Debra Chasnoff

Introduction (2-3 lines)

Debra Chasnoff, (10/12/57-11/7/17) was an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work fueled progressive social-change movements in many fields. She was president and senior producer at GroundSpark (, a national social justice media, advocacy, and education organization. GroundSpark continues to distribute Debra’s films and works to fulfill her mission.

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, whichcaptures 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,, 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.

New Day Films by Debra Chasnoff

Awards & Accolades

Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject
Best Documentary, Frameline Film Festival
Grand Prize, Ambiente-Incontri International Film Festival on Nature & Environment
Alumnae Achievement Award in Documentary Filmmaking, Wellesley College
Wallace A Gerbode Fellowship for Outstanding Non Profit Leaderhsip
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