Jeff Spitz

Chicago, Illinois, United States


Jeff Spitz is a Chicago-based Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Sundance Film Festival honoree and tenured Professor in the department of Cinema and TV Arts at Columbia College Chicago. He is the co-founder of Groundswell Educational Films, NFP, a non-profit production company that combines documentary features, live events and social impact campaigns.

Jeff’s documentaries have screened and won awards at international film festivals and aired on national broadcast networks PBS, ABC, A&E and CBC. A winner of the Illinois Governor's International Arts Exchange Award, Jeff researches and develops intimate first-person voiced stories that defy stereotypes, catalyze mainstream news coverage and help change public policies. Showcased by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the United States EPA, Jeff’s best known work, The Return of Navajo Boy, triggered a federal investigation into uranium poisoning, front page news in the Los Angeles Times and a billion dollar settlement from a corporate polluter, (Kerr-McGee) to the Navajo Nation. (See www.navajoboy.com/webisodes)  

A Groundswell story unfolds as part of a larger strategic campaign connecting participants to multiple stakeholders including public schools, universities, mainstream news outlets, bloggers, community-based organizations, elected officials, governmental agencies, national advocacy groups and broadcasters. 

Jeff's collaborative work includes production of multi-platform programs and stakeholder initiatives. Original projects such as Food Patriots, The Robben Island Singers and The Return of Navajo Boy generate one of a kind stories, innovative ground games and real world results for years.

A media consultant, Jeff provides professional development training for teachers as well as non-fiction filmmakers. He guides classroom teachers in hands-on experiences with iPads, digital video, websites, and story-driven events that engage students in project-based learning. He assists filmmakers and media companies with story consultations and cross-cultural communications.

In 2016 Groundswell created The Doc Talk Show in Chicago. Local sponsors including Kartemquin Films, Chicago Filmmakers, Mezcla Media Collective and Media Process Group support the monthly series featuring diverse co-hosts, themed showcases, clips and facilitated convos inside a popular restaurant. To date more than 200 non-fiction filmmakers have shared their clips through this program. Themes such as "Decolonize The Screen," "Camera Women," and "Music Video Pros" empower emerging and veteran filmmakers to experience friendly, intergenerational convos in a room with good food and drinks. During Covid19 The Doc Talk Show pivoted online and produced recorded events with dozens of creatives including founder of DocNYC, Raphaela Neihausen and Chicago doc legends, Steve James (City So Real & Hoop Dreams) and Gordon Quinn (For The Left Hand). Join us at http://www.thedoctalkshow.com