Our students have taken master classes, attended events, and rubbed shoulders with documentary luminaries such as Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies), Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing), Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson), Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro), and Yance Ford (Strong Island). And next generation filmmakers like Lyric Cabral ((T)error), Nicolás Pereda (Summer of Goliath), Lisandro Alonso (Jauja), Athina Rachel Tsangari (Chevalier), Margaret Brown (The Great Invisible), Chris Brown (Fanny, Annie & Dannie), Penny Lane (Our Nixon), Patrick Bresnan & Ivette Lucas (Rabbit Hunt), Tala Hadid (House in the Fields), Gu Tao (The Last Moose of Aoluguya), Jennifer Reeder (Signature Move), Annie Silverstein (Skunk), Stephen Maing (Crime & Punishment), PJ Raval (Call Her Ganda), Oscar nominee Bing Liu (Minding the Gap), Assai Boundaoui (The Feeling of Being Watched) have visited our classes and shared their work with us. Interviews with a number of visiting artists are featured on our program’s YouTube channel. We are able to host many of these artists due to the generous support of the Hoffman Visiting Artist Fund.
Past & Visiting Faculty
In addition to Northwestern faculty, we also invite highly regarded practitioners to teach specialized courses on topics such as pre-production, editing, or outreach and distribution strategies.
Michael Attie (former faculty)
Mike Attie’s feature documentary In Country had its world premiere at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and international premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto. Attie’s previous work has shown at major film festivals including SilverDocs, San Francisco International and the Black Maria Film + Video Festival. He is a 2013 Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow and was named one of The Independent‘s “10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014.” Attie is now Assistant Professor at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was the first Associate Director of our MFA in Documentary Media program.
Award-winning filmmaker Margaret Byrne, directed and produced Raising Bertie (POV 2017), a feature documentary following the lives of three African American boys growing up in rural North Carolina. Some of her previous credits include All the Queen’s Horses (2017) and Emmy-nominated American Promise (POV 2013). She was previously a creative director at Universal Music and directed live concerts and music videos for artists such as Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige. In 2005, Byrne produced and edited the series that launched MTV across Africa. Byrne is an adjunct professor at Columbia College and an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University. She lives in Chicago with her daughter Violet and is the founder of Beti Films.
Maria Finitzo is a two-time Peabody Award-winning social-issue documentary filmmaker. She has been producing and directing documentaries for network television, public broadcasting, and cable TV for more than 25 years. Maria is a 2007 Sundance Documentary Fellow and her films have won major broadcast awards and garnered extensive grant support from both private and government foundations. Her documentaries include 5 Girls, Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, In the Game, and the fiction feature film Those Left Behind.
Yoni Goldstein is an Israeli-born, Chicago-based filmmaker, installation artist, and cinematographer whose experimental cinema and video artworks explore sacred sites, landscapes, and systems. He has gone on to work on a number of nonfiction films concerning body and power: from examining hybridized healing practices in the Northern Andes (La Curación), to life sentences for children in US prisons (Natural Life), to large-scale tableaux of historical and somatic memory (The Jettisoned). His cinematography works have been selected for The Cannes Film Festival, South by Southwest, The Whitney Biennial, Oslo Architecture Triennale, and the Criterion online collection. Yoni’s directorial works have exhibited in numerous international festivals and galleries, including Festival International du Film Ethnographique du Québec, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Hot Springs Film Festival, Hot Docs Digital Doc Shop, Globians Doc Fest Berlin, and is collected in the US National Library of Science. He is currently working as a full-time filmmaker and co-founder of Mass Ornament Films, an international collaborative of award-winning filmmakers and visual artists. Mass Ornament Films recently premiered a new feature, “They”, at the Cannes Film Festival 2017, and released its latest short film, Needle, on Filmstruck. Mass Ornament Films’ most recent narrative feature, House of Hummingbird was awarded the Grand Prix at the Berlin Film Festival in 2019. In 2018, he was selected as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces” of independent cinema.
Tim Horsburgh is the Director of Communications and Distribution for Chicago’s legendary production company Kartemquin Films. He has led audience building campaigns for award-winning films including Life Itself, The Interrupters, The Homestretch, Almost There, No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, and many more. His distribution strategies for these films have included top-tier festival premieres; domestic and international theatrical releases, domestic and international broadcasts, worldwide digital releases, as well as the development of impact campaigns that have reached millions of viewers and organizations.
Steve James previous work includes Hoop Dreams, winner of every major critics prize and a Directors Guild of America Award, a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Award. Other award winning films include Sundance winner, Stevie; International Documentary Association winning miniseries The New Americans; The Interrupters, which won an Emmy, Independent Spirit Award, and the DuPont Columbia Journalism Award; and the Emmy-winning Life Itself, named the best documentary of 2014 by over a dozen critics associations, including The Critic’s Choice Awards, The National Board of Review, and The Producers Guild of America. His most recent film, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, earned James a fourth Directors Guild of America nomination, won a Critics Choice Award and an Emmy, and was nominated for an Academy Award, James’ second. His Starz docuseries, America to Me premiered at Sundance and is one of the most acclaimed TV shows of 2018.
