Faculty

Core: Clayton Brown | Erik Gernand | Kyle Henry | Laura Kipnis | Spencer Parsons | Eric Patrick | Ozge Samanci | J. P. Sniadecki | Ines Sommer | Debra Tochinsky

Affiliated: Thomas Bradshaw | Zayd Dohrn | Craig Duff | Maria Finitzo | Rebecca Gilman | Brent E. Huffman | Steve James | E. Patrick Johnson | D. Soyini Madison | Hamid Naficy | Brett Neveu | Ramón H. Rivera-Servera | David Tolchinsky

Clayton BrownClayton Brown is a documentary and narrative filmmaker interested in exploring the hidden stories and compelling characters that emerge when people pursue their passions. He is particularly interested in how science and storytelling intersect, both in fiction and nonfiction. Brown’s fiction work includes Galileo’s Grave, winner of the Chicago IFP Production Fund, and Subterranea, a narrative feature shot on 60,000 feet of intermediate film stock obtained for $900 from eBay. He is a cofounder and executive director of 137 Films, a Chicago-based documentary production company committed to telling long and short stories about America’s strange relationship with science. Brown codirected the award-winning documentaries The Atom Smashers (broadcast on Independent Lens), about the search for the Higgs boson, and The Believers (winner of the Chicago International Film Festival’s Gold Hugo for Best Documentary), about two Utah chemists’ 1989 “discovery” of cold fusion. His current projects include developing a third feature-length documentary as well as a screenplay set in 1869 Montana about the first woman to photograph a solar eclipse. Brown teaches cinematography, editing, postproduction, and sound design in Northwestern’s Department of Radio/Television/Film.

Erik GernandErik Gernand is a playwright and filmmaker. He cofounded the Atlanta-based production company The Media Bunch, where for more than a decade he directed and shot documentary video productions with nonprofit clients around the country. His plays have been produced and/or developed at such theaters as Chicago’s Redtwist, American Theater Company, and Chicago Dramatists as well as New York’s Barrow Group and T. Schreiber Studio. Gernand’s award-winning short films have screened at more than 100 film festivals around the world, including SXSW, Cinequest, and Italy’s Mix Milan, and have been broadcast on IFC, PBS, and Logo and distributed on DVD by Strand Releasing and First Run Features. He is a member of Northwestern’s radio/television/film faculty.

Kyle HenryKyle Henry, assistant professor, made his feature narrative directing debut with Room, which premiered at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals in 2005 and was nominated for two FIND Independent Spirit Awards. His feature documentaries University Inc., about the corporatization of higher education, and American Cowboy, about a gay rodeo champ, received wide festival play, with the former screened at colleges and universities across the country as part of Michael Moore and Richard Linklater’s McCollege Tour. Henry is also the editor of the Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW award-winning feature narrative Manito as well as 10 documentary features, including Audience of One, Light from the East, Showtime’s Trinidad, and the PBS- and ITVS-funded Troop 1500 and Letters from the Other Side. Recently he edited the 2012 Emmy Award–winning Where Soldiers Come From as well as Before You Know It, which premiered at the 2013 SXSW. His short film Fourplay: Tampa premiered in the 2011 Cannes Film Festivals’ Directors’ Fortnight section and played at Sundance in 2012. His Fourplay feature anthology premiered at Frameline 2012, toured internationally, and received US distribution via TLA Releasing. Henry has also created content and worked as a consultant for numerous corporate partners and nonprofits and has lectured in the radio-television-film department at the University of Texas at Austin. He was a 2010 Sundance Doc Lab Fellow.

Laura KipnisLaura Kipnis, professor of radio/television/film, is a cultural theorist and critic and former video artist. Her current work focuses on the intersections of American politics, psyche, and the body—with detours through love, Marx, gender distress, adultery, scandal, Freud, and the legacy of the avant-garde. Kipnis is the author of five books as well as essays and reviews that have appeared in Slate, The Nation, Critical Inquiry, Social Text, Wide Angle, the Village Voice, Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, and numerous edited collections. Her books and essays have been translated into 15 languages. Her video essays have been screened and broadcast in North America (at the Museum of Modern Art, American Film Institute, and Whitney Museum–Equitable Center, among others), Europe, Japan, and Australia and are distributed by Video Data Bank, Electronic Arts Intermix, Cinema Guild, and Canada’s V/Tape. She is the writer-director-producer of Marx: The Video (1990), A Man’s Woman (1988, in association with Great Britain’s Channel Four Television), and Ecstasy Unlimited: The Interpenetrations of Sex and Capital (1985).

