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Tag Archives: documentary

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: 

“Media needs to help the public believe that women are where they belong. Lupita Nyong’o said, “No matter where you are, your dreams are valid.” 

Own your ambition.  Men have been doing that for centuries.”

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.

Clockwise from top left: Journalist and Moderator Natasha Del Toro, Birgitta Ohlsson (Director of Political Parties at the National Democratic Institute and former Swedish MP), H.E Hanna Tetteh (UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union), Tanya Saracho (playwright and television writer), and Sheila Nevins (Executive Producer at MTV Networks).
Up and at ’em at 6am when the panel spans 4 time zones: California, New York, Sweden and Ethiopia!
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Northern California Coast, 2020. Photo: Busy K

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

Amazing Grace, 2018.

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 Stories explores 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.

On the set of “Death Row Stories” for CNN.

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UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who came out last month to hear Annetta Marion and me talk about show running and directing. We had a blast sharing our stories with you.  Thank you New York Women in Film and Television for supporting women calling the shots!  Special thanks to Roz Murphy and Duana Butler for organizing the event at such a lovely space.

KOK and Annetta Marion, October 25, 2018. Photo: Katrina Medoff


This Thursday, October 25, I’ll be speaking with my friend and colleague Annetta Marion about directing and show running for nonfiction television.  For more information, see below.  It’s nearly sold out!

This intimate conversation between director/showrunner Annetta Marion and director/producer Kathryn O’Kane will highlight the unique roles and creative inspirations of directors and showrunners who bring stories to life on screen.  The discussion will give a behind ­the­ scenes look at the craft of filmmaking, explore culture and creativity in their body of work, as well as allow these producers to share their passions for the work, both on and off the screen. Read More

Death Row Stories, Bari Pearlman and Keith Davis. Photo credit – Bethany Dettmore.

I have been dying to write a blog about the growing demand for True Crime stories. From Serial, to The Jinx, to Making of a Murderer, nearly every outlet has an episodic investigative series. And now my friend Bari Pearlman and I have organized a panel discussion dedicated to the genre!  Bari, who has directed and produced two episodes of CNN Death Row Stories, will be joined by Kelly Laudenberg, creator of the Netflix series The Confession Tapes, and Stephanie Steele VP of current Production for Oxygen Media for an in-depth conversation about making crime stories that matter.  The panel will be moderated by journalist Andrea Marks. For more information about True Crime Stories: Relationships and Responsibilities on Wednesday Oct 25, 2017 at the Tribeca Film Center and to register, click here.    *This Q&A is published simultaneously on Huffington Post. Read More

I Am Not Your Negro – Review

James Baldwin, Associated Press.

James Baldwin, Associated Press.

The Oscar-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro” is a piercing film about writer, poet, and social critic James Baldwin. He was one of our most critical advocates for equality, and his work holds an essential place in the canon of American literature. The film finds its structure from Baldwin’s own words. Read by Samuel Jackson in the most understated performance of his career, those words have a renewed relevance today.  Back-to-back shows have run at the Film Forum this month. It’s one of the most important films you’ll see all year. Read More