Zak is an Emmy and PGA award-winning documentary filmmaker who has made films for over 15 years.
Currently, Zak is producing several feature films: City So Real (working title) with producer/director Steve James; Untitled Chicago Project (working title), for Concordia Studio, with co-directors Bing Liu and Joshua Altman; and The Ants and the Grasshopper (working title), a film he is also co-directing/producing with Raj Patel and producer Rachel Wexler.
Previously, Zak produced the critically acclaimed film Life Itself, which premiered at Sundance and went on to be an official selection of the 67th Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated for a Gotham Award for Best Documentary and 5 Cinema Eye Honors. The National Board of Review and Broadcast Film Critics Association awarded Life Itself their Best Documentary Awards, while Entertainment Weekly listed the film in its top 5 films of the year. Life Itself was released theatrically by Magnolia Pictures and broadcast on CNN.
Zak also co-produced the critically acclaimed film The Interrupters which premiered at Sundance and went on to screen at film festivals worldwide, collecting two Best Documentary Awards, two Audience Awards, two Special Jury Awards. In 2011, The Interrupters was released theatrically in the US, Canada, and the UK, culminating in television broadcasts on PBS Frontline, BBC Storyville, Canal Plus, and the CBC. The film received a Spirit Award for Best Documentary and was honored by the Cinema Eye Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Filmmaking. The New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, and LA Times all hailed The Interrupters as one of the year’s best films.
Zak also produced the multiple-award-winning Saving Mes Aynak, which premiered at IDFA and has been broadcast in over 70 countries; co-produced At the Death House Door, which premiered at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival, then later was short-listed in the Best Documentary category by the Academy Awards; and was the associate producer of Prisoner of Her Past, Kartemquin’s co-production with The Chicago Tribune.
Zak has worked as a location sound recordist on more than a dozen Kartemquin films. He began his career on staff at Kartemquin, where he stayed for more than a decade, serving as Director of Production until 2012. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago.
Films by Zak Piper
- A Compassionate Spy 2022
- Sound Engineer
- The Ants & The Grasshopper 2021
- Co-Director / Producer
- City So Real 2020
- Produced by, Sound Recordist
- America to Me 2018
- Location Sound Recordists
- '63 Boycott 2017
- Associate Producers
- In the Game 2015
- Hard Earned 2015
- Additional Sound
- Life Itself 2014
- Producers, Location Sound, Additional Sound
- Saving Mes Aynak 2014
- The Homestretch 2014
- American Arab 2013
- Director of Production at Kartemquin
- The Interrupters 2011
- Co-Producer & Sound Recordist, Additional camera
- A Good Man 2011
- Additional Sound, Production Support for Kartemquin Films
- Prisoner of Her Past 2010
- Associate Producer
- Sacred Transformations 2010
- Sound Mix
- Typeface 2009
- At the Death House Door 2008
- Co-Producers, Sound Recording
- In the Family 2008
- Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita 2007
- Sound, Post Production Assistant, Kartemquin Staff
- The New Americans 2003
- Post Production Manager