Spenser ParsonsSpencer Parsons directed Saturday Morning Massacre, which premiered at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival and was named best feature at the 2012 Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. His previous feature, I’ll Come Running (2008), was screened on the Sundance Channel and at numerous festivals and is distributed by IFC. His award-winning short films include Chainsaw Found Jesus (2011), Once and Future Asshole (2005), Resolution (2002), and A Common Confuxion (1999). Parsons served as senior programmer for the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival in Austin from 2000 to 2003 and continued as a board member and curator at large until 2007. He has curated film programs for Austin’s Fusebox Festival, Brooklyn’s Rooftop Films, Greece’s Thessaloniki Film Festival, Spain’s L’Alternativa, London’s Exploding Cinema, and Northwestern’s Block Cinema. Parsons has served on the SXSW programming committee and on awards juries for SXSW, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Chicago Underground Film Festival. His writings have appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Cinespect, Film in Focus, and Filmmaker magazine. As a member of Northwestern’s radio/television/film faculty, Parsons teaches courses in advanced production, media production, and directing actors for camera.

Eric PatrickEric Patrick is a specialist in animation and experimental filmmaking who has worked as a commercial animator in Los Angeles and New York City. His animation for Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues was nominated for several Emmy Awards and received a Peabody Award. His own independent animated films include Stark Film and Ablution. Patrick’s work has been shown in film festivals all over the world, including the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, the Fajr Film Festival in Tehran, Animac in Spain, and the Black Maria Film Festival. Most recently he completed the film Retrocognition, funded by the Guggenheim Foundation. Patrick is an associate professor of radio/television/film in Northwestern’s School of Communication.

Ozge SamanciOzge Samanci is a published comics artist with an extensive background in comics and media arts. Her interactive digital media installations and other collaborative works have been exhibited in numerous venues internationally, including Siggraph, Advances in Computer Entertainment, Tangible and Embedded Interaction, San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation, Listening Machines Show at Eyedrum (a new media art gallery), and the Evanston Art Center. Her analog installations and images have been exhibited at the University of California Botanical Gardens, Art House Coop, Sycamore Place Gallery, Stockholm’s Gallery KG52, Armory Center for Arts, and Worth Ryder Art Gallery. Her areas of interest include interactive art, interactive narrative, interaction design, full-body interaction, comics and graphic novels, digital-interactive media theory, and location-based art. Samanci’s book Animasyonun Onlenemez Yukselisi (The Irresistible Rise of Animation) was published by Istanbul Bilgi University Publications. Currently she is writing the autobiographical graphic novel Dare to Disappoint under contract with Farrar Straus and Giroux. Samanci is a member of Northwestern’s radio/television/film faculty.

J. P. Sniadecki, assistant professor of radio/television/film, is a filmmaker and anthropologist active in the United States and China. An affiliate of the Sensory Ethnography Lab, he holds a PhD in Social Anthropology with Media from Harvard. His films have screened at festivals such as the Berlinale, Locarno, New York, AFI, Edinburgh, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Viennale, Vancouver, BAFICI, RIDM, Cinema du Reel, Riviera Maya, FICUNAM, and DOChina as well as at venues such as New York’s MoMA and Guggenheim, Vienna’s MAC, Beijing’s UCCA, the 2014 Shanghai Biennale, and the 2014 Whitney Biennale. His films include Chaiqian/Demolition (2010), winner of the Joris Ivens Award; Foreign Parts (2010), winner of two Leopards at Locarno and named Best Film at the Punto de Vista Film Festival and DocsBarcelona; People’s Park (2012), named Best Anthropological Film at Festival dei Popoli; and Yumen (2013), named Best Experimental Film and Best Chinese Film at the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival. Sniadecki’s latest feature, The Iron Ministry (2014), was A.O. Scott's "Critics Pick" in the New York Times and has screened widely and garnered jury prizes at the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Valdivia and Camden International Film Festivals. Coorganizer of the traveling film series “Cinema on the Edge" which showcases independent cinema from China, he has written articles and interviews for Cinema Scope and contributed essays to Visual Anthropology Review and the edited volume DV-Made China (Hawaii University Press).