Bill Siegel had more than 20 years of experience in documentary filmmaking and education. He directed the Emmy Award-winning The Trials of Muhammad Ali and co-directed the Academy Award-nominated The Weather Underground; was a researcher on the documentary films Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story and Hoop Dreams; and was a writer on One Love, a documentary on the cultural history of basketball by Leon Gast (When We Were Kings).
David E. Simpson
David E. Simpson is a documentary filmmaker with three decades of experience. Films he has produced, directed or edited have garnered three national Emmys, a pair of Peabody awards, two DuPont-Columbia batons, an Oscar nomination and best in category at countless festivals. His feature-length directorial debut, When Billy Broke His Head, was a trailblazing film about disability culture that won a jury award at Sundance. Milking The Rhino, a study of community-based conservation in Africa, aired and took top festival honors on six continents. Other directing credits include Refrigerator Mothers, about the tragedy of professionally-promoted mother-blame for autism; and Hard Earned, a limited TV series for Al Jezeera America about getting by on low wages. David deems editing the core of documentary practice and has split his time between cutting and directing/producing. Recent editing credits include the Oscar-nominated Abacus: Small Enough to Jail; Judith Helfand’s Cooked: Survival by Zip Code; the critically lauded America to Me, a 10-part series on education and race; Steve James’ biopic on Roger Ebert, Life Itself; and Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise for American Experience. David received a BA in Philosophy and an MFA in Filmmaking. He has taught film at the University of Minnesota, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University.
Lindsay Utz is a documentary film editor. Her most recent film, Quest (dir. Jonathan Olshefski), is a longitudinal portrait of a family from North Philadelphia, ten years in the making. Quest premiered at Sundance in 2017 to critical acclaim. The film went on to win top prizes at multiple festivals, and critic Amy Taubin did a cover story on it for Artforum. Quest will have its 2018 television broadcast on POV. Lindsay is currently nominated for a Cinema Eye Honors editing award for her work on the film. Her other credits include the Oscar-shortlisted Bully (Tribeca FF 2011), First Position (TIFF 2011), Buoy (Ashland FF 2013), In Country (Full Frame 2014), two Emmy-nominated FRONTLINE episodes (PBS 2015/2016) and multiple shorts for the New York Times. Lindsay’s current project, with Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, is in post-production.
J. Christian Jensen (former faculty)
J. Christian Jensen is a filmmaker and educator whose storytelling often explores the tensions between political ideology, science, religion, modernization and traditional values. His recent work has screened broadly, winning over a dozen jury awards. His Academy Award®-nominated film, White Earth (2014), played at over 50 festivals around the world as well as universities such as Stanford, Yale, UC Berkeley, Duke, and Brown. As a speaker, Jensen has lectured at schools, community groups, and universities and he has also addressed audiences at TEDx. Jensen’s credits as an editor include: the Netflix Original non-fiction series, Last Chance U (2016), about a junior college football team in “middle-of-nowhere” Mississippi attempting to claim the national championship; Out Run (2016), a documentary feature following the world’s first LGBT political party in the Philippines as they campaign for a seat in congress; and the upcoming True Conviction (2017), about a Dallas detective agency run by a group of exonerated men that now fight to get other innocent men released from prison. Jensen is a graduate of Stanford University’s Documentary Film M.F.A. program and was based in the San Francisco Bay Area until his recent move to the Chicago area.
Meredith Zielke is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and editor, whose work offers multiply situated interpretations of social systems, body and conflict. She works mainly in experimental features and large scale installation. Meredith has worked on a number of socially critical film projects: from labor history, social control, and futurist UFO cults in Brazil (“A Machine to Live In”), to explorations of somatic memory and crypto-Judaic identities in Mexico City (“The Jettisoned”), hybridized healing practices in the Northern Andes (“La Curación”), juvenile life without parole sentencing (“Natural Life”), race relations, law enforcement and criminal justice reform in Chicago (“Present Absence”), juvenile life without parole sentencing (“Natural Life”), and reconciliation through Jewish and Arab dialogue (“Zeitouna: Refusing to be Enemies”). Meredith also worked in public radio, having been a Chicago producer at StoryCorps and WBEZ’s Vocalo 89FM. Her films have showed in numerous national and international festivals, conferences, galleries, educational institutions and community centers. Awards include: The SFFILM 2017 Documentary Film Fund, Graham Foundation Grant to Individuals, the Filmmaker Fund Grant, Espera Productions Grant (Luxembourg), Gelman Travel Fellowship, PBS Silvers Award for Independent Film; Invited participant: DOK Incubator (Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia), IFP Documentary Labs, Spotlight on Documentaries at IFP’s Independent Film Week Forum (2015, 2018), and Featured filmmaker at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Meredith is an alum of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (BA 2004), and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA 2010). She currently teaches at SAIC in the Film, Video, New Media and Animation department.