A graduate of UCLA Film School, Churchill began her career doing camera work on a series of music films – including such seminal classics as “Gimme Shelter,” a Maysles film, “No Nukes,” directed by Haskell Wexler and Barbara Kopple and “Hail, Hail Rock and Roll,” directed by Taylor Hackford. Churchill also directed and photgraphed “Jimi Plays Berkeley,” now a cult classic, and spent seven months shooting on the PBS series, “An American Family,” the definitive verite study of dysfunctional family life.
She was cinematographer on the Peter Watkins’ recently re-released feature, “Punishment Park,” a film about escalating domestic turmoil as the Viet Nam war dragged on. The film wasç controversial largely because audiences didn’t realize it was fiction. She also shot a second Watkins film in Denmark called “Eveningland.”
Churchill was invited to teach at the National Film School in England where she took up residence for ten years. A long-term collaboration began with Nick Broomfield, resulting in a number of highly acclaimed films they co-directed. “Juvenile Liaison” exposed the harsh practices of a British police crime prevention program in the schools. Fifteen years later, they revisited the subjects of this film in a follow-up, “Juvenile Liaison 2.” “Tattooed Tears” documents the indignity of life inside a California maximum security prison. “Soldier Girls,” released theatrically & winner of the BAFTA Award, follows a platoon of women through the agonies of basic training. “Lily Tomlin,” also released theatrically, chronicles the evolution of Tomlin’s Broadway hit, ‘The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.’ She also shot on Broomfield’s “Kurt & Courtney,” and was D.P. on “Biggie & Tupac” and “His Big White Self.”
Churchill also continued directing/shooting her own films including “One Generation More” for the BBC about an Estonian family rediscovering their Jewish roots in the shadow of communism; “Asylum,” an Emmy-nomination for HBO, reveals life inside a prison for the criminally insane; “Arrested Development in the House,” a Channel 4 feature length road movie about the grammy-winning hiphop group, Arrested Development.
She worked on two American TV reality series, producing and shooting a 13 part show for TLC, called “Residents,” shot at UCLA hospital over a one year period. This series and “American High,” (A PBS Emmy Award winning series also shot and produced by Churchill) were for R.J. Cutler of Actual Reality.
Churchill shot and co-directed “Aileen Wuornos: Life & Death of a Serial Killer” with Broomfield. Theatrically released and shown on HBO, the film is about a tragic life that led to madness, the death of seven men and finally execution. The film won first prize at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Amnesty International-Doen Award.
In production, “College Unbound” (working title), which follows the inaugural year of 8 students at a new college for people from impoverished backgounds who will be learning experientially by interning with mentors from their chosen fields of interest.
Some recent cinematography credits include the shooting of the memorial concert for George Harrison, “Concert for George,” a film by David Leland; “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing” and “Bearing Witness,” about journalists in Iraq, both directed by Barbara Kopple; also, “Home of the Brave,” about the death of Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman killed in the Civil Rights movement, directed by Paola di Florio; an Anne Makepeace film, “Rain in a Dry Land,” about two Somali Bantu families, who immigrated to the U.S.; and HBO’s “Bastards of the Party” directed by Bone about the Crips & the Bloods. Just completed, a Discovery feature doc, “Snow Blind,” directed by Vikram Jayanti, about the lovely Rachael Scdoris, a blind Iditarod racer & her team of dogs.