Ines Sommer is associate director of the MFA program in documentary media and a full-time lecturer. A Chicago-based filmmaker, cinematographer, film programmer, and educator, she has directed and produced genre-crossing films for more than two decades, ranging from experimental 16mm films to video documentaries. Among her current projects is the documentary Count Me In, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant, to be broadcast nationally in late 2015 with Chicago’s WTTW-Channel 11 as presenting station. Her Beneath the Blindfold was named best political documentary of 2012 by the Chicago Reader and has screened at international film festivals and universities, for human rights groups, and on Capitol Hill for Congress members and staff. Sommer’s credits as a cinematographer include numerous award-winning broadcast documentaries for Chicago’s Kartemquin Films and other production companies. Sommer has taught film and video production at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern’s Medill School, and elsewhere and has held positions as a film programmer, film festival director, and arts administrator. In 2008 she cofounded Percolator Films, a community-based nonprofit media arts organization that organizes film festivals, series, and events in Evanston and Chicago. Sommer holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Debra TolchinskyDebra Tolchinsky, director of the MFA program in documentary media and associate professor of radio/television/film, is a documentary filmmaker, multidisciplinary artist, and curator whose work has been seen internationally at such venues as the Sundance Film Festival, Washington’s Kennedy Center, and Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center. She is interested in the intersection of identity and extreme practices as well as how site specificity and emerging technologies can be used to foster new kinds of artistic experiences. Her latest film, Fast Talk (available soon on iTunes and Amazon VOD/DVD), captures the intensity, drive, and absurdity of the mile-a-minute world of college debaters as they speak at speeds exceeding 500 words per minute. Winner of numerous awards, Fast Talk was named best documentary at the LA Femme International Film Festival, best documentary feature at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, and best documentary at the Iowa Film Festival and has been discussed in such publications as the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader, the National Law Journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Onion A.V. Club. As a curator Tolchinsky cocurated The Horror Show at New York City’s Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs; the exhibit explored horror in film, video, installation, photography, sculpture, and painting and was featured as a “Voice Choice for Art” in the Village Voice. At Northwestern’s Block Museum she cocurated Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door, listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of “10 things to get excited about on Chicago’s fall art scene.” Most recently she cocurated The Presence of Absence, sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Council at Chicago’s Hairpin Arts Center; the exhibit was named one of the “16 best art gallery shows to see now in Chicago” by Chicago magazine and praised as “a wonderfully odd, powerful, thoughtful show” by the Huffington Post. Earlier in her career Tolchinsky was as an assistant film editor on Hollywood features such as Searching for Bobby Fischer and Ghostbusters II. A Northwestern faculty member since 2006, she won a 2010 Clarence Simon Award for Teaching Excellence. Tolchinsky received an AB from the University of Southern California and a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Affiliated Faculty

Thomas Bradshaw is a playwright who has received a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2010 Prince Charitable Trust Prize. His plays include Mary, which premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2010; The Ashes; The Bereaved, named a New York Times Critic’s Pick and one of the “Best Plays of 2009” by Time Out New York; and Southern Promises and Dawn, both listed among 2008’s “Best Performances of Stage and Screen” by the New Yorker. His other works include Prophet, Strom Thurmond Is Not a Racist, Cleansed, Purity, and Job. Bradshaw has been featured as “Best Provocative Playwright” in the Village Voice, one of Time Out New York’s “10 Playwrights to Watch,” and one of Paper magazine’s “Beautiful People.” An assistant professor at New York’s Medgar Evers College before joining Northwestern’s radio/television/film faculty, he holds an MFA from Brooklyn College.

Zayd Dohrn is a playwright and screenwriter whose work has been produced and developed at Manhattan Theatre Club, MCC Theater, Naked Angels, Marin Theatre, the Public Theater’s Summer Play Festival, South Coast Rep, Alliance Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Alchemy Theatre, Southern Rep, and Kitchen Dog Theater, among others. He has won Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Prize, the Theatre Masters Visionary Playwrights Award, the Sky Cooper Prize, and the Jean Kennedy Smith Award as well as residencies and/or commissions from Ars Nova, Dallas Theatre Center, Chautauqua, and London’s Royal Court Theatre. Dohrn is currently developing screenplays for Vox3 Films and American Film Company as well as cowriting a pilot for HBO. An assistant professor of radio/television/film at Northwestern, he holds an MFA from New York University.

