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James Spione

Lecturer in Film

Academy Award® nominee James Spione has been an independent director and producer for over thirty years. His documentary work has been broadcast in the United States and around the world, and has been distributed on multiple digital platforms worldwide including Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Xbox. Mr. Spione’s film about national security whistleblowers, Silenced, was nominated in 2016 for a News and Documentary Emmy® Award, and his short Incident in New Baghdad was nominated for a 2012 Oscar. His work has screened at numerous prestigious international film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, AFI, HotDocs, IDFA, Seattle, Camden, Boulder, Movies that Matter, Cleveland and London among many others.

Mr. Spione’s latest feature, Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock, about the dramatic year-long standoff between the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and North Dakota law enforcement over an oil pipeline project, is a unique collaborative work produced with fellow Oscar® nominee Josh Fox and indigenous filmmakers Myron Dewey and Doug Good Feather. The film premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by Netflix. Mr. Spione’s previous feature, the Emmy-nominated Silenced, also premiered at Tribeca, and was broadcast in the United States as well as in Canada, Europe and Asia. He also directed the powerful war film Incident in New Baghdad, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.

Mr. Spione’s other nonfiction films include American Farm, which detailed the demise of his family’s fifth-generation homestead in central New York State, and a continuing series of short documentaries, Our Island Home, Spirit of the Bird, Watermen, The Last Hunt Clubs, Welcome to the Table, Gatherings and Island Empire, which explore the unique culture and history of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, one of the few remaining rural coastal regions in the continental United States. This ongoing longitudinal study has been produced over 15 years, with the eighth film, The Almshouse, currently in post production.

In addition, Mr. Spione has written and directed a number of fiction films; perhaps best-known is the eerie Sundance short Garden, a suspenseful drama starring Oscar®-winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter). He also produced John G. Young’s Parallel Sons, which premiered in the Dramatic Competition at Sundance.

Mr. Spione’s first film Prelude, produced in the BFA Film Directing program at SUNY Purchase, earned a Student Academy Award and was seen at numerous international film festivals. The film recently underwent a complete digital restoration under the auspices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Short Film Archive.

The filmmaker is currently finishing a documentary on the late African American photojournalist John Shearer, expected to premiere sometime in 2024.


Representative Courses

Senior Seminar Film Production

Editing II

Introduction to Digital Filmmaking

Documentary I

Short Film Production