Helen S. Cohen, Producer/Director
Helen S. Cohen is an award-winning filmmaker and working artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She brings to documentary filmmaking a long and diverse history of activism and professional work with cultural, educational and community development organizations. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College and a master’s degree in urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Prior to becoming an independent producer in 2004, Helen was co-director of Women’s Educational Media, now called Groundspark, a nonprofit organization specializing in the production and distribution of social issue documentaries. She is the co-creator of the acclaimed Respect for All Project, a program that produces cutting edge films, curriculum guides and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people. Helen spearheaded the Project’s outreach and teacher-training program, which has been recognized nationally as a model for using film to affect progressive social change.
Helen’s producing credits include the first three films in the Respect for All series: It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School (1996); That’s a Family! (2000); and Let’s Get Real (2003). Helen has also directed, produced and/or executive produced documentaries for public interest organizations, including Homes & Hands: Community Land Trusts in Action, (1998).
Through Open Studio Productions, Helen continues to make independent and commissioned films. She is a long-standing member of New Day Films, a national cooperative of independent filmmakers who self-distribute social issue documentaries. Helen also serves on the board of trustees of Hampshire College and was the founder of the Northern California Community Loan Fund, which celebrates its 25th year anniversary in May 2012.
Mark Lipman, Producer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor
Mark Lipman has worked as a documentary filmmaker for thirty years, exploring a wide range of subjects from domestic violence to human sexuality to affordable housing and community organizing. His films have been broadcast nationally on public television and won numerous awards. His producing credits include To Have and To Hold (1981), the first documentary to look at domestic violence through the experiences of men; Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street (1996), a film about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s successful efforts to revitalize a Boston neighborhood devastated by redlining, arson and illegal dumping; Father’s Day (2003), an experimental documentary about the death of Mark’s father; and Gaining Ground (2012), a sequel to Holding Ground that explores DSNI’s success in preventing foreclosures and fostering youth leadership.
Mark has produced media for non-profit organizations throughout New England including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where he documented the creation of new artwork by internationally renowned artists-in-residence. As a freelance editor, he has worked for the NOVA series at WGBH/Boston and for many other Boston-area companies. He has taught editing and production classes to young people and adults in Massachusetts, Maine, Indiana and California. After moving to San Francisco in 2004 and forming Open Studio Productions with Helen, Mark edited Alaska Far Away, a feature documentary about a controversial New Deal program that relocated 200 destitute farm families into the wilds of Alaska.
Mark also has extensive experience designing and implementing audience engagement campaigns for his films. The Ford Foundation included Holding Ground as one of ten case studies in an evaluation of its most successful media grants over the prior twenty years. Since 1981 he has been an active member of New Day Films, a national cooperative of social issue filmmakers who collaborate in the distribution of their films, serving several times as its chief financial officer and as a member of its steering committee.
Mark has an MFA in filmmaking from the Massachusetts College of Art and a BA in psychology from Harvard University.
Joanna Sokolowski, Associate Producer
Joanna Sokolowski is an independent Bay Area documentary filmmaker. She is an associate producer at Open Studio Productions. She is also the associate producer for the film Very Semi-Serious and is currently in production on The Ovarian Psycos with her filmmaking partner, Kate Trumbull-LaValle. The film is supported by ITVS, Pacific Pioneer Fund and Women Make Movies. Her past directing credits include Still Time, a film about life after serving a life sentence in prison. She holds a BA in Community Development and received her MA in Social Documentation at the UCSC, where she was the recipient of the Human Rights Center fellowship.