Documentary filmmaker Avon Kirkland didn’t follow the typical path to filmmaking – earning a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis and working as a research scientist and educational publishing executive before starting a career in television in 1972. Since then, his work as a producer, director, and writer has focused on creating films that explore the rich history and culture of African Americans and their contributions. His work has included numerous ground-breaking projects such as Up & Coming, a 25-part drama series about an African-American family struggling between working- and middle-class in San Francisco; Booker, a one-hour drama based on the childhood of Booker T. Washington; and numerous other films that aired on American Masters and public television including Simple Justice, Street Soldiers, and Ralph Ellison: An American Journey.
More recently, Kirkland played a pivotal role as executive producer of Sam Cooke: Crossing Over, on which he worked with producer/director John Antonelli to secure completion funding from ITVS. The film looks at the musical and political significance of composer, performer, and pioneering pop music entrepreneur Sam Cooke and the circumstances that led to his murder. Check out this video where Kirkland explains the impact and importance of the legendary singer.
From our blog
June 30, 2022
Independent Lens and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Louisville Courier Journal (LCJ) raised awareness of Kentucky's Persistent Felony Offender (PFO) through a collaboration between independent filmmakers and journalists. The investigative series drew a link between the law's enhanced sentencing terms to the state’s high and growing prison…
June 1, 2022
Documentary storytelling increased understanding about the inequities in the U.S. justice system.
The Supervising Producer Partnership: How CJ Hunt Found the Arc for "Neutral Ground" While Working with ITVSApril 12, 2022
How do filmmakers and ITVS supervising producers work together in their back-and-forth partnership?To best explain CJ Hunt's partnership with ITVS, we wanted to have him in the same room with three-time Emmy-nominated ITVS Supervising Producer Shana Swanson to explore what it meant to work together as funder and maker. Hunt made his feature film debut…