I started my career as a documentary filmmaker as producer and historian of WITH BABIES AND BANNERS: STORY OF THE WOMEN’S EMERGENCY BRIGADE. I was educated as a history major with a Masters Degree in Women’s Studies, and film ignited my passion. Film has a unique ability to make history accessible by showing how ordinary people rise to extraordinary heights to challenge or change the circumstances around them.
WITH BABIES AND BANNERS was my first film, and it was nominated for an Academy Award. This groundbreaking documentary (produced with Lorraine Gray and Anne Bohlen) won multiple awards internationally, and was broadcast nationally on PBS and on television worldwide, with a theatrical release.
I am proud that my documentaries have used evocative storytelling, penetrating archival footage, and visually compelling cinematography to put a human face on historical events, and to reveal the enduring spirit in stories that still have an impact on our world today.
I had the opportunity to work on two of the PBS documentary series which helped to define the genre of social history documentaries. I was a producer, director and writer on Blackside’s THE GREAT DEPRESSION, and for KCET/BBC on THE GREAT WAR. Both series won major television awards. Some of my films on contemporary issues include documentaries on disability for PBS’s PEOPLE IN MOTION series, and an exposé on child labor in the U.S. for Lifetime’s DANGER: KIDS AT WORK.
I designed and produced 3 primetime PBS series: THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN THE FIRST CENTURY, a four hour series with Margaret Koval and JAPAN: MEMOIRS OF A SECRET EMPIRE, a three hour series with Deborah DeSnoo, both in association with Devillier Donegan Enterprises and PBS. I joined forces with Jed Riffe, Paul Espinosa and Emiko Omori to produce the four hour series, CALIFORNIA AND THE AMERICAN DREAM, also for PBS.
CALIFORNIA AND THE AMERICAN DREAM was broadcast nationally on PBS in April 2006; and THE NEW LOS ANGELES, the documentary I produced as part of the Series, opened with a gala Premiere at Paramount Pictures, co-hosted by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Eric Garcetti and former LA First Lady Ethel Bradley, with strong support from LA Inc. It was an incredible event, which brought together leaders from all walks of life in Los Angeles and opened a dialogue on our past, present and future. The Premiere was followed by a community-wide screening at First AME Church. And equally as important, THE NEW LOS ANGELES offered an opportunity to work in the city I grew up in, to explore and preserve the history of Los Angeles, and to provide a window into understanding how we got to where we are today.
My two latest documentaries BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: TOM BRADLEY AND THE POLITICS OF RACE and TOM BRADLEY’S IMPOSSIBLE DREAM was produced in collaboration with Alison Sotomayor. Tom Bradley’s story provides a window into an illuminating story of race and politics, the importance of coalitions, and the complexities of social and economic change. These are independent productions with major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Cal Humanities. BRIDGING THE DIVIDE premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and was broadcast nationally on PBS in 2016.
In the past few years, I have expanded my filmmaking interests to produce and direct exhibition media for museums, educational and public interest institutions. This provides new and exciting challenges to develop short, interpretive documentaries that place the audience at the center of a cultural experience. In 2006, I produced the documentary for the major exhibit ICONS FROM SINAI at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The documentary was integrated into the exhibit as part of the immersive experience. I also produced three documentaries for Stanford University as part of their major fundraising campaigns.
My work has gone beyond traditional forms of media, and I was part of the team that produced PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN PUBLIC PLACES, an award-winning model for interactive kiosks funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I also produced the experimental short L.A. Working for the Los Angeles Pavilion at the Guadalajara International Bookfair.
My experience also includes narrative filmmaking. I was awarded a fellowship to AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women where I directed my first short feature FROM THE HEART.
I have had the opportunity to teach documentary filmmaking in Burundi and Myanmar I American Film Showcase. I am a member of the WGA/w, the DGA and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Currently, I am honored to be a Cultural Policy Fellow for Arts for LA’s ACTIVATE Leadership Advocacy Program. I also serve as a County Commissioner for the Personal Assistance Services Council.
My filmmaking awards include: an Academy Award nomination, 2 Emmy Awards, 2 duPont-Columbia Awards, Peabody, Producers Guild of America Kodak Vision Award, IDA Distinguished Documentary Award, a Golden Mike, a CINE Golden Eagle, 3 Bronze Telly Awards, an IMAGEN nomination, and top awards from the American Film Festival, Mannheim International Film Festival, Festival du Cinema Portugal, London International Film Festival and Nyon International Film Festival. My documentaries have screened at film festivals worldwide including: Los Angeles Film Festival; New York Film Festival; Telluride Film Festival; Nosotros American Latino Film Festival; Pan African Film Festival; San Francisco Laborfest; Oakland International Film Festival; San Francisco Black Film Festival; Other Venice Film Festival; LaFemme Film Festival; San Diego Latino Film Festival; Festival Internacional de Cine de Monterrey; Aluta International Film Festival (South Africa); and the American Film Institute.
Documentaries are powerful vehicles to tell untold stories and give voice to people whose stories are forgotten by the news and left out of our history books. I am very honored to be a documentary filmmaker.