Craig Duff is an award-winning video journalist and documentary television director, producer, and writer, specializing in multiplatform storytelling and solo journalism. Before joining the Medill School as professor in 2012, he was the director of multimedia and chief video journalist for Time, where he oversaw video and other multimedia projects for the magazine’s digital platforms and website. He and his Time team won an Emmy Award for new approaches in news and documentary programming. Duff also served as an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and as a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. During a year in Egypt as a Knight International Journalism Fellow, he trained professional broadcast reporters and graduate students at the Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo. Previously, Duff worked with the New York Times on several television documentaries and was a lead video journalist on the original VJ team when the newspaper first ventured into producing original online video content. His documentary New York Times Reporting: Arctic Rush was awarded the National Association of Science Writers’ 2006 Science and Society Award. Duff began his career at CNN, where he was a senior producer in the network’s environment unit and an executive producer of cultural newsmagazine programs. He also produced several documentaries for the series CNN Presents. During his years at CNN and Turner Broadcasting, Duff received numerous awards, including a national Emmy, two Cable Ace Awards, the National Headliner Award, a Genesis award, three Environmental Media Association awards, and festival honors from the Houston, Chicago, Columbus, and National Educational Film Festivals.

Maria Finitzo is a two time Peabody award winning filmmaker and a long time Associate of Kartemquin Films an award winning social issue documentary company. For more than 30 years, she has been producing and directing documentary films for network television, public broadcasting, cable TV and the Internet. Her films have won every major broadcast award and she has received grants for her work from both private and government foundations. Her films have tackled a variety of subjects from the controversial science of stem cell research and the hard questions surrounding the command and control of nuclear weapons to the psychology of adolescent girls, demonstrating a depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise. Her documentaries are all supported by civic engagement strategies that are developed with local and national partners to foster understanding, change thinking, and build support for social change. Her work has been shown in community screenings, festivals and at universities throughout the world.

Rebecca Gilman was recently named to the Artistic Collective at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. Her plays include Spinning into Butter, Boy Gets Girl, The Crowd You’re In With, Dollhouse, A True History of the Johnstown Flood, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Blue Surge, and The Glory of Living. Boy Gets Girl was listed by Time magazine as one of the top 10 plays and musicals of its decade, and The Glory of Living was a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Gilman’s plays have been seen widely at regional theaters and abroad, including productions at the Goodman, London’s Royal Court Theatre, Lincoln Center Theatre, the Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Theatre Workshop, and Manhattan Class Company. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work, the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, and the George Devine Award. An associate professor of radio/television/film at Northwestern, Gilman holds an MFA from the University of Iowa.

Brent E. Huffman is an award-winning director, writer, and cinematographer of documentaries and television programs. His work ranges from Sundance Film Festival premieres to ethnographic films for the China Exploration and Research Society to documentaries aired on the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, NBC, CNN, PBS, and Al Jazeera. He has also directed, produced, shot, and edited short documentaries for online outlets such as the New York Times, Time, Salon, Huffington Post, and PBS Arts. Huffman has been making social-issue documentaries and environmental films for more than a decade in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. These films have gone on to win numerous awards, including a Primetime Emmy, three Cine Golden Eagle Awards, Best Conservation Film at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Fresno Film Festival, a College Emmy, a Student Academy Award, and a Grand Jury Award at AFI’s Silverdocs. Huffman was also an editor for the Primetime Emmy–winning PBS documentary series A Lion in the House. In addition, Huffman is a writer whose work has been featured in CNN, Asia Society Online, Tricycle magazine, Bust magazine, the Wilson Quarterly, Frontline, and the China Digital Times. He recently completed the book Life in the Heart of China: Diary from a Forbidden World about his experiences in China. In 2009 Huffman covered Vortex 2, the world’s largest tornado research project, for NBC and the Weather Channel. Most recently he completed the documentary The Colony for Al Jazeera. Huffman is currently working on two new documentaries in Afghanistan and China. An assistant professor at Northwestern’s Medill School, he teaches documentary production and theory.

Steve James is best known as the producer and director of Hoop Dreams, winner of every major critics prize, including Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Awards. His other films include the Sundance Award–winning Stevie; the IDA-winning miniseries The New Americans; At the Death House Door, winner of numerous festival awards; The Interrupters, winner of an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award, and the DuPont Columbia Journalism Award; and Life Itself, named the best documentary of the year by more than a dozen critics associations, the Critic’s Choice Awards, the National Board of Review, and the Producers Guild of America. At Northwestern he has taught the MFA Thesis Seminar as an adjunct faculty member.

E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern’s Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies, has published widely in the areas of race, class and gender, and performance. His books include Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity (Duke University Press, 2003), winner of the National Communication Association’s Lilla A. Heston Award and the American Society for Theatre Research’s Errol Hill Book Award, and Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), recognized as a Stonewall Book Award Honor Book by the LGBT Round Table of the American Library Association. In addition, Johnson coedited Black Queer Studies—A Critical Anthology (Duke University Press, 2005). He was awarded the 2007 Clarence Ver Steeg Award by Northwestern’s Graduate School and a 2005 Martin Duberman Fellowship by CUNY’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. Also a performing artist, Johnson toured his one-man show Strange Fruit across the country from 1999 to 2004 and is currently touring Pouring Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Tales, a solo performance based on narratives from Sweet Tea. He is working on an anthology of black queer performance texts and researching queer sexuality and performance in the black church.

