Announcing the inaugural class of fellows for documentary film professionals and scholars

This fall, the Shorenstein Center is thrilled to welcome its first cohort of documentary film fellows under the auspices of the center’s newly-established Documentary Film in the Public Interest research initiative.

Documentary films play a vital role in our civic culture by investigating injustices, unearthing forgotten histories, connecting to new perspectives and speaking truth to power. Documentary film and filmmaking is undergoing dramatic changes due to the rise of streaming platforms and their impact on the basic underpinnings of the industry’s economics and operations. The Shorenstein Center’s Documentary Film in the Public Interest research initiative, led by Center Director Nancy Gibbs and directed by experienced documentary filmmaker Sara Archambault, is examining the challenges facing the field and their impacts on civic life and information through research, convenings, and events.

This first cohort of documentary film fellows will join the center for the Fall 2023 semester to conduct research and do public education activities about questions facing the documentary film field and civic information.

Nancy Gibbs, Shorenstein Center Director and Edward R. Murrow Professor of the Practice of Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, says, “in this challenging moment for media and our information ecosystem, we are excited that the Shorenstein Center can provide the support and infrastructure to drive renewed and creative thinking about complex issues in the documentary film space.”

Sara Archambault, Program Director for the Documentary Film in the Public Interest Initiative at the Shorenstein Center, commented on the initiative’s first cohort of fellows. “As the initiative considers the vital role of documentary film in our civic life, this group of fellows will advance research in documentary ethics, practices, pathways to audiences, and new directions for the field. This fellowship is carving a unique and much needed space for documentary film practitioners, leaders, and scholars to examine the field, ask the tough questions, and forge pathways forward.”

If you are a film professional or scholar interested in applying to be a Spring 2024 or Fall 2024 Documentary Film Fellow at the Shorenstein Center, click here to apply.

2023 Documentary Film Fellows

Natalie Bullock Brown is an award-winning producer, a 2021 Rockwood Institute JustFilms Fellow, and the director of the Documentary Accountability Working Group, a collective she helped to found in 2020. DAWG created and released a values- informed framework for documentary filmmakers in 2022 that emphasizes care, consent, and collaboration as a pathway to ethical storytelling. Previously, Natalie was the StoryShift Strategist for Working Films, where she guided the organization’s work in promoting accountable documentary storytelling.

Natalie’s recent credits as a director/producer of documentary films include a documentary work-in-progress that explores the impact of messaging about beauty and aging on Black women; producer for award- winning filmmaker Byron Hurt’s PBS documentary, HAZING, as well as his upcoming NOVA film, Lee and Liza’s Family Tree; and producer for filmmaker Resita Cox’s demo for her upcoming film, Basketball Heaven. Natalie was also an associate producer on documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ 10-part PBS series, Jazz.

Natalie is an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University where she served as an Assistant Teaching Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies for five years. She was previously an assistant professor of film and broadcast media in the Department of Media & Communications at Saint Augustine’s University. She has served as a monthly guest and contributor for #BackChannel, a segment on North Carolina public radio’s The State of Things, and spent 12 years as co-host of Black Issues Forum, a public affairs program on UNC-TV, North Carolina’s statewide public television network. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Film Production from Howard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Northwestern University.

Building off of the framework created by the Documentary Accountability Working Group, Natalie will spend her fellowship time developing a curriculum for film and media education programs that focuses on the need for ethical and accountable storytelling in documentary filmmaking.

Kirsten Johnson is a documentary filmmaker and one of the only 5% of women members of the American Society of Cinematographers. Her camerawork appears in, among others, Academy Award winner  Citizen Four, Academy nominated The Invisible War, and Cannes Winner Farenheit 9/11. Her film Dick Johnson is Dead premiered at Sundance 2020, where it won the Jury Prize for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling. The film won the Primetime Emmy for Directing, made the Oscar shortlist, is distributed by The Criterion Collection, and is currently showing on Netflix. Her previous film, Cameraperson, named on The New York Times “Top Ten Films of 2016” was also shortlisted for the Academy Award.  Her Field of Vision short, The Above was nominated for the IDA’s ‘Best Short Award’ for 2016. Her next project is a scripted feature film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Susan Sontag.

