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

DOC NYC 2019 - SocDoc in Abundance!
October 21, 2019

DOC NYC 2019 - SocDoc in Abundance!

We are thrilled to see so many SocDoc filmmakers a part of this year’s DOC NYC line-up! DOC NYC, America's largeset documentary festival, is entering it's tenth year, November 6-15, 2019. We are proud long-time supporters of the festiva Read More
Fall 2020 Info Sessions
October 15, 2019

Fall 2020 Info Sessions

Ready to incite change and amplify the compelling stories you find in the world? Our graduate documentary film program sharpens your artistic voice. Read More
SocDoc Faculty Films Airing Now!
October 09, 2019

SocDoc Faculty Films Airing Now!

SVA MFA Documentary Faculty prides itself on the fact that our entire faculty are working filmmakers. And, they are busy! Here’s a rundown of just some of our faculty’s recent films. Click the links to watch the films & find out more! Read More
9th Annual Thesis Showcase Films
September 24, 2019

9th Annual Thesis Showcase Films

Celebrate the graduates of School of VISUAL ARTS MFA Social Documentary Film with the 9th Annual Thesis Showcase. We are proud to celebrate GROUP 9, the class of 2019! Here we share their work-in-progress thesis films, which inspire and a Read More