Debra was the co-creator of GroundSpark’s Respect for All Project (RFAP), a program that produces media and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people. RFAP films include: Straightlaced—How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up, about the pressures teens face to conform to gender-based stereotypes and the courage it takes to challenge those norms; Let's Get Real, the best-selling examination of young teens' experiences with name-calling and bullying and bias; That's A Family!, which looks at family diversity from kids' perspectives (and was screened at the (Clinton!) White House and embraced by scores of national children's advocacy, education and civil-rights organizations; and It's Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, which was hailed as "a model of intelligent directing" by International Documentary and has served as a catalyst for schools all over the world to become more proactive in addressing anti-gay prejudice in the classroom. In 2007, Debra directed It's STILL Elementary, a retrospective look at why It's Elementary was originally produced, the response it drew from the conservative right, and the impact the film has had on the national safe schools movement and some of the original students who appeared in the film.
Debra's other film credits include the Oscar-winning Deadly Deception—General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment, a crucial component of a successful international grassroots campaign to pressure GE out of the nuclear-weapons industry; Homes and Hands—Community Land Trusts in Action, which is extensively used to inspire local communities to explore new models of creating permanently affordable housing; Wired for What?, part of the PBS series, Digital Divide, about the push to computerize education; Choosing Children, which explored the once seemingly impossible idea that lesbians and gay men could become parents; and One Wedding and a Revolution, which captures the frantic days leading up to the bold political decision of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom to start issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Debra is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and frequent guest lecturer at colleges and universities about the issues in her films, and about building a career as a social justice activist. In 2009, her alma mater, Wellesley College, awarded her its first-ever alumnae achievement award in documentary filmmaking. Currently she is also a visiting scholar at Mills College in the public policy department, a Senior Consultant for Working Films, and a producing and directing coach for other documentary filmmakers. She lives in San Francisco. Debra recently launched a new project to use film to accelerate progressive public policy, www.policymoves.org, under which she made a short film for the USDA about addressing rural poverty.
Debra has been a member-owner of New Day Films since 1996 and served as its chair from 2003 - 2005, and then again from 2011 - 2013.
Films by Debra Chasnoff
Being a lesbian no longer means giving up motherhood, thanks in part to the culture-changing impact of this feminist classic. These pioneering lesbian mothers figured out how to bring children into their families while overcoming social and legal hurdles.
On February 12, 2004, the mayor of San Francisco ordered city officials to allow lesbian and gay couples to get married. Pioneering activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, celebrating their 51st anniversary, had the privilege of being the first couple to tie the knot.
With a fearless look at a highly charged subject, Straightlaced unearths how pressures around gender and sexuality are confining American teens. These stories reflect a diversity of experiences, demonstrating how gender role expectations and homophobia are interwoven, and illustrating the different ways these expectations connect with culture, race and class.
From girls confronting media messages about body image to boys who are sexually active just to prove they aren’t gay, a fascinating array of students opens up with brave, intimate honesty about the toll that deeply held stereotypes and rigid gender policing have on all our lives.
The Academy Award-winning Deadly Deception juxtaposes GE's rosy "We Bring Good Things To Life" commercials with the true stories of workers and neighbors whose lives have been devastated by the company's involvement in building nuclear bombs. It tells a powerful story of how consumer activists can challenge corporations causing harm.
Three tenacious and visionary communities deliver the American dream of owning a home to low-income residents.
It's Elementary takes cameras into classrooms across the U.S. to look at one of today's most controversial issues - whether and how LGBT issues should be discussed in schools.
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.
Name-calling and bullying have reached epidemic proportions in schools today. Let's Get Real gives young people the chance to speak up in their own words about the real issues behind the problem.
With blunt and sometimes hilarious candor, children from over 50 diverse families open the door to their homes, and explain things like "divorce," "mixed race," "gay and lesbian," "birth mom," "single parent," "guardian," and "stepdad" -- and get right to the point of what they wish other people would understand about their families.