Lynn Novick is one of the most renowned and respected documentary filmmakers and story tellers in America. For more than 30 years she has directed and produced landmark documentary films for PBS about American life and culture, history, politics, sports, art, architecture, literature, and music. Her more than 80 hours of acclaimed programming include multi-part series, The Vietnam War, Baseball, Jazz, Frank Lloyd Wright, The War, and Prohibition, created in collaboration with directing partner Ken Burns. Novick has received Emmy, Peabody and Alfred I. duPont Columbia Awards, and been honored by organizations as diverse as the Reporters’ Committee for the Freedom of the Press and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Throughout her distinguished career, she has been dedicated to telling authentic, nuanced, scrupulously researched true stories that shed light on both our complicated shared past and our fractured, polarized present. Her films have been viewed by a Nielsen-estimated more than 1 billion aggregate viewers in the US and tens of millions more around the world.
Lynn’s most recent film series, College Behind Bars, (her first as solo director) explores urgently contemporary and timeless questions – What is prison for? Who in America has been given access to educational opportunity? The film – six years in the making – immerses viewers in the transformational journey of a small group of incarcerated men and women who are serving time for serious crimes, and who are given a rare chance to earn college degrees in one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in America – the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). As the series unfolds, the incarcerated students master the liberal arts, reimagine themselves, come to terms with their pasts, become fully engaged citizens, and shatter stereotypes about incarcerated people and their intellectual and moral capacities. “What college does, it helps us learn about the nation,” says BPI student Rodney Spivey-Jones. “It helps us become civic beings. It helps us understand that we have an interest in our community, that our community is a part of us and we are a part of it.” “What you see in … these heartbreaking, inspiring stories, “ says Jamil Smith in Rolling Stone, “ is a testament to the power of education, and why it remains such a dangerous and underrated weapon against a racially and economically unjust status quo in this nation.” Similarly, the Washington Post noted that those who oppose prison education programs are “perhaps aggravated at the sight of these men overachieving and the personal freedom that knowledge bestows.”
Novick is developing a major series on the history of crime and punishment in America and collaborating with Burns and Botstein on a three part biography of Ernest Hemingway, an exploration of America’s response to the Holocaust, and a series on the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. Her future projects include a series on the history of Soviet spying in America, and a series about the public and private lives of remarkable American women. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale with honors in American Studies, and lives in New York City.