At the Shorenstein Center, Kirsten will be working on a book project about how the internet has radically changed every person’s relationship to image-making and image-intake, and its implications for camera people. The project will investigate who films, why, under what constraints and in service of whom, with a particular eye toward the role of technology in contemporary moving image making.

Mary Lampson is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and editor. Her documentaries include, Harlan County, USA (directed by Barbara Kopple, co-edited with Nancy Baker), Underground (co-directed with Emile de Antonio and Haskell Wexler), and Until She Talks which she directed. She has worked with filmmakers Ricky Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker, and has produced and directed 25 short live-action films for SESAME STREET.

Recent projects include: Trouble the Water (Tia Lessin and Carl Deal), Kimjonglilia (N.C. Heikin), Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth (Lauren Greenfield), This Changes Everything (Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein), The Islands and the Whales (Mike Day), The Bad Kids (Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe), Crime and Punishment (Stephen Maing), Eating Animals (Christopher Quinn), Midnight Family and A Still Small Voice (Luke Lorentzen), Crip Camp  (Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht), The Disappearance of Shere Hite (Nicole Newnham), Joonam, (Sierra Urich).

Mary has been both a fellow and advisor at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Editing and Story Lab (2005-2017), an Artist in Residence at the Sundance Nonfiction Director’s Residency (2018) and an advisor for the Labs & Fellowships programs at the Points North Institute in Camden, Maine. She served on the board of the Points North Institute from 2011 to 2018. She has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2012.

At the Shorenstein Center, Mary will be working on a book about the art, craft, and ethics of documentary film editing, focusing on the thousands of small conscious and unconscious editing decisions that eventually create the story viewers see and the understanding they take away from a film.

Jacqueline Olive is an independent filmmaker with nearly twenty years of experience in journalism and film.  Her award-winning debut documentary film, Always in Season, has received numerous honors including winner of the 2019 Sundance Festival Special Jury Prize for Moral Urgency and nominations for Best Writing from IDA Documentary Awards (2019) and Cinema Eye Honors (2019). Always in Season broadcast on Independent Lens on PBS in 2020 and was the highest rated film of the season.

In addition to creating the 2022 Peabody Award-winning VR project, Always in Season Island, Jackie directed, produced, and wrote the documentary film, Death is Our Business, which broadcast on FRONTLINE/PBS and the WORLD Channel in February 2021 and executive produced and directed Lincoln’s Dilemma, an Emmy-nominated 4-part Apple TV series (2023). After teaching film at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Social Documentation M.F.A. program, Jackie remains on the Central Coast of California happily making films and immersive media full-time.

As a fellow at the Shorenstein Center, Jackie will be examining the new documentary distribution landscape that has reshaped the industry with the surge of on-demand content for streaming that began in 2020. Her project will provide analytical research and case studies mapping a quickly transforming documentary film industry.

Additional 2023 Fellows at the Shorenstein Center

In addition, one returning Joan Shorenstein Fellow and a Walter Shorenstein fellow will be working on documentary film-related research, and affiliated with the Documentary Film in the Public Interest initiative this semester:

Keri Putnam, Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow, is an award-winning senior media executive, producer, board member, and strategic advisor to media companies and nonprofit organizations. While at the Shorenstein Center, she will research and report on the state of independent media in the U.S., with a particular eye on the lack of opportunity for long-form storytelling today.

Tom Casciato, Joan Shorenstein Fellow, is an award-winning filmmaker, director, writer, producer and executive who has created critically acclaimed nonfiction projects that have appeared on PBS, ABC, NBC, TBS, Showtime and more. While at the Shorenstein Center, Tom is producing a podcast series on the intersections between journalism and documentary film.