Debra Chasnoff was an American documentary filmmaker and activist whose films address progressive social justice issues. Her production company GroundSpark produces and distributes films, educational resources and campaigns on issues ranging from environmental concerns to affordable housing to preventing prejudice. Chasnoff was the senior producer and president of Groundspark. GroundSpark’s mission is to “create films and dynamic education campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.”
Chasnoff has directed and/or produced twelve films in the United States since her filmmaking career began in 1984. Chasnoff directed and co-produced Choosing Children in 1984 with her partner at the time, Kim Klausner. In 1991 she directed and produced Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment. In 1992 Chasnoff won an Academy Award for Deadly Deception and thanked her then partner, Kim Klausner, in her acceptance speech, and by doing so she “came out” to the public as a lesbian. She co-directed Homes and Hands—Community Land Trusts in Action in 1998 with Helen S. Cohen, and in 1999 she directed and produced Wired for What? a film about technology in education. Chasnoff directed and co-produced One Wedding and a Revolution in 2004 with Kate Stilley, a nineteen-minute-long film that details the political decision made by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to issue same-sex marriage licenses for a short time in early 2004.
Chasnoff’s organization Groundspark has produced several films as a part of its Respect for All Project. The series includes the following films, all directed and produced by Chasnoff: Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, It’s STILL Elementary, Let’s Get Real, and That’s a Family!
Chasnoff also produced and directed Celebrating the Life of Del Martin which captures the moving memorial celebration for lesbian pioneer Del Martin who died in 2008. A Foot in the Door, directed by Chasnoff and produced with Kate Stilley Steiner, is a short (16 minute) documentary showcasing Kindergarten to College, the first universal children’s college savings account program in the United States.
Chasnoff died on November 7, 2017, at her San Francisco home. The cause was breast cancer.
Kate Stilley Steiner is a filmmaker, editor, and producer. She co-founded Citizen Film, a San Francisco-based not-for-profit production company which “creates films and online media that foster active engagement in cultural and civic life.”
Her past producing and editing credits include the feature-length documentaries Throwing Curves, about 103-year-old industrial designer Eva Zeisel, Wired For What? for PBS, Thinking Like A Watershed; and The Mystery of the Last Tsar for The Learning Channel.
Stilley’s other editing credits include work on the award-winning documentaries: The Story Of Mothers and Daughters for ABC Television; Fox Television’s Emmy Award-winning Loyalty and Betrayal: The Story Of The American Mob; and the Academy Award nominated Freedom On My Mind.
She has also worked closely with Debra Chasnoff of Groundspark for several years, producing and editing That’s A Family! and Let’s Get Real, films that help teens deal with the problems of bullying and stereotyping. The recent, A Foot in the Door, profiles San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College program, which aims to instill financial literacy in public school kids, grades K – 12.