Judith Helfand


Judith Helfand, Filmmaker


Classes taught:
Thesis: Directing

Judith Helfand is best known for her ability to use her quirky sense of humor, irony, personal storytelling chops and the power of transparency to tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time -- from toxic chemical exposure to climate change. Her films have premiered at Sundance and been nationally broadcast on PBS (POV), HBO and The Sundance Channel. BLUE VINYL received the Sundance Award in Cinematography and two Emmy nominations; that film's prequel, A HEALTHY BABY GIRL, won a Peabody. Helfand’s other films include EVERYTHING’S COOL and THE UPRISING OF ‘34, and recently the short ABSOLUTELY NO SPITTING for 23&Me.

Her new film COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE, an award-winning documentary about extreme heat and the politics of disaster, is on a multi-city tour and will be broadcast on PBS/Independent Lens in 2020. She is also in post-production on LOVE & STUFF, an intergenerational love story about mourning her mother and becoming a “new old mom” at the same time.

Helfand is a field-builder who has helped reshape the documentary landscape by co-founding two critical organizations: Working Films and Chicken & Egg Pictures. As Creative Director of Chicken & Egg Pictures, she helped design and lead their mentorship and funding programs for nearly a decade; served as a producer on the Oscar-nominated short THE BARBER OF BIRMINGHAM; and Executive Producer on award-winners SEMPER FI: ALWAYS FAITHFUL; PRIVATE VIOLENCE; and HOT GIRLS WANTED. She continues to be a Senior Creative Consultant for the organization.

Helfand has received a United States Artist Fellowship, awarded to “America’s finest living artists", and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She has taught documentary filmmaking at NYU, UW Madison and The New School. She has become an expert at documentary pitch-training for markets and forums and is known for coming up with great film titles. She lives in NYC with her daughter Theodora and their beta-fish Maxi Taxi.

Faculty News view all

10th Annual SocDoc Thesis Showcase April 1-4, 2021
March 22, 2021

10th Annual SocDoc Thesis Showcase April 1-4, 2021

Join Us to Celebrate the Films of SVA's MFA Social Documentary Film  Class of 2020 Celebrating SocDoc's tenth class of graduates, Showcase Screenings will take place entirely online April 1-4, and are available worldw Read More
SocDoc at DOC NYC 2020
October 16, 2020

SocDoc at DOC NYC 2020

SocDoc has a strong showing with several films from our clever faculty and alumni, as well as our annual student showcase. Read More
Alumni New Films News Round-Up
October 15, 2020

Alumni New Films News Round-Up

A lot of our smart & talented alumni are out in the world with their films at pitch markets, festivals, and streaming - take a look! Read More

SocDoc at SXSW Festival 2020
February 13, 2020

SocDoc at SXSW Festival 2020

    Winter is nearly behind us which means its time to kick off the 2020 festival season!  SocDoc has a strong showing at South By Southwest this year. So if you're in Austin in March, check out these alumni-directed films Read More