Johnny Symons is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University.  His film Daddy & Papa was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, aired on PBS and international television, and garnered more than a dozen festival awards. His feature documentary Beyond Conception premiered at the Florida Film Festival and aired on Discovery Health Channel. Ask Not broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens, won the GLAAD award for Best Documentary and screened for Congress at the US Capitol. His latest film Out Run (produced and directed with S. Leo Chiang) premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, won Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and broadcast on PBS. Symons’ work has screened at more than 200 international film festivals and is used by hundreds of college educators and community organizers.  

Symons is the co-producer of the Academy Award-nominated Long Night's Journey Into Day, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Sundance and broadcast on HBO. He has been a Fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, and has worked as a freelance director, producer, and cinematographer on numerous award-winning documentaries.

Symons graduated with honors from Brown University and has a master’s in documentary production from Stanford University.  Currently, he is Coordinator of the Documentary Program and Director of the Queer Cinema Institute at San Francisco State University. Prior to his work at SFSU, he taught documentary for 12 years in other Bay Area film programs including Stanford, University of San Francisco, and the California College of the Arts.

Films by Johnny Symons

Out Run

Mobilizing working-class transgender hairdressers and beauty queens, the dynamic leaders of the world’s only LGBT political party wage a historic quest to elect a trans woman to the Philippine Congress.

Ask Not

Award-winning PBS documentary Ask Not is a compelling exploration of the history and effects of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The film exposes the tangled political battles that led to the discriminatory law, and profiles courageous activists who fought for repeal.

Beauty Before Age

This groundbreaking film explores the power of youth and beauty in the gay community. A diverse group of gay men, ages 19 to 77, negotiate their fears of becoming old, undesirable and alone.

Daddy & Papa

Daddy & Papa is a one-hour documentary video that opens a candid window on the personal, cultural and political implications of gay fatherhood. From surrogacy, foster care and interracial adoption to the complexities of gay divorce and the legal battles around gay parenting, Daddy & Papa presents a revealing look at some of the gay fathers who are breaking new ground in the ever-changing landscape of the American family.

It's STILL Elementary

It's STILL Elementary reveals how the documentary, It's Elementary, helped ignite a revolution in addressing LGBT issues in schools, and follows up with students to see how their teachers' courage impacted their lives.