NYWIFT Blog

NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Valda Witt

Many children – and more than a few adults – dream of long-distance space exploration. But what about the real human toll of that kind of journey? The new documentary The Longest Goodbye, which debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, takes a poignant look at the fundamentals of day-to-day reality in space: the isolation, confinement, and lack of privacy and social contact. Executive producer Valda Witt spoke to us about the project, her childhood dreams of space travel, favorite moments making the film, and getting to know scientists and astronauts in a deeply personal way.

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NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Annetta Marion

NYWIFT Advisory Board Member Annetta Marion produced Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie that is premiering at Sundance this month. The film incorporates documentary, archival and scripted elements to recount Fox’s story of personal and professional triumphs and travails in his own words. Annetta and Kathryn O'Kane spoke about the film that explores what happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Rianne Pyle

Welcome to NYWIFT, Rianne Pyle! Rianne an award-winning filmmaker whose New York City upbringing greatly influences her film projects, some of which raise awareness of societal issues and focus on providing an outlet for people of color to share their stories. She spoke to us about the intersection of film and social change, her approach to documentary filmmaking, how gentrification has impacted her filmmaking as a native New Yorker.

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Meet the NYWIFT Podcast Team: Janine McGoldrick

The NYWIFT Women Crush Wednesdays Podcast Team works so hard to bring the most informative, empowering, entertaining, and fun interviews to our listeners. Today we are thrilled to highlight our podcast team producer, Janine McGoldrick. In addition to producing the podcast, Janine edits and co-hosts as well. 

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Luchina Fisher

Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to Luchina Fisher! Fisher (she/her) is an award-winning director, writer and producer who works at the intersection of race, gender and identity. She is the founder and CEO of Little Light Productions. Her feature directorial debut Mama Gloria, about Chicago trans icon activist Gloria Allen, was nominated for a 2022 GLAAD Media Award. Previously, Fisher co-executive produced and co-wrote the critically acclaimed feature documentary Birthright: A War Story, about the war on women’s reproductive health. Luchina Fisher spoke to us about her early childhood influences, her next documentary, and her hopes for the future of women in media.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Producer Cheryl Staurulakis

NYWIFT member Cheryl Staurulakis recognizes the power of documentary film to change hearts, minds, and even governmental policies – and it’s what drives her as a producer. Her latest film, Phyllis Ellis’s feature documentary Category: Woman, is a perfect example of Staurulakis’s commitment to social impact filmmaking. The film takes a hard look into the racist and sexist policies in global sports and the devastating personal consequences they have inflicted on women athletes around the world. Staurulakis spoke to us about her 2022 DOC NYC screening, racial and gender discrimination in sports, and how she hopes to save the world one documentary at a time.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker and Journalist Amelia Deschamps

NYWIFT member Amelia Deschamps is a journalist, documentary filmmaker and TV/Radio producer from the Dominican Republic with more than 20 years of experience. Her short film In Search of the Blue Heart made its world premiere at the 2022 DOC NYC Festival. The film follows Daniel Quezada who, after 32 years of working in the larimar mines of the Dominican Republic, seeks to make this his last extraction to retire and dedicate his life to the stone trade. Deschamps spoke to us about filming in the depths of the larimar mines, her world premiere, and her transition into documentary filmmaking.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Dawn Porter

NYWIFT Member Dawn Porter’s Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net offers a never-before-seen look behind the curtain of the world-famous circus extravaganza, with an approach that is equally intimate and epic in scale. When Cirque du Soleil moves to reboot its flagship production, "O," more than a year after an abrupt global shutdown, both performers and crew members face uncertainty as they work to return to their world-class standards in time for the (re)opening night curtain in Las Vegas. The film had its world premiere as a Centerpiece film at the 2022 DOC NYC Festival. Porter sat down with us to discuss her unique approach to this story, and how these high-flying artists can offer unique insight into our post-pandemic world.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Sascha Just

NYWIFT member Sascha Just directed and produced Ellis, the first feature-length documentary about the late legendary New Orleans pianist and educator, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Marsalis composed and performed major works of modern jazz infused with a uniquely New Orleans touch. Just spoke to us about all the ways in which jazz has influenced her work, getting to know a creative legend, and her DOC NYC premiere.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Fredgy Noël

In the documentary short The House of LaBeija, directed and produced by NYWIFT member Fredgy Noël, we meet the eponymous prominent ballroom family and safe haven for transgender women, queer people, and those in need of community. Over the course of 10 minutes, several members of the house dance, vogue, and celebrate their identities across a strikingly glamorous mansion that seems to be an embodiment of their safe harbor. Fredgy Noël spoke to us about ballroom culture, creative inspirations, and what’s next on her horizon.

