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For Filmmakers

Part of Filmmaker Programming

Doc Talk: The Making of “Dick Johnson Is Dead”

1 Dec
Tue, Dec 1, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Live Q&A


Join the SFFILM Makers team for an online conversation with documentarian Kirsten Johnson and editor Nels Bangerter. We will lead a conversation that delves into the creative partnership between Johnson and Bangerter, as they discuss the making of the award-winning and wildly entertaining Dick Johnson Is Dead and their collaborative director/editor relationship that has spanned years. Dick Johnson Is Dead strikes an emotional balance between loss and levity and earlier this year won the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-Fiction Storytelling at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. We hope you can make it!

Dick Johnson is Dead is currently available to watch on Netflix.

Director Kirsten Johnson

Kirsten Johnson is a cinematographer and director interested in addressing the changing dimensions and urgent ethical challenges of documentary camerawork. Her film Cameraperson premiered at Sundance 2016, was shortlisted for an Academy Award, won the National Board of Review Freedom of Expression prize, and was awarded three 2017 Cinema Eye Honors, including Outstanding Nonfiction Feature. Cameraperson was named one of the Top Ten Films of 2016 by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was the Grand Jury Prize Winner of nine international festivals, won the ARRI Cinematography Award, and is distributed by the Criterion Collection. Her short, The Above, premiered at the 2015 New York Film Festival and was nominated for the International Documentary Association Best Short Award for 2016. Kirsten’s camerawork has appeared in the Academy Award-winning CITIZENFOUR, Cannes Premiere Risk, Academy Award-nominated The Invisible War, Tribeca Documentary Winner Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Cannes winner Fahrenheit 9/11, and Emmy Award-winning Ladies First. She shared the Sundance 2010 Cinematography Award with Laura Poitras for their work on The Oath. She and Katy Chevigny co-directed the Berlinale premiering Deadline, which won the Thurgood Marshall Award. She teaches Visual Thinking in the NYU Graduate Journalism Department. In 2017, she was awarded the Chicken and Egg Breakthrough Filmmaker Award and she is currently a Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellow. She is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and was recently invited to be one of the 4% of ASC members who are women.

Editor Nels Bangerter

Nels Bangerter is an award-winning documentary film editor who previously worked with Kirsten Johnson on Cameraperson, for which he won Best Editing awards from Cinema Eye Honors and the International Documentary Association. Nels’s work also includes Let the Fire Burn, Independent Spirit Awards’ Truer Than Fiction Award winner, and winner of Best Editing awards from the IDA, Cinema Eye, and Tribeca Film Festival; the New York Times Critic’s Pick The Hottest August; the Emmy-winning Very Semi-Serious; Kumu Hina, winner of PBS’s Independent Lens Audience Award; and War Child, which premiered at the Berlinale and won Tribeca’s Audience Award. Nels edited the Sundance short documentary Project X, directed by Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke and starring Michelle Williams and Rami Malek. He has been nominated twice for News and Documentary editing Emmys.

Moderator Contessa Gayles

Contessa Gayles is an award winning documentary filmmaker and journalist, and an Emmy-nominated producer. She tells stories about identity, movement and social change, with a focus on race and gender.

From 2014 – 2018, she was a producer at CNN, where she created, produced, directed, shot and edited award-winning original series and documentaries, including the feature documentary, The Feminist on Cellblock Y, shorts Women Who March and Women Who March: The Movement, and digital series including, This Is Birth with Lisa Ling.

As a producer, cinematographer and editor, she has contributed to VICE, PBS NewsHour, PBS Frontline, CBS, Al Jazeera, Vox, WIRED, AFROPUNK and documentary features, including SHOWTIME’s Surge (dir. Hannah Rosenzweig, Wendy Sachs) and forthcoming films, including Black Mothers (dir. Débora Souza Silva) and others.

Contessa is a 2020 SFFILM artist in residence and is currently directing a hybrid documentary film in production, LIFE + LIFE, a musical meditation on Black boyhood, cycles of harm, punishment and the radical imagination.