About Jennifer Hall Lee
Filmmaker. Speaker. Writer.
About the filmmaker Jennifer Hall Lee, director of Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation
Jennifer Hall Lee
My first experience with politics and power was as a child growing up on Staten Island, New York. My father was a police officer and my mother was a social worker who worked at Willowbrook State School, the institution that housed mentally disabled people on Staten Island. Willowbrook needed to be shut down years earlier, but it wasn't until my mother and and several other staff people, including parent's of residents, forced it to close. She was a whistleblower and her action led to the closure of WIllowbrook. She was fired from her job for doing so, but says that it was worth it. Willowbrook closed and we, as a nation, changed how we treat mentally disabled people.
We then moved to Athens, Georgia, but Athens wasn't the hip and cool place it is now, in fact it was a small town still struggling with the aftermath of the civil rights movement. Thankfully we moved to Atlanta and I spent my teenage years living in the Quaker Meeting House in Little Five Points, the artists area of Atlanta. This meeting house was the site of early civil rights activism in Atlanta.
The Little Five Points neighborhood had it all, filmmakers, actors, gay activists, political activists, feminists, and the general counter culture of the time. I was a part of a dance theater company with Celeste Miller and I volunteered at the feminist bookstore, "Charis Books and More."
I didn't fit in at traditional high school and chose to leave and attend the Atlanta alternative school. There is a lot to be said for alternative schools, without it I may never have attended college.
Upon graduating from Hampshire College, I moved to the San Francisco Bay area intent on working at Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic in their optical department (this was before digital effects when visual effects were created on cameras and film). After several years and a lot of hard work I started working in the optical department at ILM as a compositor in 1989.
I worked on many feature films at ILM, including FORREST GUMP, GHOST, BACK TO THE FUTURE 2, DEATH BECOMES HER, THE ROCKETEER, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, HOOK, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and FORREST GUMP.
As compelling as ILM was I still wanted to make my own films.
My first independent film that I directed was about little-known southwestern architect named MARY JANE COLTER: THE DESERT VIEW. It was narrated by Ellen Burstyn. I was drawn to Colter's story because her work was significant and ground-breaking, and I had never heard of her.
I moved to Los Angeles to broaden my film experience and I worked in several Hollywood studios including, Warner Bros. Studios, Sony Imageworks, and Technicolor. I worked as a visual effects producer, compositor, editor, digital intermediate conforming editor and I produced miniature effects. My credits include, RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, THE HUMAN STAIN, KILL BILL Vol. 1+2, FINAL DESTINATION, HERBIE FULLY LOADED, BEOWULF, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and ENCHANTED.
As exciting as studio films were I still wanted to work with independent films and made I created and directed a film festival in Winslow's historic theater from 2002 through 2004. For three years the Winslow Film Festival screened independent films and hosted a visual effects lecture series that included visual effects professionals.
My next independent feature documentary was FEMINIST: STORIES FROM WOMEN’S LIBERATION which won "Best of the Fest" for documentary at the Los Angeles Women's International Film Festival. It is a film exploring the significance of the second wave of the women’s liberation movement on our lives. Interviewees include author and NOW founder Betty Friedan, authors and activists Frances M. Beal, Robin Morgan, Sonia Pressman Fuentes, Betita Martinez and many other feminists who are not well-known but should be.
Today I am invited to speak around the world. My mission is for my audiences to learn about the history of women and for women to see that their voices and work in the world is vital.
My speaking engagements have included, the British Library, Feminism in London Conference, Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, Hampshire College, The Women, Action and Media National Conference, UCLA, University of Colorado, Boulder, Girls Athletic Leadership School, Denver, CO, Loyola Marymount University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, University of Texas Dallas, and the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Jennifer speaking at the Los Angeles Final Cut User's Group in 2013.