American Masters Inventing David Geffen
Premieres nationally Tuesday, November 20 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS
(check local listings)
Writer, Director, Producer, American Masters Creator and Executive Producer
Susan Lacy has been an award-winning originator of primetime public television programs since 1979. As the creator and executive producer of American Masters, she has been responsible for the production and national broadcast of more than 180 documentary films about our country’s artistic and cultural giants, those who have made an indelible impact on the American landscape. Now celebrating its 26th season on PBS, American Masters has garnered unprecedented awards and is consistently recognized by television critics as “the best biographical series ever to appear on American television.”
In addition to her executive producing role, Lacy is an award-winning filmmaker. Her 2004 Judy Garland: By Myself earned her an Emmy Award for writing and an Emmy nomination for directing. She wrote, directed and produced Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind (IDA nomination for Outstanding Documentary) and Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note (Emmy Award and DGA nomination). She produced the Peabody Award-winning films LENNONYC, a film exploring John Lennon’s life in New York City, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and Paul Simon: Born at the Right Time, directed and produced Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval, and directed and produced Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice – all for American Masters. She is currently producing, writing and directing a film about David Geffen.
Under her leadership, American Masters received 24 Primetime Emmy Awards: 8 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999, 5 for Outstanding Nonfiction Special, and 11 in various craft categories, with 40 additional nominations. In its 26-year history, the series has received 24 nominations for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and Outstanding Non-Fiction Special combined. American Masters received the 2012 Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television, in addition to 12 Peabody Awards for John Hammond: From Bessie Smith to Bruce Springsteen, Unknown Chaplin, Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, Paul Simon: Born at the Right Time, Alexander Calder, F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About, LENNONYC, A Letter to Elia, and Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter. The series also received Grammy Awards for Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, an Academy Award and four nominations.
Lacy’s career in public television began in 1979, as deputy director of performance programs at Thirteen/WNET New York. She was senior program executive for Great Performances and worked as director of program development with The American Playhouse, where she was a founding member. Lacy then ran the East Coast office of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute from 1984 to 1987. She was a consulting producer at Time-Life Video during the launch of Time-Warner’s new initiatives in long-form documentary production. Lacy also led programs at both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Lacy was one of the select 2005 honorees at the Museum of Television & Radio’s “She Made It” event, which recognized 50 exceptional women who have created and informed the genre, and a 2008 Washington, DC, Women of Vision Awards recipient, honoring those in film and video who inspire and mentor. She was honored again in Washington, DC, in 2010 as the recipient of the Cine Golden Eagle Lifetime Achievement Award. She presently serves on the board of the Film Forum in New York City. She served on the board of governors of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for two terms and was a trustee of the Independent Documentary Association. Lacy is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Independent Features Project and New York Women in Film & Television.
Lacy holds a BA in American Studies from the University of Virginia, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and an MA in American Studies from George Washington University. She was a Graduate Teaching Fellow, a Smithsonian Fellow and completed a residency at the American Academy in Rome. In 1994, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Long Island University and in 1996, she was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at Mary Washington College, the women’s college of the University of Virginia.
Jessica Levin is the co-producer of award-winning documentary films including LENNONYC (2010), No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005), Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (2007), and Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind (2003), all for American Masters. Her work also includes Wingspan (2001), the story of Paul McCartney’s band Wings, and Back in the US (2002), a concert film chronicling Paul McCartney’s 2002 US tour.