JESSICA YU, Director/Producer/Editor
Jessica Yu is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for BREATHING LESSONS: THE LIFE AND WORK OF MARK O'BRIEN, an intimate portrait of the writer who lived for four decades paralyzed by polio and confined to an iron lung. The film also won over 20 festival awards, including the IDA Achievement Award, the Audience Award at Aspen Shortsfest, and First Prize at the St. Petersburg International Film Festival, since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. She also won an Emmy and a Cable Ace Award for Best Documentary Director.
Yu's current documentary, PROTAGONIST, looks at extremism through the lives of a spectrum of individuals. Funded by Carr Foundation, it will premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Recently she also directed a story for HBO's upcoming documentary special, ADDICTION.
IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, Yu's celebrated feature documentary about the enigmatic "outsider" artist Henry Darger, debuted in competition at Sundance. REALMS won Best Documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Newport Beach Film Festival, Best Editing at the Atlanta Film Festival and a Gotham Award nomination for Best Documentary. She was also nominated for the Writers Guild Award for Documentary Screenplay. Released nationally by Wellspring Films and broadcast on PBS' independent documentary series, P.O.V., REALMS was nominated for P.O.V.'s first Primetime Emmy Award (Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking) and featured on several publications' 2004 "top ten" lists, including the Christian Science Monitor.
Yu's film THE LIVING MUSEUM, the award-winning HBO documentary about an art community in a New York mental institution, premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. Yu's narrative short BETTER LATE was the debut film for the fXM Shorts Series. It has been featured in 60 festivals since its premiere at Sundance 1997, and it won First Prize for Short Drama at the New York Festivals. Her other films include MEN OF REENACTION, a documentary about Civil War reenactors, for which she received grants from ITVS and NEA; the popular black & white short SOUR DEATH BALLS, which won several awards, including Best Live Action Short at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, was featured at Berlin, Sundance, Telluride, Toronto, San Francisco, Sydney and the national PBS series ALIVE TV; THE CONDUCTOR, a musical comedy short featuring Mark Salzman (IRON AND SILK) and the documentary HOME BASE, winner of several festival awards. She also directs commercials with Nonfiction Spots of Santa Monica, for which she has won a New York Emmy.
Yu has also written articles and fiction for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Buzz, Worth, and the Pacific News Service. She received the Murrow Award for Journalism from the Skeptics Society, the DREAM Media Award from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights and ACV's Asian American Media Award. She has lectured at various universities and conferences. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and a Yaddo Fellow. Yu graduated from Yale University, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, with a B.A. in English.
Yu is currently prepping to shoot her first narrative feature, a comedy she has co-written with Jimmy Tsai. It will be produced by Cherry Sky Films in early 2007.
ELISE PEARLSTEIN, Producer
Elise Pearlstein has been producing, writing and sometimes directing documentaries for over ten years, working often with Academy Award and Emmy Award winning filmmakers. Elise's work has aired on ABC, Bravo, HBO, MSNBC, NBC, PBS and in theaters and film festivals. Elise made her feature documentary directing debut with THE MILLION DOLLAR RECIPE which was called "a witty, observant piece of documentary filmmaking" and "terrific fun." The ninety-minute documentary follows seven contestants through that enduring American institution the Pillsbury Bake-Off where they compete for a million dollar grand prize. The film premiered on Bravo in May 2005.
Elise produced and wrote five prime-time documentaries for Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings, including the award-winning Brokaw special, YOUR KIDS, OUR SCHOOLS, TOUGH CHOICES and the critically acclaimed Peter Jennings' series, IN SEARCH OF AMERICA. Elise produced and co-wrote SMOKE & MIRRORS: A HISTORY OF DENIAL, a feature documentary about the tobacco industry's sordid history that made the short list for the 2000 Academy Awards and won the 2001 Prism Award. Her first documentary, the popular short film PINK'S FAMOUS CHILI DOGS, premiered at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and played frequently on PBS. PINK'S won the Silver Apple Award from the National Educational Media Network.
Prior to her non-fiction career, Elise was a feature film development executive for producers Douglas Wick and for Witt-Thomas Films.
SUSAN WEST, Producer
Susan West produced the highly acclaimed award winning film IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, directed by Jessica Yu. An inventive look at famed janitor and outsider artist Henry Darger, REALMS debuted in competition at Sundance 2004. REALMS won Best Documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival, a Gotham Award nomination for Best Documentary, and was on the short list for an Oscar nomination. Released nationally by Wellspring Films and broadcast on PBS' independent documentary series, P.O.V., REALMS was nominated for P.O.V.'s first Primetime Emmy Award in 2006 - Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking.