D. Soyini Madison is a professor of performance studies in Northwestern’s School of Communication with appointments in the Departments of African American Studies and Anthropology. Madison lived and worked in Ghana as a senior Fulbright scholar conducting field research on the interconnections between traditional religion, political economy, and indigenous performance tactics. She holds a PhD from Northwestern.

Hamid Naficy is professor of radio/television/film in Northwestern’s School of Communication. A leading authority on Middle Eastern cinema and television, he has produced many educational films and experimental videos. His extensive published writings focus on theories of exile and displacement, exilic and diaspora cinema and media, and Iranian and Third World cinemas. His many books include such well-known titles as An Accented Cinema, The Making of Exile Cultures, Otherness and the Media: The Ethnography of the Imagined and the Imaged, Iran Media Index, and the AFI anthology Home, Exile, Homeland. Naficy most recently completed the four-volume A Social History of Iranian Cinema, published by Duke University Press. Professor Naficy has published a two volume book on documentary film history and regularly teaches a graduate seminar on the history and theory of documentary films.

Brett Neveu has worked with TimeLine Theatre, a company that presents stories inspired by history that connect with today's social and political issues where his play Harmless was produced and his plays Dream City (about the1968 Democratic National Convention) and his play Milwaukee (about an ATF sting operation) were and are currently being developed. He has also worked with Center Theatre Group's Playwrights' Workshop where he developed his play The Opponent, built from interviews with former professional boxer Justin Fortune and was produced by A Red Orchid Theatre and 59E59. Past theatre work includes productions with The Royal Court Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, The House Theatre, The Inconvenience,The Side Project, The Goodman Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, A Red Orchid Theatre and American Theatre Company. He is a Sundance Institute Ucross Fellow, the recipient of the Ofner Prize for New Work, the Emerging Artist Award from The League of Chicago Theatres and the recipient of The Marquee Award from Chicago Dramatists. Several of his plays are published through Broadway Play Publishing, Dramatic Publishing and Nick Hern Publishing.

Ramón H. Rivera-Servera is associate professor of performance studies in Northwestern’s School of Communication. His research focuses on contemporary performance in the United States, with special emphasis on how categories of race, gender, and sexuality are negotiated in the process of migration. His work documents US Latina/o, Mexican, and Caribbean performance practices ranging from theatre and concert dance to social dance, fashion, and speech. His teaching ranges from seminar courses on Latina/o and queer performance, sound and movement studies, and visual cultural studies to workshop courses on social art practices, the performances of nonfictional texts, ethnographic research methods, and performance art. Rivera-Servera’s book Performing Queer Latinidad: Dance, Sexuality, Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2012) studies the role performance played in the development of Latina/o queer publics in the United States from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. He is currently conducting research for his next book project, Exhibiting Performance: Race, Museum Cultures, and the Live Event, which explores how race has been collected and exhibited in North America and the Caribbean since the mid-1990s. Rivera-Servera holds a PhD in theater from the University of Texas at Austin.

David Tolchinsky is the founder and director of Northwestern’s MFA program in writing for the screen and stage and professor and chair of the Department of Radio/Television/Film. In 2008 he was named a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence. His credits as a screenwriter include Sony Tristar’s Girl and screenplay commissions from such companies as MGM, USA Networks, Disney, Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Pictures, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, and Addis-Wechsler/Industry Entertainment, with many other projects in development. Some of his work centers on teen subcultures (such as heavy-metal fans, Florida surfer teens, teen groupies, and female football players), particularly in relation to social decay. Tolchinsky is also interested in horror, both psychological and physical. He has a secondary interest in sound design and has designed the sound for interactive computer environments and video installations that have been exhibited internationally. In 2003 he was nominated for two Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild Golden Reel Awards for his sound design for Debra Tolchinsky’s Dolly and Lucky; in 2011 he coproduced her feature documentary Fast Talk. Also with Debra Tolchinsky he has cocurated The Horror Show at New York City’s Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door at Northwestern’s Block Museum, and The Presence of Absence, sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Council at Chicago’s Hairpin Arts Center. His reflective humor piece about Spalding Gray, “Where’s the Rest of Me?,” was recently published in Paraphilia magazine. Tolchinsky holds a BA from Yale University and an MFA from the University of Southern California.

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