Steven Ascher


Steven Ascher

STEVEN ASCHER is an Oscar nominated, Emmy and Peabody winning director and writer.  He’s author of The Filmmaker’s Handbook, a bestselling text and has taught filmmaking, most recently at MIT and Harvard, where he was a visiting professor. The Washington Post and Rolling Stone call his work “Superb.”

His newest film is Looking Forward, a short essay about living in a dangerous world, which premiered at DOC NYC.

His most recent feature documentary is Our Towns, which he produced and directed for HBO with Jeanne Jordan.

Troublesome Creek: a Midwestern (co-directed with Jeanne Jordan) won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance, was nominated for an Oscar and received many other awards. It was released theatrically and broadcast on PBS The American Experience, the BBC premier documentary strand Storyville, ZDF Germany and many others.

Ascher and Jordan’s feature documentary, So Much So Fast premiered at Sundance, was released theatrically to critical acclaim, and has been broadcast on PBS FRONTLINE, BBC Storyville, ZDF Germany, and many other networks around the world.

Raising Renee premiered at Full Frame and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming.  It won the Audience Award at Independent Film Festival Boston and Best Documentary at the Syracuse Film Festival. It was broadcast on HBO, Knowledge Canada, SVT Sweden and AVRO Netherlands.

He wrote, directed and co-produced the short drama Seduction Theory which was selected for the Toronto International Shorts Festival , the Los Angeles International Shorts Festival, won a Platinum Remi for best dark comedy at Worldfest Houston and screened at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.

Ascher and Jordan made the short Cory Not Promised  on what remains after a shooting.

Among his awards are the Prix Italia, an Emmy and several Emmy nominations, a Peabody award and an International Documentary Association Distinguished Achievement Award. He was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award and an Independent Spirit Award. He received the Michael DeBakey Journalism Award and an Insight Award from the National Association of Film and Digital Media Artists.

He is author of The Filmmaker’s Handbook: a Comprehensive Guide  for the Digital Age (with Ed Pincus) a bestselling text and a staple of universities and film schools internationally. Called “the bible” by The Independent, the “gold-standard technical reference” by The Boston Globe, and “seminal” by The New York Times. Ascher has written greatly expanded new editions; the fifth was released in 2019. Over 360,000 copies in print.

Ascher produced, wrote and directed the drama, Del & Alex, starring Thomas Derrah and Polly Corman (broadcast on A&E and many European networks). He and Ed Pincus directed the feature documentary, Life and Other Anxieties; a newly restored version screened at Lincoln Center. He has produced and directed several pieces for PBS Newshour, films for the PBS series Art Close Up, which won and were nominated for Emmys, and an episode of the Emmy-nominated Postcards From Buster.

He has directed TV and web spots and marketing, branding and training videos for major corporations, government agencies and nonprofits including Disney, Sheraton, Cisco Systems, Health Dialog, McGraw Hill, Biogen, FM Global, Deloitte & Touche, the Texas Rangers, and the IRS, and has served as a consultant for web and video strategy for such clients as Harvard Business School Publishing. He has received numerous awards for his corporate work, including Gold and Silver Remis, Gold Brandon Hall Excellence Award, Silver Telly Awards, Gold Hermes Creative, Platinum Empixx, and Gold Health Sciences Communications Association Award.

He has produced and directed installations for museums and institutions around the world including the Australian National Maritime Museum, Science City, the House of Seven Gables, and traveling exhibits for the U.S. Information Agency. Awards include the Interactive Video Award of Excellence.

He graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude.  As a visiting professor at Harvard he taught documentary and narrative filmmaking and was twice recognized with the Thomas Hoopes Prize for “excellence in the art of teaching.”  He has also taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts College of Art.  He has lectured and held master classes in many countries, including Tokyo University, VGIK national film school in Moscow, the CPB/PBS Producers Academy, the Full Frame Fellows Program, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard Law School, the Aristoteles Workshop in Romania sponsored by the European network Arte, and at the University Film Study Center.

He has served as a juror at the Sundance Film Festival, the Emmys, the Full Frame Film Festival, the Independent Film Festival Boston, the National Student Film Festival, Woods Hole Film Festival and the McKnight Fellowship. He has been a guest critic for several film programs including Yale University, Duke University and the Rhode Island School of Design.  He is on the Advisory Board for the Media Arts program at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, recently serving as Chair.

Ascher has advised and contributed to a great many film productions. He and Jordan are Executive Producers of the ITVS-supported film, Deej, winner of a Peabody Award. They served as editing advisers on Hold Your Fire, Emmy nominee and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC. They are currently executive producing The Cardiff Tapes, on sculptor Garth Evans.

He has received grants from the the LEF Foundation, the Artists Foundation, the Paul Robeson Fund, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Iowa Humanities and many other state humanities and arts councils. His films have screened at major festivals internationally and are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress, Harvard Film Archive, UCLA and the Sundance Collection.

He has written several feature screenplays and a pilot for a dramatic digital series.

Ascher’s writing on film has appeared in numerous publications.  His article on trust and control between filmmakers and subjects was published in Documentary Magazine, where an essay on Black Harvest also appeared.  He has written for the U.S. Department of State’s eJournalUSA, and the book, The Film Industry: Opposing Viewpoints. He contributed to Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges in Their Work.

Writing on Ascher’s work has appeared in many publications including The New York TimesThe New YorkerThe Boston GlobeVarietyEcran Total and books including Documentary Storytelling by Sheila Curren Bernard.

For the most recent interviews and reviews, click here.

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