Bio

Credit: Lyle FritcheyEvery time you open the shutter, you let in the light of the world.

Emily Calhoun on LinkedIn and Facebook

I’m a filmmaker, writer, researcher, and creative consultant.  My career journey reflects boundless curiosity and a strong sense of adventure, characterized by a longtime interest in the social sciences, cultural anthropology, health and the environment. I have explored these interrelated subjects through various lenses: as a public policy researcher, academic editor, documentary filmmaker, and more recently as a narrative storyteller.

I started earning a living as an 8-year old entrepreneur in the recycling business. At 12, I moved on to stuffing envelopes for stock brokers. By 18, I had made lattes, delivered pizzas, cleaned houses, and dabbled in bookkeeping. My highest academic honor in grade school was third place in the ACSI National Spelling Bee, held in Washington, D.C. It was then that I decided I would go to college there.

My career began in earnest as a student of International Relations at American University. This was one of the most formative periods of my life; by my senior year, I was reading the world news sections of three newspapers every day. Enamored with the politics and history of the Americas, I traveled to Buenos Aires to study for a semester at the University of Belgrano and intern at the Argentine Council on Foreign Relations. My studies at AU focused on international economic policy. There were IMF protests in debt-ridden countries; China was acceding to the WTO; and the dot-com bubble was bursting. It was a fascinating time to be studying globalization.

After graduation and a year of wandering, I was hired by several AU alums as the fifth employee at a startup language services firm. As the Project Manager, I managed translation projects for a $1M + book of accounts – everything from patent discovery for IP law firms to packaging for big box retailers to language training courses for top secret government agencies. I managed a pool of freelance translators and interpreters in over 90 languages, honing my project management, manuscript editing, and client service skills.

Eager to deepen my understanding of the global economic infrastructure we live in, I returned to academia at The New School for Social Research in New York. Moving to NYC was a pivotal moment in my life. Although I graduated with honors with a Masters in Economics, I had discovered through internships (that turned into jobs) that I wanted to take a more popular approach to exploration of the world. It was during this time that I had my first opportunities to work in TV news and documentary.

The role of Research Director at MapLight.org was a perfect compromise between the traditional career path of a social sciences student and an aspiring media producer. During my tenure there: we overhauled the website and user experience; we refined our databases of campaign financing, legislative decisions, and interest group affiliations; we successfully sued the State of California for access to legislative data; and we expanded my team of web technicians, researchers and interns. I traveled all over the country speaking at conferences on government transparency and new media journalism.

By 2010, I felt strongly that it was time for me to prioritize my independence. All around me I was inspired to see traditional journalists transitioning into the new roles of independent media production. I knew that with enough trial-and-error training, I could offer my own authentic brand of investigative storytelling. I bought a video camera and a 700-page book on digital filmmaking, and I started to shoot. I took workshops on cameras, lighting, editing, and distribution. I worked as a Production Assistant on commercials, reality shows, and feature films. I rented various cameras and recording devices and spent countless hours reading the Final Cut Pro 7 manual.

Some of the film projects I have worked on are here.

A more comprehensive credits list is here.

For me, the visual narrative form is such an effective means of expressing my ideas, questions, and emotions. There are several personal traits that significantly inform my work. First, a lifetime of learning languages has helped me to understand the dynamic relationship between verbal and non-verbal language and meaning. Second, an obsession with poetic efficiency and disdain for cliché drives me to think strategically about every creative choice I make in storytelling. Finally, I believe that most people don’t have the courage to seek truth or the conscience to care. My sense of productivity depends on my ability to inspire truth-seeking. If I can elicit some laughter as well, I’ve done a good job.