American Masters (2015 Season) – August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand

Production Biographies

Air date: 02/20/2015

American Masters – August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand

 

Premieres nationwide Friday, February 20, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) in honor of the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth, 10th anniversary of his death and Black History Month

 

Production Biographies

 

 

Sam Pollard

Director and Producer

Sam Pollard is an accomplished feature film and television video editor and a documentary producer-director whose work spans almost 30 years. He recently served as producer and supervising editor on the Spike Lee-directed HBO documentary If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, a five-year follow-up to the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning When the Levees Broke.

His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton’s Blackside production Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads. For one of his episodes in that series, he received an Emmy. Eight years later, he returned to Blackside as co-executive producer of Hampton’s last documentary series, I’ll Make Me A World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community. Pollard received a Peabody Award for the series.

Between 1990 and 2010, Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers and Bamboozled. Pollard and Lee also co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screens: Spike Lee Presents Mike Tyson, a biographical sketch for HBO for which Pollard received an Emmy; Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, nominated for an Academy Award; and When the Levees Broke, a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmys.

Most recently, Pollard produced and directed Slavery by Another Name, a 90-minute PBS documentary that was in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, and edited the feature-length documentary Venus and Serena. Pollard also wrote, directed and produced American Masters – Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On and directed American Masters – Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun and American Masters – John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend.

 

Stephen Stept

Writer

Stephen Stept has enjoyed a long and varied career as a writer-producer-director of narrative and documentary films for network, cable and public television, as well as multi-media programs for the internet and exhibitions. His list of prestigious honors includes the DuPont, Peabody, Emmy, Humanitas and Writers Guild Awards. His work for public television includes the PBS series The Great Depression, Hoover Dam for American Experience and American Masters — A Vision of Empire: Henry Luce and Time Life’s America. He won the Emmy as co-writer on American Masters — Judy Garland: By Myself and was nominated for two Emmys for his documentary on Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, Witness to Jonestown, for MSNBC. As a writer and producer of the PBS biographical drama Darrow, Stept cast Kevin Spacey in his first lead role for film or television.

 

Steven Wechsler

Editor

Steven Wechsler, a multi-award winning editor, whose greatest strengths are storytelling, dialogue and humor, has lent his considerable talents to a variety of broadcast, documentary and entertainment projects.

Wechsler worked on high visibility programs including American Masters – John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend, for which he received an Emmy nomination, and American Masters – Walter Cronkite: Witness to History. Wechsler was senior editor for New York Times Television on 29 documentary programs. He has edited dozens of PBS programs for Great Performances, Bill Moyers, NOVA, Art: 21, Sesame Workshop and City Arts, as well as programs for NBC, CBS, ABC, TLC, National Geographic, Oxygen, A&E, Bravo, Discovery, CNBC and Bloomberg.

Wechsler taught post-production at New York University, The New School, School of Visual Arts, and SUNY Purchase. Fluent in Spanish, Wechsler has edited, produced and directed for the South American market. He earned his M.F.A. in film from New York University and his B.A. from the City College of New York.

 

 

Darryl Ford Williams

Executive Producer

Darryl Ford Williams is the vice president of content for WQED Multimedia in Pittsburgh. In her current role at WQED, Ford Williams oversees the creation, development, production and delivery of all new and existing local, national, international and syndicated television, radio, interactive and educational programming. Under her leadership, productions have taken WQED documentary teams across the country and abroad to Kenya, Poland, Vietnam and Austria. She also launched an informational television station for the Government of Bermuda.

Throughout her career, Ford Williams led content and program development for broadcast groups across the country. Her background as a television news producer and news manager is extensive and includes serving as managing site producer for CBS News in its coverage of September 11 — focusing on the Pennsylvania crash site of United Flight 93; coordinating producer for ABC-TV’s Good Morning America; executive producer at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.; and news producer at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and WBAL in Baltimore.

Ford Williams’ work was recognized with many awards, including several Emmy Awards in addition to numerous Emmy nominations. She has been honored by the Easter Seals Society and International Association of Business Communicators, and has won multiple awards from Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters.

 

Michael Kantor

American Masters Series Executive Producer

For more than two decades, award-winning filmmaker Michael Kantor has created outstanding arts programs for television. He joined American Masters as the series’ executive producer April 30, 2014.

His most recent PBS documentary series, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, hosted by Liev Schreiber, premiered in fall 2013 and was nominated for an Emmy Award. Random House published the companion book. In January 2013, Kantor’s Peabody Award-winning, 90-minute film, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, aired as part of the Great Performances series on PBS. Narrated by Joel Grey, it included performances by Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, David Hyde Pierce, Marc Shaiman and many other Broadway talents. In 2012, Kantor produced The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater with Michael Tilson Thomas, which aired on PBS and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Kantor served as executive producer of the 90-minute special Give Me the Banjo, hosted by Steve Martin, and created Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, the critically acclaimed six-part documentary series, hosted by Billy Crystal, that debuted in January 2009. His script for episode four, When I’m Bad, I’m Better: The Groundbreakers, co-authored with Laurence Maslon, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. His landmark six-part series Broadway: The American Musical was hosted by Julie Andrews and honored with the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series in 2005. That same year, he created three hours of DVD extras for 20th Century Fox’s 40th anniversary release of The Sound of Music.

Kantor wrote, directed and produced the award-winning profile American Masters: Quincy Jones: In the Pocket. With Stephen Ives, he co-directed Cornerstone: An Interstate Adventure for HBO, and produced The West (Executive Producer Ken Burns). His 20 years of work in documentaries include projects as varied as EGG: the arts show, Coney Island, The Donner Party, Margaret Sanger and Ric Burns’ New York series. As a writer, Kantor created Lullaby of Broadway: Opening Night on 42nd Street, co-authored the companion books to Broadway (Bulfinch) and Make ‘Em Laugh (Grand Central Publishing) and has published numerous essays and articles. He is president of Almo Inc., a company that distributes The American Film Theatre series, which includes Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (starring Katharine Hepburn), Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (Lee Marvin) and Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Laurence Olivier) among its titles. Kantor has served as a Tony nominator and teaches documentary filmmaking at the School for Visual Arts in New York City.

 

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