Northwestern inspired a curiosity in me about the world, and the stories of everyday people. It was this curiosity that led me to Africa as a writer/photographer for NGOs working in the Rwandan refugee camps after the 1994 genocide, and it was this experience that led me to pursue documentary filmmaking, so that I could better tell others' stories.

Heather Courtney (J89), director of the 2012 Emmy award winning PBS/POV documentary Where Soldiers Come From

One of the great things about being in school, you meet professors and people who are hoping to help you figure things out, and they become mentors and people who are just there to support you. Great connections in “THE” film world. That has helped me tremendously in my career.

Maria Finitzo (GC08), two-time Peabody Award-winning social-issue documentary filmmaker; producer, associate, and board member, Kartemquin Films

Northwestern was artistically nurturing and also filled with very ambitious students. The nurturing part helped me to discover my interests and find my voice, while the competitive environment prepared me to fight for my place in the “real world.”

Lotti Pharriss Knowles (C92), producer, Chastity Bites, I Am Divine, Weirdsmobile Productions

Northwestern provided me with a well-rounded education that spurred me to think outside the box creatively and find my voice as a filmmaker. . . the specific studies I undertook in Radio/TV/Film helped me not only learn the technical aspects of film and video, but also enabled me to think critically about the world around me and planted the seeds for my later interest in the issues I came to focus on in my Hurricane Katrina documentary, "A Bridge Life: Finding Our Way Home."

Josh Grossberg (C96), senior entertainment reporter, E! Online

Chicago is an incredible city with so much diversity and so much change always happening. There are thousands of stories to be explored in and around the city and the support of the community is outrageous.

Jac Reyno (C12), codirector and coproducer of Language of the Unheard, named the Best Student Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival American Pavilion, which she made while at Northwestern.

I can go to a studio or to a network, or to the theater, or in the film world, and there’s always a comfort level because I’ll find someone there I knew from school. They’re everywhere.

Margaret Nagle (C83), supervising producer of Boardwalk Empire and Emmy-winning screenwriter; her TV movie Warm Springs is based on facts from the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her new feature is The Good Lie: The Lost Boys of the Sudan, with Reese Witherspoon.

I was able to build very strong professional and personal relationships through the peers I worked with in school, not only in my graduating class, but those in the program . . . Ultimately those relationships greatly influenced where I moved when I graduated, as well as the people I collaborate and work with on a daily basis.

Travis LaBella (C11), coproducer and ASC Award-winning cinematographer of Language of the Unheard, named the Best Student Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival American Pavilion, which was made at Northwestern.

In the world of social issue documentary, finishing and screening the film is just half the challenge. Most content that utilizes traditional methods of distribution (TV, theatrical screenings) now has complimentary web-based components, and audiences have come to expect it. Filmmakers can no longer ignore the interconnectedness of our society today, where transmedia projects are necessary to engage audience members to take action beyond the film’s screening. Interactive storytelling will add to the film consumption experience and give the audience an even deeper understanding and connection to the subject matter.

Shuling Yong (C09), founder of Media for Social Change and associate producer for In the Game, a documentary-in-progress by Kartemquin Films

Northwestern is a massive institution with tons of other programs and opportunities for stimulus. If you wanted to do a documentary on groundbreaking developments in neurology, it’s not like you have to travel a thousand miles to find someone who knows something about what you want to do. Northwestern likely has the experts you need to help you prepare for your documentary.

Martin Rodahl (C08), documentary director and founder of 71 Degrees North

The friendships I formed at school when I first entered Northwestern in 1992 are still going strong today. I’ve collaborated with many of my RTVF peers in subsequent projects postgraduation, and several of them have been instrumental in terms of my own creative development.

Josh Grossberg (C96), senior entertainment reporter, E! Online

Northwestern teaches technically sound filmmaking but, more importantly, encourages all students to find their unique voice as a filmmaker. Professors push you to develop cutting-edge stories that only you can tell because of the experiences and perspective you bring to the table.

Karen Fisher (GC13)

Follow on Twitter Logo
Like on Facebook Logo