Who We Are

Helen S. Cohen, Producer/Director

Helen S. Cohen is an award-winning filmmaker and painter 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.

Prior to becoming an independent producer in 2004, Helen was co-director of Women’s Educational Media (now 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). She has also directed, produced, and/or executive produced documentaries for public interest organizations, including Homes & Hands: Community Land Trusts in Action (1998) and Street of Dreams: Development Without Displacement in Communities of Color (2013).

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 celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 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 his father; Gaining Ground (2012), a sequel to Holding Ground that explores Dudley Street’s success in preventing foreclosures and fostering youth leadership; and Streets of Dreams: Development Without Displacement in Communities of Color (2013).

Mark has produced media for nonprofit 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 PBS series NOVA 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 (2008), a feature documentary about a controversial New Deal program that relocated two hundred 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 multiple terms 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.