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

IDA Spotlight: SocDoc Faculty Tips for New Projects
July 26, 2019

IDA Spotlight: SocDoc Faculty Tips for New Projects

One of our best jobs here at SVA's MFA in Social Documentary Program is advising our graduate students on their film ideas, helping them make their concepts strong. The idea stage can be invigorating, but successful films happen with thoughtful planning. We surveyed our esteemed faculty for suggestions on what filmmakers should consider as they embark on a new project. Read More
Now Streaming: SocDoc Alumni
May 29, 2019

Now Streaming: SocDoc Alumni

A great many SocDoc alumni films are recently streaming into the comfort of your home these days - so we compiled a list to make a TV party easy for you! Check out the work our alumni are making, and tell a friend. Read More
Spring Festivals!
April 04, 2019

Spring Festivals!

Festival season is ramping up and our prolific SocDoc alum are screening at major festivals across North America. Here’s a rundown of where SocDocers and their films are at over the next few months:  Read More
2019 Alumni Editing Fellowship
March 29, 2019

2019 Alumni Editing Fellowship

Graduates of SVA’s MFA Documentary program (Groups 1 through 8) are invited to apply for the second annual SocDoc Summer Editing Fellowship with their documentary features in post-production.

Acknowledging that emerging documenta Read More