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Helen Whitney

Description : Helen Whitney is an award-winning American producer, director and writer of documentaries and feature films that have aired on PBS, HBO, ABC and NBC. Her subjects have stretched across a broad spectrum of topics including youth gangs, a portrait of the 1996 presidential candidates, a Trappist monastery in Massachusetts, the McCarthy Era, Pope John Paul II, and the late photographer Richard Avedon. "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero", arguably Whitney's best-known film, was PBS' two-hour special ... Page:h

Helen Whitney
ResidenceNew York
Alma materSarah Lawrence College
OccupationDocumentary Filmmaker, Producer and Writer
Websitewww.helenwhitney.com

Professional career

Helen Whitney is an award-winning American producer, director and writer of documentaries and feature films that have aired on PBS, HBO, ABC and NBC. Her subjects have stretched across a broad spectrum of topics including youth gangs, a portrait of the 1996 presidential candidates, a Trappist monastery in Massachusetts, the McCarthy Era, Pope John Paul II, and the late photographer Richard Avedon. "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero", arguably Whitney's best-known film, was PBS' two-hour special on 9/11, which explored the spiritual aftershocks of this horrific event. Her film, The Mormons, was a four-hour PBS series and the first collaboration between American Experience and Frontline.

Ms. Whitney's most recent film, "Forgiveness: A Time to Love & A Time to Hate", examines the power, limitations - and in rare cases - the dangers of forgiveness through emblematic stories, ranging from personal betrayal to international truth and reconciliation commissions. This three-hour series aired on PBS in April 2011. Whether her film subjects are political or spiritual, they cut close to the bone and on occasion they have created controversy. Her 1982 ABC News Close-Up documentary about the McCarthy Era, "American Inquisition", provoked a libel suit brought by journalist Victor Lasky. Whitney and ABC News were defended by the legendary First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, whose many landmark cases include the Pentagon Papers. The court ruled in favor of Whitney's documentary. It was decisive victory for ABC News and the producer Helen Whitney. In the words of Floyd Abrams words "we won and the broadcast was totally vindicated." In her feature work, she has directed many distinguished actors, among them Lindsey Crouse, Austin Pendleton, Blair Brown, Brenda Fricker, David Strathairn.

Her films have received the highest awards in the industry. Among her many accolades are an Oscar nomination, the duPont-Columbia University Award, an Emmy Award and the George Foster Peabody Award. Ms. Whitney frequently lectures at colleges and universities, museums and churches throughout the country. In 2012, she presented the William Belden Noble lectures at Harvard University. She has also been an artist-in-residence on numerous campuses and she continues to produce award-winning documentaries that raise important, provoking questions.

Education

Whitney grew up in New York City, where she attended the Chapin School. She received a BA in English literature from Sarah Lawrence College in 1965 and a master's degree in Victorian literature from the University of Chicago in 1967.

Documentary Films - Producer, Director, Writer

TitleAiring NetworkDurationYear Released
First EditionPBS30 minutes1975
Youth Terror: The View From Behind The GunABC60 minutes1978
The MonasteryABC90 minutes1980
HomosexualsABC60 minutes1982
American InquisitionABC60 minutes1983
They Have Souls TooABC60 minutes1992
Society Class In Great BritainTurner Network60 minutes1992
Richard Avedon: Darkness and LightPBS: American Masters90 minutes1994
The Choice '96PBS: Frontline2 hours1996
John Paul II: The Millennial PopePBS Frontline3 hours1998
Faith and Doubt At Ground ZeroPBS: Frontline2 hours2002
The MormonsPBS: Frontline and American Experience4 hours2007
Forgiveness: A Time To Love And A Time To HatePBS3 hours2011

Dramatic Feature Films - Director

Beginning in 1982, following her acceptance by the Sundance Institute, Helen wrote and directed a number of dramatic features for television.

TitleAiring NetworkYear Released
A Town's RevengeABC1997
In The GloamingTrinity Playhouse1997
Every Day Heroes1990
Lethal InnocenceAmerican Playhouse1991
First Love. Fatal LoveHBO1991

Scripts - Writer & Co-Writer

TitleRoleAiring Station/Location
The SiegeCo-writerCommissioned by Trinity Playhouse
Change of HeartCo-writerCommissioned by American Playhouse
Kale MessengerCo-writerCommissioned by Warner Brothers
K.589Co-writerSelected by The Sundance Film Festival
Prejudice: Take OneWriterCommissioned by Highgate Productions
Willa Cather: The Road HomeCo-writerPBS American Masters
The Rise and Fall of Mark TwainCo-writerPBS American Masters
DeliveranceCo-writerCommissioned for PBS for the 50th anniversary of WW2
Black, White and BlueCo-writerHBO
The Song of the LarkCo-writerLifetime Television

Book

In 2011, following the release of her two-part PBS documentary "Forgiveness: A Time To Love & A Time To Hate", Whitney wrote a companion book to the film with the same title and a foreword by the Dalai Lama.

Abbreviated List of Awards and Nominations

YearBody of WorkAward Received
1977First EditionAcademy Award Nomination: Best Documentary Short
1978Youth Terror: The View From Behind The GunThe San Francisco International Film Festival Award
1978First EditionThe Flaherty Film Festival Award
1985American InquisitionThe Edward R. Murrow Award
1988They Have Souls TooThe Humanitas Prize
1990A Town's RevengeThe Humanitas Prize
1995Richard Avedon: Darkness and LightThe Director's Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary Film
1995Richard Avedon: Darkness and LightThe Hamptons International Film Festival Award for most popular film
1996The Choice '96The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award
1996The Choice '96George Foster Peabody Award
1996The Choice '96Emmy Award for Outstanding Analysis of a Single Current Story
1996The Choice '96The Writer's Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script for Television Documentary
2002Faith and Doubt At Ground ZeroThe Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award
2002Faith and Doubt At Ground ZeroThe Christopher Award
1999John Paul II: The Millennial PopeThe Writer's Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script for Television Documentary

Film and Lecture Presentations

Helen Whitney has delivered keynote addresses and lectures at Yale University, Berkeley, Pomona College, Harvard Divinity School, Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Bellarmine University, John Jay School of Criminal Justice, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Minneapolis Art Institute, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, KY, the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C, Syracuse University and Roanoke College in Virginia.

Endowed Lectures

  • William Belden Noble Lectures at Memorial Church, Harvard University, 2012
  • Flagler College Convocation Address for the class of 2012, St. Augustine, Florida
  • The Luce Lecture at Boston University, 2007
  • The Smith-Pettit Lecture on Mormonism, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2007

Artist In Residence

  • Dixie State College
  • Brigham Young University
  • University of Utah
  • Utah Valley University
  • Utah State University
  • The Studios of Key West
  • Stanford University

Teaching

As a 2009 Woodrow Wilson scholar, she has taught at numerous small colleges across the U.S., among them Flagler College, Roanoke College and St. Mary's College.

Associations

  • Film Forum, Board Member and Chairman of the Board, 1986-1991
  • New York Women in Film and Television, Board Member
  • City Church of New York, Founding Member
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