I started my work as a documentary filmmaker as the historian and producer of With Babies and Banners. It was my first film, and it was nominated for an Academy Award. I was educated as a history major and had a Masters Degree in Women’s Studies, but film became 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 offered an incredible opportunity to research, reconstruct and bring to life a story of women whose courage and conviction made a difference in their community and the nation. This pivotal documentary won multiple awards internationally, and was broadcast on television worldwide with a theatrical release.
This was the beginning of an incredible journey in film. I had the opportunity to work on two of the PBS documentary series that have defined the genre of social history documentaries. I worked as a Producer, Director and Writer on Henry Hampton’s team on The Great Depression, and for KCET on The Great War. Both series won major television awards.
I had the privilege to witness the opening of cultural relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1989, glasnost and perestroika had sparked a flurry of activities between American and Soviet filmmakers, and I was hired to document the Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles, where the top directors, writers and actors from the Soviet Union and United States met for the first time. We also documented a delegation of American filmmakers to the Soviet Union, and had the wonderful experience of accompanying Quincy Jones and filming his first visit to a Moscow jazz club.
Soon after, I received start-up funding for an independent feature, Odyssey, which would have been one of the first American-Soviet co-productions. Unfortunately, relations between our two countries turned cold, and we were not able to secure financing. Several years later, I did produce a documentary in Russia. It was A Taste of Freedom, produced for Roland Joffe, directed by Marina Goldovskaya and broadcast on TNT.
I am very proud that my documentaries have used evocative story telling, 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. Some of my films on contemporary issues include documentaries on disability for PBS’s People in Motion and an expose on child labor in the U.S. for Lifetime, Danger: Kids at Work.
I believe that filmmaking is a collaborative process and I have worked in partnership with talented producers to design and produce new series for national primetime PBS: 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.
Recently, 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 ICONS FROM SINAI exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The documentary was integrated into the exhibit as part of the immersive experience. I also created and produced 60,000 DVDs, which promoted and publicized the exhibit, and were inserted into LA Magazine prior to the opening. It was awarded two Bronze Tellys.
My work has gone beyond traditional forms of media, and I was part of the team that produced Public Broadcasting in Public Places, a model for interactive kiosks funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October, 2007, the kiosks won a Golden Plaque for best interactive “Visitor Center’s Presentation” in the Chicago International Film Festival’s INTERCOM Competition.
In the Fall of 2009, I was commissioned to produce a public art video for the Los Angeles Pavilion at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. L.A. Working / Trabajamos Los Angeles is a 6 minute video which was projected on an innovative display of large, suspended, pneumatic “bubbles” hanging from the ceiling of the Pavilion. In the Spring of 2010, the American Association of Museums commissioned my company to produce the theme video for their Annual Meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It was awarded a Bronze Telly.
In 2012, I was selected as a film expert for the American Film Showcase, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to engage international audiences through American film. In 2010, I was commissioned by the U.S. Department of State and the American Embassy in Burma to teach a 4 week intensive documentary workshop in Yangon, Burma.
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. I also was selected for AFI’s Enhanced Television Workshop for new media prototype for The Roman Empire in the First Century.
I just completed Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race, a feature documentary which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2015, and had it’s national broadcast premiere on PBS in February 2016. I was the director, and produced and wrote the documentary with Alison Sotomayor.
My 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, 2 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.