The Filmmakers

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman – Directors, Writers, and Producers

Jeffrey Friedman (left) &Rob Epstein (right)

Renowned in the independent film world, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are among the most honored directors, writers, and producers.  Between them, they have received two Academy Awards®, multiple Emmy Awards ®, three Peabody Awards, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Through their company Telling Pictures, their documentary features include: COMMON THREADS: STORIES FROM THE QUILT (Academy Award® for Documentary Feature); WHERE ARE WE?; THE CELLULOID CLOSET (Emmy Award ® for Directing); and PARAGRAPH 175 (Directing Award, Sundance Film Festival ).  Rob and Jeffrey were also fellows at the Sundance Institute Writer’s Lab with their screenplay for HOWL, which marks their move into scripted narrative.   Soon thereafter, the film was shot on location in New York City in just 14 days.

Rob Epstein directed the groundbreaking documentary, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK, for which he received his first Academy Award®; Criterion Collection will be releasing it in 2011. Prior to that, Rob was one of six filmmakers in the Mariposa Film Group, the entity responsible for the landmark documentary WORD IS OUT.  Rob has taught in the graduate film program at Tisch School for the Arts at New York University, and is currently Chair of the Film Program at California College of the Arts, where he is also a professor.  He is the recipient of the Pioneer Award from the International Documentary Association for career achievement.

Jeffrey Friedman began his career in the editing rooms of such landmark films as RAGING BULL and THE EXORCIST. He has taught in the graduate program at Stanford University and at California College of the Arts.

Career retrospectives of Epstein’s and Friedman’s work have been held at museums and film festivals worldwide, including the Institute of Contemporary Art in London and at the Taipei International Film Festival in Taiwan.

Elizabeth Redleaf – Producer

Elizabeth Redleaf’s love of film and process, combined with her ability to make wheels turn, has led her to co-found Werc Werk Works, a film pro­duction company built on a vision of supporting artists and rewarding its profit partners. She recently completed production on LIFE DURING WARTIME written and directed by award-winning auteur Todd Solondz and starring Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, CIarán Hinds, Charlotte Rampling, Paul Reubens, and Ally Sheedy. She is also an Executive Producer on the new Béla Tarr film THE TURIN HORSE (in production) and the comedy NOBODY directed by Rob Perez (40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS). Elizabeth has also been a force in film as a sponsor of the Telluride Film Festival, The Walker Art Center’s Women in Vision International Film Festival, and the Provincetown Film Festival. She founded and co-chairs the Walker Art Center Film Society with Bill Pohlad of River Road Productions and serves on the IFP Minnesota Advisory Board.

Christine Kunewa Walker – Producer

Christine Kunewa Walker is an award-winning producer, and co-founder and president of Werc Werk Works. She is producer of LIFE DURING WARTIME, a Todd Solondz film. She is executive producer on the new Béla Tarr film THE TURIN HORSE (in production) and producer of the recently completed comedy NOBODY directed by Rob Perez (40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS). Walker also co-wrote and produced OLDER THAN AMERICA, starring Adam Beach and Bradley Cooper, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival; produced FACTOTUM starring Matt Dillon, Lily Taylor, and Marisa Tomei, which premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and the 2006 Sundance Film Festival; and line produced AMERICAN SPLENDOR, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance film Festival and the International Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Christine’s awards and recognitions include the Producer’s Guild of America Diversity Award, an Independent Spirit Award nomination, Sundance Institute’s Producer’s Fellowship, and the Minnesota Blockbuster Film Fund Award.

Gus Van Sant – Executive Producer

Gus Van Sant is a filmmaker who is capable of crafting both deeply unconventional independent films and mainstream crowd-pleasers. He is perhaps best known for directing GOOD WILL HUNTING with Robin Williams, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck. Van Sant was nominated for a Best Director Oscar® in 1998 (Williams won for Best Actor, as did and Damon and Affleck for Best Original Screenplay). His most recent film MILK garnered an Academy Award® nomination for Best Director, and the Oscars® for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black).

Van Sant’s credits include DRUGSTORE COWBOY with Matt Dillon and MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix, both Independent Spirit Award winners. His exploration of the Columbine killings in ELEPHANT earned Best Director recognition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, where it also received the festival’s highest award, the Palme d’Or. Van Sant was also awarded the Palme d’Or for his films PARANOID PARK (2007) and LAST DAYS (2005). Other Van Sant films include TO DIE FOR with Nicole Kidman (Golden Globe® Award) and FINDING FORRESTER with Sean Connery.

Short films include an adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ short story THE DISCIPLINE OF D.E. (1982), and Allen Ginsberg reading his poem BALLAD OF THE SKELETONS to the music of Paul McCartney and Philip Glass, which premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Van Sant has directed music videos for David Bowie, Elton John, Hanson, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In 1992, he received the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon’s Freedom of Expression Award for films that have “let us see inside the lives of individuals we don’t often get a glimpse at.”

Jawal Nga – Executive Producer

Jawal Nga founded the New York City-based film production company Tiny Dancer Films in 2003. He most recently produced LAST CHANCE HARVEY starring Dustin Hoffman and Emily Thompson.  He previously produced two films for director Ira Sachs: MARRIED LIFE, starring Pierce Brosnan, Rachel McAdams, Patricia Clarkson, and Chris Cooper; AND FORTY SHADES OF BLUE, which won the 2005 Sundance Film Festival’s Dramatic Grand Jury prize.

Tiny Dancer Films is also currently developing adaptations of Michael Ignatieff’s novel CHARLIE JOHNSON IN THE FLAMES and Daniel Pinkwater’s young-adult novel LIZARD MUSIC.

Nga was raised in Tripoli, Libya, and London. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1996.

Eric Drooker – Animation Designer

Eric Drooker is a third-generation New Yorker, born and raised on Manhattan Island. His paintings are seen on the covers of The New Yorker and in The Nation, Village Voice, Newsweek, and the New York Times’ Op-Ed Page. He is the author of FLOOD! A NOVEL IN PICTURES (New York Times’ Notable Book, American Book Award, 1994), BLOOD SONG: A SILENT BALLAD, and ILLUMINATED POEMS, in collaboration with Allen Ginsberg.

Drooker’s work as a lyrical novelist is delivered without words, inheriting the mantle of Frans Masereel, the great practitioner of the graphic novel, a politically engaged Belgian Expressionist whose works began appearing shortly after World War I.

Art Spiegelman said in the New York Times, “The idiom [of the novel in pictures] has been favored by socially and politically impassioned artists, and Mr. Drooker…is firmly in that tradition.” FLOOD! takes place in the dehumanizing world of a Biblically punished New York; BLOOD SONG moves from a pastoral world to a modern metropolis, exploring the role of the individual in nature and society. Andrew Arnold wrote in TIME magazine, “Eric Drooker’s elegiac, spiritual, and political Blood Song has no current peer. Written in a language that anyone can understand, exploring themes of universal interest, Drooker continues Masereel’s profoundly democratic artwork.”

Allen Ginsberg collected Drooker’s work for over a decade before initiating a collaboration that included HOWL in its entirety. ILLUMINATED POEMS unites visionaries of different generations. As Ginsberg wrote, “I was flattered that so radical an artist of later generations found the body of my poetry still relevant, even inspiring…Drooker’s old Poe hallucinations of beauteous deathly reality transcend political hang-up and fix our present American dreams.” They still do.