West most recently produced Jessica Yu's latest film PROTAGONIST, which looks at extremism through the lives of a spectrum of individuals. Funded by Carr Foundation, it will premiere in competition at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
Her film documentary work includes producing Eleanor Coppola's yet to be completed documentary project about food revolutionary Alice Waters.
Her television work includes producing a story for HBO's upcoming documentary special, ADDICTION, and associate producer on the HBO series TAXICAB CONFESSIONS. She was Unit Production Manager for the VH-1 hit series BEHIND THE MUSIC.
Prior to her work in film and television, West produced theater in New York and throughout Europe. She has collaborated with Robert Wilson, author Susan Sontag, the Blue Man Group, Bill Irwin, Laurie Anderson, the Wooster Group and actor/playwright Sam Shepard. For 5 years she was road manager for composer Philip Glass, circling the globe with the Philip Glass Ensemble 9 times. Her experience also includes serving as Producer for the United States Pavilion, at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan.
RUSSELL HARPER, Cinematographer
Russell Harper is an award-winning cinematographer based in Los Angeles whose work encompasses commercials, documentaries, music videos and films. Along with PROTAGONIST, his recent work includes commercials for AT&T, Kelloggs and Nike, and music videos for artists Jay-Z, Hawthorne Heights and the Assassins. He shot the opening title sequence for NIP/TUCK, a 2004 Emmy nominee, and his work has been included in the Cinematographers Guild Showcase for the film HOTEL SOAP. His previous collaboration with Jessica Yu was the documentary IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, a 2004 Sundance selection and Emmy nominee.
KARL HAHN, Cinematographer (puppet sequences)
A native of Philadelphia, Karl Hahn worked in film production for several years in New York City, eventually becoming a cinematographer. He now makes his home in Hollywood where he works regularly as a DP with a number of high-profile commercial companies, shooting for such directors as David McNamara and Nick Rafter. PROTAGONIST marks Karl's first foray into the documentary world. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts, he has also exhibited his work as a still photographer.
JEFF BEAL, Composer
Emmy award-winning composer Jeff Beal is a member of a new generation of American composers; fluent in the diverse languages of classical, jazz, electronic and world music. Beal has has scored over 50 projects for film and television, including Ed Harris' critically acclaimed directorial debut, POLLOCK; Jessica Yu's previous documentary IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL; HBO's CARNIVALE and their epic series, ROME; as well as theme and underscore for television series UGLY BETTY and MONK. Other recent projects include scores for the feature films WHERE GOD LEFT HIS SHOES (starring John Leguizamo), HE WAS A QUIET MAN (starring Christian Slater and William H. Macy), and director Phillip Haas' Iraq war drama THE SITUATION. Beal's concert music has been performed by many leading orchestras and conductors, including the St. Louis, Frankfurt, Munich, and Detroit Symphonies. Conductor Kent Nagano conducted the world premiere of two works; Interchange (recorded by the Turtle Island String Quartet and the Detroit Symphony) and Alternate Route (recorded by Nagano, the Berkeley Symphony and Beal as trumpet soloist).
JANIE GEISER, Puppet Designer
Janie Geiser is an internationally recognized theater artist and filmmaker. One of the pioneers of the recent renaissance of avant-garde puppet theater, Geiser has created innovative, hypnotic works which integrate puppets and performing objects with live performers and film.
A Guggenheim Fellow, Janie Geiser's theater works have toured nationally and internationally, and she has been recognized with numerous awards, including an Obie Award, an NEA Fellowship and a Rockefeller Fellowship. Her theater works have been presented at the Walker Art Center, the Public Theater, Redcat and MOCA, among other venues.
Geiser's films are "as extravagantly beautiful as they are difficult, and as allusive as they are elusive" (Cinemascope, Spring 2001). Her films have been presented at Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, Redcat in Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Her short films have premiered five times at the New York Film Festival's "Views from the Avant-Garde." Other major screenings include the Toronto, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Hong Kong and London film festivals, AFI, ALIVE TV, REEL NY, and other PBS venues. Her film THE SECRET STORY was chosen by Film Comment's Gavin Smith as one of the "Best Short Films of 1996," and THE FOURTH WATCH was on Film Comment's list of the" Best Short Films of 2000." Her most recent film, MAGNETIC SLEEP, premiered at the Getty Museum in October 2006.
Geiser is also a nationally recognized illustrator whose work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. Her book "The Tornado Treaty" is in the Artists Book Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and three of her films are in MoMA's film collection.