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Making Documentaries That Matter

  • Kumble Theater, LIU Brooklyn 1 University Plaza Brooklyn, NY, 11201 United States (map)

Great documentaries expand our understanding of the world around us and raise awareness of the most pressing issues of our time. With compelling storytelling, and successful marketing and distribution, documentaries can initiate major societal change. Award-winning filmmakers share what drives them and how they make documentaries that matter.

Kumble Theater, LIU Brooklyn
1 University Plaza
(Flatbush Ave. at DeKalb Ave. & Willoughby St.)


Presented with the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment and Kumble Theater, LIU Brooklyn


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Antonino D’Ambrosio is an award-winning author, producer, director, musician and visual artist. His previous books include A Heartbeat and A Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears and Let Fury Have the Hour: Joe Strummer, Punk, and the Movement that Shook the World and Mayday, a collaboration with artist Shepard Fairey. D’Ambrosio also produced, wrote, and directed the documentaries We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited (Sony/PBS/Kino Lorber), Soundhunters (ARTE) Let Fury Have the Hour (Kino-Lorber), Frank Serpico (IFC Sundance Selects). His films have played theatrically here and abroad and have been broadcast on BBC, RAI, Sky, SBS, ARTE, Sundance Channel/AMC Networks, RTL, CBC, and more around the world.

D’Ambrosio is the creator, producer, director and writer of many films and documentaries and several upcoming docuseries including The Play (Executive Produced by the NBA), Inside the Touchline (with Madica Productions), The Magic Box: Broadway’s Great Revivals (Sony Masterworks), and The World’s Greatest Art Heists (ARTE). He is currently producing a feature documentary on musician Ani DiFranco and producing/directing a feature documentary on music legend Roberta Flack. D’Ambrosio was a Dean's Scholar at New York University, Artist-in-Residence at the Contemporary Art Museum in Santa Fe, Artist-in-Residence at Long Island University, and Gallatin Lecturer at New York University, an honor bestowed upon a contemporary artist creating innovative and social engaging work. In 2017, became the first artist ever to win the Pilar Human Rights Award for his film Frank Serpico and his commitment to civil and human rights. D’Ambrosio’s most recent book is A Kiss to the Land , a collaborative with Haitian poet Denize Latoure, and his upcoming book is Close Your Eyes and Sing! Duke Ellington and Jean-Michel Basquait’s America. He is the founder and executive director of the production non-profit La Lutta NMC (


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Blair Foster is a filmmaker who won two Emmys for her work on the Academy Award winning film, Taxi to the Dark Side as well as an Emmy for Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World. She recently directed and produced The Clinton Affair, a six-part series for A&E. In 2017 she directed and produced, along with Alex Gibney, Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge for HBO. She also produced the Netflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Foster produced the Emmy nominated Sinatra: All or Nothing at All and the Peabody Award winning Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown both directed by Alex Gibney. She is the Executive Producer of The History of the Eagles as well as We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. In 2012 Foster produced Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, part of the Peabody Award winning International Why Poverty series. She is the co-creator and director of The Conversation, eight short films about race published by the New York Times Op-Doc series. The inaugural short, “A Conversation with My Black Son” won the AFI audience award in 2015. 


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Antonio (Tony) Rossi was born in southern Italy and was raised in South Philadelphia. He began his career as a still photographer. After graduate study in anthropology and ethnographic film, and training in narrative film and television, he has focused on documentary. During the past 20 years, Tony has shot numerous documentary films and television productions for HBO, Showtime, PBS, Vice, National Geographic, Bravo, ABC, A&E, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, MTV, and TruTV. Specifically, he has served as the Director of Photography on numerous Jigsaw projects, including most recently, “The Inventor,” “The Clinton Affair,” “Divide and Conquer,” “Zero Days,” and seasons 4 and 5 of “Death Row Stories.”

Tony’s cinematography has also been featured in numerous films directed by Stanley Nelson, including the recent “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” “Tell Them We are Rising,” and “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”. He has also photographed Leonardo DiCaprio and Fisher Stevens’ climate change documentary, “Before the Flood”; HBO’s “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing,” directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, and he served as Director of Photography for Charles Ferguson’s first film, “No End in Sight,” which won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2007. Other directors Tony has shot for include Leslie Iwerks, Richard Hankin, and Jesse Moss, Ken Burns, Barbara Kopple, and Edet Belzberg.


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Betsy West is the director/producer of the Oscar© nominated documentary RBG (Magnolia, Participant, CNN Films, 2018) along with Julie Cohen. She is a 21-time Emmy Award winner for her work as an ABC News producer and executive producer of the documentary series Turning Point. As vice president at CBS News from 1998 to 2005, she oversaw 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. After joining Storyville Films in 2007, she executive produced the MAKERS (AOL & PBS, 2012) documentary and digital series, the short doc The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem (Epix, 2016) and the feature documentary The Lavender Scare (PBS, 2017). A graduate of Brown University, she is the Fred W. Friendly professor at Columbia Journalism School.

Moderator: Cynthia López, Executive Director, New York Women in Film and Television

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Cynthia López leads the preeminent professional association for women in film, television and digital media in New York City, NYWFT. She is an award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, where she implemented strategies to support film and TV production throughout the five boroughs. Prior to working as Commissioner, López was Executive Vice President and co-Executive Producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series American Documentary | POV, and is the recipient of many coveted industry awards including: 11 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Special Emmy Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, three Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia Awards, and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Award for Commitment to Corporate Diversity.

Earlier Event: September 19
On Location: The Tamron Hall Show
Later Event: September 27
On Location: Bustle