Kirsten Johnson Among the Inaugural Fellows Chosen for Harvard’s Documentary Initiative (EXCLUSIVE)

Documentary veterans Natalie Bullock Brown, Kirsten Johnson, Mary Lampson and Jacqueline Olive are the inaugural documentary film fellows for the documentary film in the public interest research initiative by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.

As the first cohort of doc film fellows, the foursome will join the center for the fall 2023 semester. There, each fellow will conduct research and do public education activities about questions facing the documentary film field and civic information.

Led by Shorenstein Center’s director Nancy Gibbs and doc filmmaker Sara Archambault, the initiative, which was established in March, will work to examine the challenges facing the documentary field and their impacts on civic life and information.

“In this challenging moment for media and our information ecosystem, we are excited that the Shorenstein Center can provide the support and infrastructure to drive renewed and creative thinking about complex issues in the documentary film space,” says Gibbs.

Archambault adds: “As the initiative considers the vital role of documentary film in our civic life, this group of fellows will advance research in documentary ethics, practices, pathways to audiences, and new directions for the field. This fellowship is carving a unique and much needed space for documentary film practitioners, leaders, and scholars to examine the field, ask the tough questions, and forge pathways forward.”

Inaugural Class of Fellows for Documentary Film Professionals and Scholars:

In 2020, Natalie Bullock Brown, a producer, help found the Documentary Accountability Working Group. Her producing credits includes Ken Burns’ 10-part PBS series, “Jazz” and Byron Hurt’s PBS documentary “Hazing.” Building off of the framework created by the Documentary Accountability Working Group, Bullock Brown will spend her fellowship time developing a curriculum for film and media education programs that focuses on the need for ethical and accountable storytelling in documentary filmmaking.

Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson is one of the only five percent of women members of the American Society of Cinematographers. Her camerawork appears in notable docus including “Citizen Four,” “The Invisible War,” and “Farenheit 9/11.” Her film “Dick Johnson Is Dead” premiered at Sundance 2020, where it won the Jury Prize for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling. The film also won the Primetime Emmy for directing. At the Shorenstein Center, Johnson will be working on a book project about how the internet has radically changed every person’s relationship to image-making and image-intake, and its implications for camera people. The project will investigate who films, why, under what constraints and in service of whom, with a particular eye toward the role of technology in contemporary moving image making.

As a docu editor Lampson has worked on “Harlan County, USA,” “Queen of Versailles,” “Crip Camp” and “The Disappearance of Shere Hite.” She has also produced and directed 25 short live-action films for “Sesame Street.” At the Shorenstein Center, Lampson will be working on a book about the art, craft, and ethics of documentary film editing, focusing on the thousands of small conscious and unconscious editing decisions that eventually create the story viewers see and the understanding they take away from a film.

Jacqueline Olive’s debut documentary film, “Always in Season” garnered the 2019 Sundance Festival Special Jury Prize for Moral Urgency and was broadcast on Independent Lens on PBS in 2020. In addition to creating the 2022 Peabody Award-winning VR project, “Always in Season Island,” Olive directed, produced, and wrote the 2021 Frontline film “Death is Our Business,” and executive produced and directed “Lincoln’s Dilemma,” an Emmy-nominated four-part Apple TV series. As a fellow at the Shorenstein Center, Jackie will be examining the new documentary distribution landscape that has reshaped the industry with the surge of on-demand content for streaming that began in 2020. Her project will provide analytical research and case studies mapping a quickly transforming documentary film industry.

In addition, filmmaker Tom Casciato, a Joan Shorenstein Fellow, and former Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam, a Walter Shorenstein fellow, will be working on documentary film-related research, and affiliated with the Documentary Film in the Public Interest initiative this semester.

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