Skip to main content

Debra Tolchinsky
Associate Professor; Associate Chair
Email:
debtolchinsky@northwestern.edu
Department(s):
Radio/Television/Film

Debra Tolchinsky

Debra Tolchinsky, associate chair and associate professor of Radio-TV-Film, is a documentary filmmaker and curator and was the founding director of the MFA in Documentary Media program. Her work has been seen at such venues as the Sundance Film Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center, the Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Supreme Court Institute (followed by a panel that included Brett Kavanaugh). As a curator, Debra co-curated The Horror Show at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door at the Block Museum, and The Presence of Absence sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Council. As a documentarian, she directed and produced the feature Fast Talk concerning competitive college debate. Fast Talk won Best Documentary at the LA Femme International Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, and has been spotlighted in the Chicago Tribune, the National Law Journal, the Onion A.V. Club, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2017-18, Debra received a year-long Alice B. Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship for her (in process) feature documentary True Memories and Other Falsehoods (TMOF), and she ranked No. 7 on New City’s Film 50: Chicago Screen Gems. TMOF concerns contaminated memory and false internalized belief in relation to criminal justice. TMOF is currently in development with Kartemquin Films. Debra joined the Northwestern faculty in 2006 and won a Clarence Simon Award for Teaching Excellence in 2010. She received an AB from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Education

MFAPainting, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
BAFilm/Video Production, USC School of Cinema-Television

Recent Awards and Honors

2017

Invited speaker at Chicago Humanities Festival/17: Belief regarding True Memories and Other Falsehoods. In conversation with WBEZ Film commentator, Milos Stehlik.

No. 7 on New City’s Film 50 2017 Chicago’s Screen Gems.

Recipient of a year long Alice B. Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship for her (in process) documentary feature, True Memories and Other Falsehoods.

2015No. 8 on New City’s Film 50 2015 Chicago’s Screen Gems.
2013

Contemporary Art Council grant to co-curate “The Presence of Absence”, Hairpin Art Center, Chicago, IL. Described by the Chicago Tribune as “a remarkable group exhibition” and by Chicago magazine as “One of the best art gallery shows in Chicago right now”

Selected, Associated Student Government’s Faculty Honor Roll

2012

Best Documentary Feature Award for Fast Talk, Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, Chagrin, OH.

Best Documentary Award for Fast Talk, Iowa Film Festival, June 25, 2012, Quad Cities, IA.

Nomination Winter Film Award for Fast Talk, Documentary Competition, Winter Film Award Festival, February 10- 12, 2012, New York, NY.

2011

Platinum Reel Award for Fast Talk, Documentary Film Competition, Nevada Film Festival, December 3, 2011, Las Vegas, Nev.

Best Documentary Award for Fast Talk, LA Femme International Film Festival, October 13-16, 2011, Los Angeles, CA.

Award of Excellence for Fast Talk, The Indie Fest, La Jolla, CA.

Award of Merit for Fast Talk (editing), The Indie Fest, La Jolla, CA.

Award of Merit given to Fast Talk for excellent creative and technical artistry, Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood.

Award of Merit given to Fast Talk for exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, The Accolade Competition, La Jolla, CA.

2010Clarence Simon Award for Teaching and Mentoring
2009Co-Curator, The Horror Show, Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, New York City (www.dorsky.org), chosen as a “Voice Choice for Art” by The Village Voice
2008

Award of Excellence, exhibit catalogue for “The Horror Show,” (Tolchinsky/Tolchinsky) and chosen for inclusion in the UCDA Design Show.

Top Award of Artistic Merit for Smoke and Mirrors I, video installation, University Film and Video Conference, new media exhibit, “Ideas in Mediation.”

2007

Grant, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts

Grant, The Center for Global Culture and Communication

2006

Grant, The Center for Global Culture and Communication

Nominee, Program for New Media Artists, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation

2004Nominee, The Richard Driehaus Foundation’s Individual Artist Award
2003Nominee, Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Golden Reel Awards

Courses

RTVF 392Documentary Production
RTVF 394Experimental Film and Video Production
RTVF 379Horror Production
RTVF 379Finishing
RTVF 475Introduction to Graduate Production
RTVF 551Documentary Techniques
RTVF 555Doc Thesis II