Smartypants produces Delta Air COVID doc

(Courtesy Smartypants)

Delta Air Lines has released the feature-length documentary film, The Steepest Climb: How Delta Air Lines Navigated the Global Pandemic, produced by Brooklyn-based Smartypants Pictures and directed by Oscar-nominated director Joshua Seftel.

Smartypants had exclusive access over three years during the pandemic to create the film, which offers a candid and emotional glimpse into how one of the world’s largest international airlines survived a global pandemic. On June 1, The Steepest Climb premieres at 30,000 feet on Delta’s In-Flight Entertainment industry-leading seatback entertainment.

With unique vulnerability for a brand, Delta Air Lines relied on their long-standing relationship with Smartypants, and Oscar-nominated director Seftel, to expertly tell the compelling story of the heroes within all branches of Delta who helped the company get through the pandemic. 

From CEO Ed Bastian’s moments of doubt and fear facing an unimaginable crisis, to frontline employees losing loved ones and colleagues to the pandemic – The Steepest Climb documents the tragedies, sacrifices, and triumphs of Delta leadership and employees while weathering this storm. Watch the trailer below:


“There’s no better team than the one at Delta. Their stories of resilience deserve to be told, celebrated, and remembered for years to come,” said Tim Mapes, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. “Creating this film was both a special and unconventional way to ensure that the world, including future generations of the airline, understands what they’ve been through — the power in their resilience and their strength despite adversity.”

“Being embedded with Delta for three years in order to tell this story became very meaningful – both the film subjects and our crew filming them frequently experienced tears,” says Smartypants Director/Founder Josh Seftel. “No one had a roadmap for the pandemic. We found so many heroes in Delta’s ranks, and their stories were inspirational as glimpses into what we are all capable of when we come together in extremely challenging times.”

Joshua Seftel is an Academy Award-nominated director best known for directing the Emmy-winning landmark series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the feature film War, Inc. starring John Cusack, Marisa Tomei and Ben Kingsley, and his regular appearances on CBS Sunday Morning where he interviews his 86-year-old mother.

Joshua’s Academy Award-nominated short documentary Stranger at the Gate, Executive Produced by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, is the latest film in Seftel’s Emmy and Peabody-nominated Secret Life of Muslims project (SXSW), which combats Islamophobia with filmmaking.

Seftel, who experienced antisemitism as a child, has been committed to working on this subject matter for the past seven years. His other award-winning films include Taking on the Kennedys (POV), Ennis’ Gift (HBO), The Home Team (SXSW) and The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano (NYT Op-Docs, Tribeca). He is also a contributor to the Peabody Award-winning podcast This American Life and The New York Times.

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