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Pull Focus: Heather Courtney

Heather Courtney is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Austin, Texas. She has produced several films for PBS, including "Letters from the Other Side", which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2006 and screened at the South by Southwest International Film Festival (SXSW), as well as other film festivals. Heather also organized over 20 grassroots screenings with churches, schools, and community centers all over Texas. In Fall 2006, LETTERS was broadcast on over 60 PBS stations across the country.

Her previous film, "Los Trabajadores/The Workers", won the Audience Award at SXSW in 2001 and an International Documentary Association award, and was broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens.

In her most recent film, "Where Soldiers Come From", Heather returned to her hometown in northern Michigan to follow the lives of a group of 20-year-old friends before, during and after their National Guard deployment to Afghanistan. The 2012 Independent Spirit awards recognized "Where Soldiers Come From" with the "Truer than Fiction" honor.

(Photo and Biography adapted from New Day Films)


Pull Focus: Suzan Beraza

Founder of Reel Thing, Suzan Beraza's films have appeared on national public television in the United States, and at many festivals, winning top awards at Worldfest, Montreal Film Festival, and Mountainfilm in Telluride, among others. Previous films include Life's A Beach, American Outrage, Blue Planet Run, Water, A Clear Solution and Troubled Waters: The Dilemma of Dams.

Beraza's latest film, "Bag It," follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he tries to make sense of our dependence on plastic bags. Although his quest starts out small, Jeb soon learns that the problem extends past landfills to oceans, rivers and ultimately human health. The average American uses about 500 plastic bags each year, for about twelve minutes each. This single-use mentality has led to the formation of a floating island of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean more than twice the size of Texas. The film explores these issues and identifies how our daily reliance on plastic threatens not only waterways and marine life, but human health, too. Two of the most common plastic additives are endocrine disruptors, which have been shown to link to cancer, diabetes, autism, attention deficit disorder, obesity and infertility.


Pull Focus: Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion

Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion

Eric Strauss has been creating documentary films for more than a decade, shooting, writing and producing for broadcasters such as National Geographic, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, and A&E. For National Geographic Explorer, Eric directed, shot and produced Heroin Crisis, about the global trail of Afghan heroin, as well as Iraq's Guns for Hire, a profile of the private security industry in Iraq. Eric also directed and produced for Hard Time, an Emmy-nominated prison series that premiered on the National Geographic Channel in March 2009. The Redemption of General Butt Naked is his first feature film.

Daniele Anastasion has worked regularly on documentaries for National Geographic, including the Emmy-nominated Inside the Body Trade. She directed and produced KKK: Inside American Terror for The National Geographic Channel and has also produced and shot for Frontline/WORLD. She also produced for Hard Time, an Emmy-nominated prison series for National Geographic that provides a gripping yearlong view into the world of incarceration. The Redemption of General Butt Naked is her first feature film.

(biography via The Redemption of General Butt Naked website)


Pull Focus: Marshall Curry

Marshall_Curry_HeadshotMarshall Curry got his start shooting, directing, and editing the documentary "Street Fight", which followed Cory Booker's first run for mayor of Newark, NJ. The film went on to be nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy. "Street Fight" won the Audience Awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, AFI/Discovery SilverDocs Festival, and Hot Docs Festival. It also received the Jury Prize for Best International Documentary at Hot Docs and was nominated for a Writer's Guild of America (WGA) Award.

After "Street Fight", Curry was the Director and Producer, as well as one of the Cinematographers and Editors of the feature documentary, "Racing Dreams"."Racing Dreams" follows two boys and a girl who dream of one day racing in NASCAR, and the film won numerous awards. Dreamworks is currently adapting it for a fictional remake.

Curry's newest documentary, "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front", tells the story of a radical environmentalist who faced life in prison for burning two Oregon timber facilities. It won the Sundance Film Festival award for Best Documentary Editing and was acquired by Oscilloscope Laboratories. In the summer of 2011 it was released to critical aclaim, called "an intriguing and important film" by Filmmaker Magazine, "a sterling example of journalistic documentary" by Salon.com, and "a wildly successful and engaging documentary" by New York Press. In the fall it will air on PBS's documentary series POV.

(Headshot and biography via Marshall Curry Productions.)


Pull Focus: Peter Richardson

Peter Richardson with camera

A rising star in documentary filmmaking, Peter Richardson has made a name for himself with two feature documentaries that both premiered at Sundance and have won him multiple awards, including Sundance's esteemed Grand Jury Prize.  An Oregon-native himself, Richardson is know for his penetrating and introspective treatment of Oregon-based social issues. His latest film, "How to Die in Oregon," explores the emotionally charged issue of physician-assisted-suicide which was legalized in Oregon in 1994 and remains one of the most controversial laws in that state today. Through the incredibly intimate stories of the terminally ill in Oregon, Richardson captures the spectrum of emotions behind that decision to end one's own life, while simultaneously showcasing the elegance and dignity of his subjects.  A producer, director, cinematographer and editor, Richardson has done it all, and during an interview for the 2011 Human Rights Film Series, he shares with us some of his experiences and insights.