • Bergen County: Rhona Vega marshals resources and inspiration to empower less fortunate college-bound kids and parents.
  • Cape May County: Veteran Johnnie Walker provides support to homeless vets with the help of his community.
  • Ocean County: Christian Kane works tirelessly to create access and opportunity for anyone with special needs

The 21 film series was inspired by the national project States of America, StatesFilms.com, which explores one person’s story in each state in the country. NJ Spotlight News adapted this idea, with input from the project creator Brad Barber, for the state of New Jersey.

Major support for the 21 film series was provided in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Additional funding provided by the PSEG Foundation. The views expressed within the series content do not directly reflect the views of either foundation.


Cookie Till with a farmer in Atlantic County

21 film series logo