2022 was a year of extremes and intensity: Russia’s war with the Ukraine; the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights; Covid continues to disrupt; worldwide inflation and extreme weather events. Beyond the boundaries of our planet, the Webb telescope sent back awe-inspiring images of our galaxy, and the moon is experiencing a bit of a come back. No surprise that the films that document our lives also share these qualities.
Below are the documentaries that moved me this year: Read More
We made this show during the height of the pandemic. It was hard – our production schedule was in a constant state of flux. And it was beautiful – each day was different and I made some friends for life. So it’s especially rewarding when the Television Academy recognizes the effort. I’m thrilled that Season 2 of “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” is nominated for an Emmy for best hosted nonfiction series. Congratulations to the entire staff and crew from Nutopia in London, New York and Los Angeles. You can watch it now on Disney+.
“I was born to 2 tomato farmers” were the first words of a tale that would captivate me for the next 6 hours and change the course of my life when Sidney Poitier sat down to tell his life story.
In 2011 we produced Oprah’s Master Class, the flagship documentary series, which launched the network OWN. It was an autobiographical series in which people who Oprah considered “masters of their lives” recalled critical turning points in their lives and relayed their life lessons. This was an important show for Oprah, and she pulled out all the stops to book her favorite people for this inaugural season. Among the most important were Maya Angelou and Sidney Poitier, whom she considered family. Read More
At long last, I’m thrilled to announce my latest directing project, The World According to Jeff Goldblum for Disney+. Filmed over the course of six months at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, this was a feat of research, coordination, safety, creativity, compassion and a healthy dose of silliness. You know you’ve made good career choices when Day 1 of filming is Jeff Goldblum in a pile of puppies.
The challenge: how do you make a show during a pandemic as interesting and exciting as the first season which was filmed when there were no limitations? Answer: you plan everything very carefully to be safe but you also have to leave room for spontaneity and magic. Creatively, this host-driven show was a director’s dream because every day we filmed something completely different. I mean, we’ve got trapeze artists, magicians, robots, witches, a sea lion named Diego, and a BIG DANCE NUMBER this season! Read More
Hollywood Hills from The Line Hotel, Los Angeles, November 2020. Photo: Busy K
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the nature of production during the COVID crisis.
When it became clear that our show Parenting Without Borders wasn’t coming back anytime soon, I relocated to northern California to stay with family while the worst of the virus raged in my beloved New York City. Many of my friends and colleagues were discovering that they had COVID or were recovering from it. The executive director of New York Women in Film and Television was living in the epicenter in Queens surrounded by the steady scream of ambulance sirens, which we could hear during on-line board meetings. Another friend had a mobile morgue unit parked on her block in Brooklyn. And then in April 2020, two people I know died within a week of each other – one in NYC and one in Milan. The scope of this virus is devastating. And those deaths have influenced everything I’ve done since.
In May I got a call about a commercial project for a big tech company. They were planning a shoot with crazy numbers: 10 directors and 300 crew members to make 200+ short films in 4 weeks. I was both apprehensive and excited to get back to work. Because this was a client that would follow strict safety protocol, I felt comfortable committing. Read More
On March 24, 2021, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) presented the panel discussion “Representation Matters: Ensuring Inclusive Leadership in Politics and the Media.” Originally planned to be hosted at the United Nations in March 2020 as part of the Commission on the Status Women Forum, the event was postponed and viewed online this year.
Thanks to the vision of NYWIFT’s executive director Cynthia Lopez, and NDI’s senior associate & director for Gender, Women and Democracy Sondra Pepera, we organized this incredible panel to discuss the importance of representation and strategies for equity at the intersection of politics and media.
One of the highlights for me was getting to hear from H.E. Hanna Tetteh, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union who left us with some closing thoughts:
This partnership holds special significance for me because my first job out of college was with NDI, where I helped organize workshops for women in politics in Argentina and Jordan all the way back in the 90s.
Being virtual made it a truly a global presentation – from 4 different time zones. Our participants were in Los Angeles, New York City, Stockholm and Addis Ababa and our audience tuned in around the world. You can read more and watch the recording of the event at the link below.
Checking in, everyone. How are we doing? I hope you all are safe and healthy. Isolation takes its toll, and I hope you are being kind to yourselves.
When everything shut down in March, I was working on a travel series for Disney+ called Parenting Without Borders. As the showrunner and director, I had assembled the most incredible team, and together we had developed a great series that the EPs and the network loved. I had wonderful partners at Disney who wholeheartedly supported our creative ideas. I also had the tremendous support and institutional knowledge of Boardwalk Pictures, which does such incredible international production with Chef’s Table and Street Food. This was going to be a beautiful, poignant series about how culture influences parenting around the world.
I think back to those days in February and March when we were conducting daily risk assessments. Because of a lack of coherent information about coronavirus from the Feds and CDC, we had to glean the risks from our own resources, the news and from our international contacts on the ground. The world started to shrink before our eyes as countries around the globe turned into hotspots, and suddenly, the coronavirus was here in the United States. Read More
Corey Williams is the kind of person who makes you want to root for him. Sincere, honest and open, he’s a hard worker and a man of few words. And 20 years ago he was sent to death row after a house party ended in the murder of a pizza delivery man. Corey was a mere child of 16, a victim of poverty and intellectually disabled. He was living in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, notorious for its tough-on-crime approach to justice where African American teens were labeled “super predators.” In short, Corey never had a chance. And yet, details of the case didn’t add up. Read More
Get thee to the movie theater now, gentle reader, to see Aretha Franklin’s concert film Amazing Grace. To see it on the big screen is to be transported back to 1972, to the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles where Franklin recorded her Grammy-winning gospel album. In search of authenticity that a studio recording could never achieve, Franklin brought the studio to church in every sense of the word with the support of the Southern California Community Choir, her band, and Rev. James Cleveland, one of the most renown gospel figures of the time. Read More
Death Row Storiesexplores the fallibility of the ultimate criminal penalty, capital punishment. Told by current and former death row inmates, each episode of Death Row Stories seeks to unravel the truth behind a different capital murder case and poses tough questions about the U.S. capital punishment system. Sundays at 8pm, ET/PT on HLN. My episode “Body of Evidence” premieres June 30.
I directed two episodes of the series for Jigsaw Productions. This was my first foray into the true crime genre, which I’ve been following as a growing phenomenon over the past few years. Studies show that women consume the most media about true crime. There are many theories about why: whether it’s escapism or it’s a way to interact with our worst fears, many people are looking for reasons to why bad things happen. Death Row Stories premiered in 2014, and has since been at the forefront of true crime’s popularity exploring capital punishment in a way that’s more palatable for people who might not think they’re interested in social justice issues.