Starting at Zero explores the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to attain the American Dream. 

The film brings together the voices of policymakers, educators, academics, business leaders, pediatricians, parents, and children. It features five current and past governors who are champions of early childhood education: Governors Steve Bullock of Montana, Kay Ivey of Alabama, and Ralph Northam of Virginia, as well as former Governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina, and Phil Bryant of Mississippi.

Starting at Zero examines the latest developmental brain science to demonstrate how essential the earliest years of learning are to maximize human potential. Key features of high-quality early childhood learning environments and experiences are outlined and then brought to life as the film delves into the evolution of Alabama’s #1 nationally ranked state Pre-K program. 

Starting at Zero culminates with a call to governors across America for collective action: to set our nation on the path to future success through significant investments in high-quality early childhood education, both to support today’s workforce, and to build the workforce of tomorrow. At the heart of the film is the affirmation that if children are given the opportunity to thrive in settings with caring, responsive adults, the returns to our society will be deep and long-lasting.

Starting at Zero was produced by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation, which builds on the legacy of three-time Best Picture winner Saul Zaentz’s celebrated career as an independent media entrepreneur. True to Zaentz’s vision, the Foundation is dedicated to improving outcomes for poor and vulnerable minority children in the US.

Starting at Zero was directed by Willa Kammerer and co-produced with the support of her team, Firestarter Interactive. Firestarter is committed to using film and storytelling to improve the wellbeing of people and the planet, and has deep experience working with education institutions, nonprofits, and foundations to bring this vision to life. Starting at Zero is the team’s first feature-length documentary.