Author, educator, and Ford Foundation director Elizabeth Alexander tackles questions of race, gender, motherhood, memory, and history. She wrote and read “Praise Song for the Day” for former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Her work has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, named a Notable Book of the Year by the American Library Association and awarded the Jackson Poetry Prize. She has also received a lifetime achievement award from the Anisfield-Wolf Foundation and been awarded grants by the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the Ford Foundation’s director of creativity and free expression, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and a professor at Columbia University.
Documentary filmmaker Orlando Bagwell’s interest in social justice filmmaking grew out of his experiences in Boston during the 1974 school-busing crisis. He was a teacher at South Boston High School, and he was attacked by white protesters. WGBH hired him to help film a segment on the conflict. He worked on both series of Eyes on the Prize, first as a camera operator and producer and then as Blackside’s executive vice president. He produced the episodes “Mississippi: Is This America?” and “Ain’t Scared of Your Jails.” He has won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, four Emmy Awards, and the New York Festival Grand Prize. At the Ford Foundation, he was the director of the Freedom of Expression unit and then helped found JustFilms. In 2014, he left to return to his own filmmaking. He is the director of the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s Documentary Program.
Sheila Curran Bernard
Filmmaker and author Sheila Curran Bernard works in both drama and documentary, using narrative to explore history. She worked on the second series of Eyes on the Prize, co-producing “Two Societies” and “Ain’t Gonna Shuffle No More,” for which she won an Emmy Award. She has also been awarded a George Foster Peabody Award and the Cine Golden Eagle. She recently received the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Playwriting/Screenwriting and the Geri Asher Screenwriting Award. She wrote Documentary Storytelling and teamed up with fellow Backside alum Kenneth Rabin to write Archival Storytelling. She directs the University of New York-Albany’s public history program.
Photojournalist and filmmaker Lyric Cabral examines national security, civil rights, and race in contemporary America. In (T)error, she and her co-producer David Felix Sutcliffe followed an FBI informant, offering viewers the first glimpse into an active FBI counterterrorism sting operation. It was awarded a Special Jury Prize for Break Out First Feature at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and the two filmmakers were given the 2015 Emerging Filmmaker Award by the International Documentary Association. She has received grants from BBC Storyville, the Tribeca Film Institute, the Sundance Institute, and the Independent Television Service.
Speaker, commentator, and filmmaker Callie Crossley focuses on media literacy and the intersections of race, gender, and media. She produced the Eyes on the Prize episodes “No Easy Walk” and “Bridge to Freedom,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a George Foster Peabody Award. She also won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (Gold Baton). After Blackside, she worked as a producer for ABC News 20/20. She has received fellowships from the Neiman Foundation for Journalism and the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She hosts Under the Radar with Callie Crossley for WGBH and offers weekly commentaries for the station’s Morning Edition. She is also a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.
Producer and director Jon Else is a veteran of the civil rights movement. He first worked in still photography but then turned to film. He was a consultant, series producer, and cinematographer for Eyes on the Prize. He has won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, an Academy Award, four Emmys, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University and George Foster Peabody Awards, the Prix Italia, the Sundance Special Jury Prize, and the Sundance Filmmaker’s Trophy. He teaches at the University of California-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and he is the author of True South: Henry Hampton and “Eyes on the Prize,” the Landmark Television Series That Reframed the Civil Rights Movement.
Documentary filmmaker Laurie Kahn explores the lives of women and their work. She was the senior series researcher for Eyes on the Prize. After Blackside, she worked on the PBS series American Experience and then launched Blueberry Hill Productions, producing films about compelling, interesting, ordinary women, and winning an Emmy and the George Foster Peabody Award. She has directed the Creativity Foundation and consulted for the American Film Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is also a resident scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center.
Documentary filmmaker and community educator Louis Massiah believes film enables individuals to affect social change. He co-produced Eyes on the Prize’s “Power!” and “A Nation of Law?” He has been named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, a Tribeca Film Institute Fellow, and a Pew Fellow in the Arts. He has won the Fleisher Founder’s Award. He has also created video installation works, including a permanent installation for the National Park Service President’s House historic site. He is the founder and executive director of the Scribe Video Center, which provides workshops and production facilities to community members and emerging filmmakers.
Cara Mertes connects independent filmmakers to the funding, mentorship, and distribution they need to accelerate progressive change. She has been an executive producer for the PBS series POV, the director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund, and co-founder of BRITDOC Foundation’s Good Pitch event and training model. She worked with the Documentary Film Program and the Skill Foundation to create Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary. She has won several Emmys, George Foster Peabody Awards, and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, as well as a Webby. She is the director of the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative.
Researcher, consultant, and playwright Kenneth Rabin has worked with both documentary and dramatic filmmakers to help them craft compelling narratives about little-known or overlooked moments in the past. His work includes Selma, Milk, and Good Night and Good Luck. He was the series archival consultant and stock footage coordinator for Eyes on the Prize, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. He co-wrote Archival Storytelling with Sheila Curran Bernard. He runs Fulcrum Media Services.
Filmmaker and civil rights activist Judy Richardson learned to value everyday activists and their ability to create change while working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was a researcher and associate producer for Eyes on the Prize. She later became a senior producer for Northern Light Productions and co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC. She has been a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer of Africana Studies at Brown University. She has received an Image Award for Vision and Excellence from Women in Film and Video. She continues to lecture and write about the history of the civil rights movement, and she is a board member for the SNCC Legacy Project.
Andrea Taylor identifies the broader vision that pushes organizations and corporations to grow into their potential. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and public television producer. She was the founding director of the Ford Foundation’s Media Fund, helping them turn their successful funding of the Eyes on the Prize series into a global effort. The program was the precursor to JustFilms. She has been a delegate to four United Nations Global Summits and the director of citizenship and public affairs, North America, at the Microsoft Corporation. She is the president and chief executive officer of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Producer Judith Vecchione shared Henry Hampton’s commitment to finding, training, and enabling talented new producers. She was the senior series producer for the first six episodes of Eyes on the Prize and produced “Awakenings” and “Fighting Back.” She has won an Emmy, a Red Ribbon at the American Film Festival, a George Foster Peabody Award, three Christopher Awards, and four CINE Golden Eagles. Her work has also been recognized by American Women in Radio and Television. Through the CPB/PBS Producer Workshops at WGBH, she has fostered the careers of younger producers. She is also the executive producer of WGBH’s national programming.
Producer and director Sue Williams uses documentary films to share little-known, complicated histories. She was the film researcher for Eyes on the Prize. She was the co-founder of Ambrica Productions, producing a series of films about the political and cultural history of Communist China and modern America. She also co-founded the Story Exchange, a global online video project profiling women entrepreneurs. She has received an Emmy, a Christopher Award, and recognition from the International Documentary Association, among other awards.