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NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Editor Jill Woodward

NYWIFT member Jill Woodward edited the documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture, which won the Audience Award at DOC NYC 2022. In this deeply personal tale, a gay seminary scholar and a straight activist, seeking to uncover the origins of the rabid homophobia of the conservative church, make a shocking discovery: an erroneous translation of the term “homosexual” in the Bible in 1946 that has been weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since. Woodward spoke to us about the editing process, what she learned along the way, and which types of projects excite her the most.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Ching Juhl

Welcome, new NYWIFT member Ching Juhl! Ching is a Chinese American filmmaker, video journalist, and music educator who has directed, filmed, edited, and produced three feature films, promotional videos, and hundreds of shorts. Her feature documentary My Yang Gang Diary, which she shot entirely on an iPhone 11, won Best Feature Film Award at Toronto Documentary Film Festival in 2021. Ching spoke to us about the benefits of shooting on iPhone, the intersection of music and filmmaking, and the friends who brought her to NYWIFT.

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Kathryn O’Kane on the Emmys, Jeff Goldblum, and the Challenges of Pandemic Productions

When NYWIFT Board Member Kathryn O’Kane headed off to direct season two of The World According to Jeff Goldblum for Disney+ it was, in her words, “the worst of times” – the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, before vaccines were available and film production felt particularly dangerous and fraught. But the difficult work paid off, and has led to the best of times! Season two of the docuseries, which follows the beloved quirky actor as he pulls on the thread of a familiar topic to unravel a world of fascinating secrets, has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special. 

We checked in with Kathryn to offer our congratulations, learn more about the filming process, and discuss what’s next for her.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Sheherzad Raza Preisler

Let’s welcome Sheherzad Raza Preisler to NYWIFT! She is a native New Yorker who attended undergrad at Columbia University, where she majored in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies and followed the pre-medical track. After an identity crisis, Sheherzad fell in love with all things filmmaking and is now an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Much of Sheherzad’s work deals with growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America. She spoke to us about her unusual path from pre-med to science writing to filmmaking, how storytelling is innate to her culture, and her post-graduation plans.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Samantha Alvarez

Welcome to NYWIFT, Samantha Alvarez, an independent documentary and narrative filmmaker born and raised in the Bronx with six years of camera operating and video editing experience. Alvarez started her career as a multidisciplinary teaching artist. She now works as a video freelancer and recently won the 2022 NYWIFT Outstanding Woman Content Creator at the Nova Frontier Film Festival for her short mixed media documentary, "In the Body." We sat down with her to discuss her latest film, her career, and her inspirations.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Producer Su Kim

The 2022 Tribeca premiere "Sansón and Me" traces a young immigrant’s path from coastal Mexico to a life sentence for murder in California. The harrowing tale does not unfold in a traditional documentary format, but instead uses evocative recreations – many of them featuring members of Sansón’s own family as actors – to explore the meaning of a life fragmented by poverty, borders, and incarceration. We spoke to producer Su Kim about the team’s unusual, wildly creative, and ultimately deeply powerful approach to sharing Sansón’s story.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Producer Steffie van Rhee

Cynthia Lowen’s latest documentary "Battleground" offers an eye-opening window into the anti-choice movement, featuring three women from varying walks of life who have dedicated themselves to rendering abortion illegal. Per the Tribeca website: “Told with restraint and balance, director Cynthia Lowen seeks to clarify rather than condemn, and presents a new point of entry for this challenging topic.” While the film itself clearly aligns with progressive pro-choice advocates (who also appear throughout) it offers a fascinating perspective on the sheer systemic power of the anti-abortion movement and the perilous future, felt painfully today, of Roe v. Wade. "Battleground" was Executive Produced by NYWIFT member Ruth Ann Harnisch and co-produced by member Steffie van Rhee, who sat down with us to discuss the premiere and how this film – from this particular perspective – came to fruition.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Filmmaker Violet Du Feng

Violet Du Feng’s "Hidden Letters" tells the story of Chinese women trying to balance their lives as independent women in modern China while confronting the traditional identity that defines but also oppresses them. Connected through their love for Nushu—a centuries-old secret text shared amongst women—each of them transforms through a pivotal period of their lives and takes a step closer to becoming the individuals they know they can be. Hot off her 2022 Tribeca Festival premiere, Director Violet Du Feng, an Emmy-award winning documentarian, spoke to us about Nushu, modern-day China, women’s equality, and her filmmaking process.

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