Betsy Steinberg Appointed Executive Director of Kartemquin Films

Betsy Steinberg Kartemquin

Kartemquin Films, the award-winning not-for-profit documentary production collective, today named Betsy Steinberg as the organization’s new executive director. Steinberg will begin at Kartemquin - best known for producing Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, and the Roger Ebert biopic Life Itself - on December 1, just ahead of its 50th anniversary year in 2016.

Steinberg joins Kartemquin having served as the Managing Director of the Illinois Film Office from 2007-2015, guiding the local industry through an era of unprecedented growth. She will oversee all aspects of their filmmaking, programs, and operations, serving as executive producer on all new films.

In the position, she succeeds Justine Nagan, who was recently named Executive Director of American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) and Executive Producer of POV (Point of View), after over a decade with Kartemquin.

Kartemquin’s co-founder Gordon Quinn, due to be honored for his services to filmmaking by the International Documentary Association with their 2015 IDA Career Achievement Award on December 5, remains Kartemquin’s Artistic Director.

“Of all the candidates, Betsy immediately demonstrated the ethics and passion we know Kartemquin needs, and we are confident she will lead the staff and filmmakers to meet the challenges ahead while maintaining the values we have represented for five decades,” said Kartemquin Board Chair Jason Stephens. Stephens replaces outgoing Chair Adrianne Furniss on January 1; Furniss will then lead Kartemquin’s 50th Anniversary Committee.

“I am honored to be joining Kartemquin and am inspired by its mission and the artistic integrity of its filmmakers,” said Steinberg. “I hope to build on the tremendous accomplishments of Gordon and Justine as Kartemquin enters its 50th year and beyond.”

While at the Illinois Film Office, Steinberg led the state’s transformation into a world class production destination, marketing it to film, television and commercial producers as a desirable locale. During her tenure the state brought in over a billion dollars in film industry spending and created thousands of jobs.

Joining Kartemquin marks a return to her documentary roots. Prior to her work at the Illinois Film Office, Steinberg served for two years as the Vice President of Business Development at Towers Productions, and nearly 15 years as a writer/producer/director working on a wide-range of material ranging from television documentaries and commercials to political and issue advocacy campaigns. She received a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

For the 50th anniversary of Kartemquin Films, several organizations in Chicago and around the country will host a series of screenings and events to celebrate the impact of their work, and the power of documentary to inspire storytelling for years to come. Kartemquin will make their first announcement of plans for their 50th celebration on December 4th at a special invitation-only event in Chicago.

Founded in 1966 by three university of Chicago graduates, Kartemquin is one of the longest-running documentary production companies in the world. The not-for-profit was the recipient of a 2007 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, and in recent years has been honored by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the River Run Film Festival, the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, and received the Newberry Library’s Altgeld Award for Freedom of Speech. Individual film awards received in the last decade have included Emmys, Peabodys, DuPont-Columbia Awards, and recognitions from the Producer’s Guild of America, Director’s Guild of America, and the International Documentary Association.

Kartemquin’s new film, Almost There, about co-directors Aaron Wickenden and Dan Rybicky’s discovery and caretaking of an eccentric, reclusive “outsider” artist, opens in select theaters and VOD in December. The film was recently nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors’ Spotlight Award, and the artist Peter Anton recognized as one of the year’s “unforgettable” documentary subjects, and it has also won awards at several festivals since world premiering at DOC NYC in November 2014.

Their other recent films include Steve James’ acclaimed Life Itself; Usama Alshaibi’s American Arab; Bill Siegel's The Trials of Muhammad Ali, which recently won an Emmy Award; Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare’s The Homestretch; Joanna Rudnick’s On Beauty; Maria Finitzo’s In the Game; Brent Huffman’s Saving Mes Aynak; and Hard Earned, a six-hour series for Al Jazeera America.

Kartemquin currently has over 12 films in production, including Margaret Byrne’s Raising Bertie, a multi-year study of 3 boys growing up in rural poverty; Dinesh Sabu’s Unbroken Glass, in which the filmmaker tries to piece together the story of his parents' lives, twenty years after their deaths; Kelly Richmond Pope’s All The Queen’s Horses, about the staggering fraud by Dixon, Illinois City Comptroller Rita Crundwell; and Steve James’ untitled series on Oak Park River Forest High School.

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About Kartemquin Films
Kartemquin is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. In 2016 Kartemquin will celebrate 50 years of sparking democracy through documentary.

A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies, and for its innovative media arts community programs. The organization has won every major critical and journalistic prize, including multiple Emmy, Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination.

For the 50th anniversary of Kartemquin Films, several organizations in Chicago and around the country will host a series of screenings and events to celebrate the impact of their work, and the power of documentary to inspire storytelling for years to come. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com

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