My Life Making Documentary Films

The Cliff Dwellers

International Women’s Day

March 8 2022

Hi thanks for inviting me to speak at this year’s International Woman’s Day event. I am going to talk about my life making documentary films and show a few short clips.

I was a student at Columbia College when I first decided to become a filmmaker. I was studying music and dance. Then one day after my dance class, I went to a movie in the Studebaker Theater with some friends. It was called Images, a Robert Altman film about a schizophrenic woman who writes children’s fantasy stories. She is haunted by apparitions who may or may not be real. During the movie I had an epiphany. I decided that I wanted to make films and I thought I could do it. This was the mid 1970’s.

The next thing I knew I was taking a film course at Columbia College and shooting films with a wind up Bolex camera and I loved it. There were not many women in the film program at that time and I had to be assertive enough to not get left behind and get my hands on the equipment. It became my dream to make movies. After graduation from Columbia, I went on to study film at NYU. When I returned to Chicago, I started at the bottom working as a production assistant, teleprompter operator, sound person, grip, gaffer and production manager. At this time, I was starting to shoot films as cinematographer, getting as much experience as possible and building a reel, filming fashion, music videos, documentaries and shooting performances at the Columbia College Dance Center.

Since then I have worked as a director, producer and cinematographer for over 30 years. My work has aired on PBS, The Learning Channel, and Discovery Health Channel and (can be seen daily at the Field Museum of Chicago in the Africa exhibit.)

I have shot many different films and videos: fashion, music videos, commercials, industrials and many documentaries. Some of the documentaries I have filmed are: Chicago Riverfront: Where the Present Meets the Past, about Chicago architecture, When the Spill Hit Homer, about the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, Blue Collar and Buddha about Laotian Refugees and racism in a small town in Illinois, and Surviving Domestic Violence. Shooting and directing Painting the Town, a segment for Artbeat Chicago and I shot and produced Shifting Sands: On the Path to Sustainability, about the fight between industrialists and environmentalists to save the Indiana Dunes.

I have been very lucky. I have been able to travel the world to locations such as Europe, Senegal, Borneo, Kamchatka (Russia), Guatemala, and Sao Paulo and to meet interesting people –

It has been important to me during my career to highlight films about women – to show their courage, bravery, strength, resilience, and persistence. In closing: To me, filmmaking is creating and sharing stories of people and experiences that help us understand the larger universe and the human experience, creating compassion and breaking barriers. Film is a universal language. I have always hoped that film would help to pull back the veil of hate, and create more understanding in the world.


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