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Northwestern School of Communication

Clayton Brown

Associate Professor of Instruction
Annie May Swift Hall
1920 Campus Drive
Room 317
Evanston, IL 60208
I’m a narrative and documentary filmmaker. My non-fiction work explores people pursuing passions and obsessions in our strange country, often in the face of insurmountable odds. My fiction work explores similar themes, often in the past or the future (often in science fiction), but sometimes in an unrecognizable present, with strange sounds and special effects.

Area(s) of Expertise

Cinema-Film, Directing, Documentary, Space Travel
Clayton Brown

Clayton Brown is a documentary and narrative filmmaker interested in exploring the stories that emerge when people pursuing their passions collide with the practicalities and realities of American culture, politics, and society. His last three documentary features were co-directed with Monica Long Ross. The Atom Smashers, about America’s search for the Higgs boson, won the Pariscience Audacity award and was broadcast on Independent Lens. The Believers, about the controversial 1989 announcement of Cold Fusion, won the Gold Hugo for Best Documentary at the Chicago International Film Festival as well as Best Documentary at the Maryland International Film Festival. The Believers is distributed by Gravitas Ventures and TVS. We Believe in Dinosaurs is about the building of a life-sized Noah’s Ark by the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky as they attempt to prove the Earth is only 6,000 years old. We Believe in Dinosaurs premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival as part of their “Launch” initiative, won Best Documentary at the St. Louis International Film Festival, and has a 91% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is distributed by 1091 and Cinephil, was broadcast on Independent Lens, and is available on Amazon Prime, iMovies, Vudu, and other platforms. PBS commissioned an additional short documentary from 137 Films on the Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate of 2014 for broadcast in March, 2021. Other screenings include AFI DOCS, DOC NYC, Docs Against Gravity, Cinequest, Docville, Bergen, Sidewalk, Hot Springs, The Southern Circuit, and Vancouver.

Brown’s documentary work has been covered in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Film International, Film Threat, and others.

Brown is in production on two new documentary features. Duneland is about life in the heavily polluted areas of East Chicago along the coast of Lake Michigan, where political and environmental corruption led to the building of minority and low-income communities in and around the most toxic areas in the country. We The People Ride follows a progressive evangelical pastor from Minnesota as he rides a bicycle along the entire US/Mexico border, gathering stories about migrants, immigrants, and the people and agencies who help them in order to challenge the political beliefs of faith-based voters, hoping to overturn current US policies towards asylum-seekers.

Clayton’s fiction work focuses on science fiction, supernatural, historical science, and other strangeness and oddities. His film Galileo’s Grave won the Chicago IFP Production Fund and Best Short film at the Albany and Lake Michigan Film Festivals. He is currently in production on Pere Marquette, about a woman whose dreams and sleepwalks are inhabited by a dead boy’s ghost. He is interested in practical and digital special effects, including miniatures, green screen, camera tricks, and strange perspectives.


  • MFA, Northwestern University
  • MA, English, University of Missouri
  • BA, William Jewell College

Recent Awards, Honors and Grants

  • 2023 Faculty Research Grant, Northwestern University, Pere Marquette
  • 2024 Alumnae Grant, LED Video Wall
  • 2019 Best Documentary, St. Louis Film Festival, We Believe in Dinosaurs
  • 2017 Faculty Research Grant, Northwestern University, The Darkening Sun
  • 2013 Best Narrative Short, Albany Film Festival, Galileo’s Grave
  • 2012 Best Short Film, East Lansing Film Festival, Galileo’s Grave
  • 2012 Gold Hugo for Best Documentary, Chicago International Film Festival, The Believers
  • 2012 Best Documentary, Maryland International Film Festival
  • 2009 Silver Award, Austin International Film Festival, The Atom Smashers
  • 2009 Grant, Arts Fund, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 137 Films
  • 2009 Audacity Award, Pariscience Film Festival, Paris, The Atom Smashers
  • 2008 Grant, Illinois Arts Council, 137 Films
  • 2006 IFP Production Fund Winner, Galileo’s Grave
  • 2003 Finalist, IFP New York, I Will If You Will
  • 2003 Marshall Filmmaker’s Award, Northwestern University
  • 2003 Presidential Fellowship, Northwestern University


  • RTVF 552: Narrative Techniques
  • RTVF 476: Advanced Cinematography
  • RTVF 472: Advanced Editing
  • RTVF 379: Special Effects Cinematography
  • RTVF 379: Science Fiction Production
  • RTVF 378: Science Fiction Post-Production
  • RTVF 372: Editing
  • RTVF 379: Senior Directing
  • RTVF 378 Motion Graphics