Social issues

Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America

A new book about the history of American nonfiction filmmaking, from Thomas Edison to the "Post Truth" era of President Donald Trump, and the yet-to-be-explored realm of virtual reality. 

"Authoritative, accessible, and elegantly written, Screening Reality is the history of American documentary film we have been waiting for." --Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

"A towering achievement, and a volume I know I'll be consulting on a regular basis." -- Leonard Maltin

Enthralling . . . A valuable resource for cinephiles, this sweeping history will ignite a new enthusiasm for the form among readers less well-versed in the genre.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A many-faceted, dynamic, and thought-provoking history of nonfiction films in America . . . This monumental exploration reminds us that 'evidential truth' is essential to liberty and justice . . . Let the real be real; let truth ring true.” ―Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“An illuminating, encyclopedic history of nonfiction film . . . A capacious celebration of film's potential to show us the world.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Well-documented . . . Wilkman consistently cycles back to one important message: no matter how fuzzy the lines between fiction and fact, truth should be forefront in the minds of documentarians. Our supposedly posttruth era and the pitfalls and ease with which we augment reality are threads through the narrative . . . Wilkman makes a compelling case.” ―Library Journal

Fantastically well researched and written, Screening Reality raises the bar for anyone who wants to write about the history of documentaries and documentarians, with invaluable insights into today's truth-challenged times.” ―Peter Davis, Academy Award-winning director of HEARTS AND MINDS; author of GIRL OF MY DREAMS

Published by Bloomsbury Press on February 18, 2020.


At Issue: Immigration

A thoughtful and dispassionate five-part exploration the modern America debate about immigration, drawing upon the best available facts and information.



An investigation of the events surrounding the prison uprising of 1971. Sponsored by the American Bar Association and the Ford Foundation, PBS (co-Producer/Director, JW)


Bosnia: The Eyes of War

A video about the effects or war on children, and efforts to create new pre-schools to help them.  Narrated by Kevin Costner.  Produced for the Save the Children Foundation.


Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East Los Angeles

A documentary about the history of Chicano rock 'n' roll, from the legendary Lalo Guerrero to Ritchie Valens, Los Lobos and beyond, Underwritten in part by a grants from Latino Public Broadcasting, the California Council for the Humanities and the Skirball Foundation.  Winner of the 2009 Best Documentary at the Reel Rasquache Festival of the U.S. Latino Experience in Film and Art.

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Countdown to a Contract

An Emmy Award-winning program documenting contract negotiations between hospital workers and hospitals in New York.


Eye on New York

72 half-hour episodes of a weekly series devoted to exploring life in the City of New York.  Produced for WCBS in New York.


A Family Place

Video about the implications of adoption for all involved.  Sponsored by the Stephen S. Wise Adoption Center.


For the Children

A documentary exploring the lives of children around the world who are in need.  Produced for the Save the Children Foundation.


The Intentional Conversation

A documentary explaining and examining a program of the Skirball Institute for American Values, bringing people together from various walks of life for open conversation.


Los Angeles Is...

A documentary concerning social conditions in Los Angeles and what local foundations are doing to improve life in America's second largest city.  Produced for the Southern California Association for Philanthropy.


The Los Angeles Urban Funders: Making a Difference Together

A video documenting the structure and activities of a Los Angeles consortium of foundations and funders who are dealing with the city's social and economic problems.  Produced for the Los Angeles Urban Funders.


Three Stories from the House of Justice

A video about the need for free legal aid.  Sponsored by Bet Tzedek. a Los Angeles-based legal aid organization.


Transit 2000

Six part series on the issues and technology of modern mass transit.  Sponsored by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency. Shown on KABC, Los Angeles


Turning Points

A series of six one-hour television specials featuring people in the process of major changes in their lives.  Hosted by Robert Foxworth.  Produced in association with KCET, Los Angeles.


The Violence Prevention Initiative: In Our Own Words

A documentary about a ten-year $70 million effort to understand and prevent youth violence in California.  Sponsored by the California Wellness Foundation.


Voices of America

(available on DVD)

Eight half-hour documentaries, exploring life in various regions of America, as illustrated and described by those who live there.  Produced for McGraw-Hill Films.


Women Who Make a Difference

Profiles of distinguished women.  Produced for the Los Angeles YWCA


American Images

(available on DVD)

Half-hour documentary profiling the lives of three representative Americans, a cross-country truck driver, a ballet dancer and a country doctor.  Produced for the USIA.


Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles

The story of the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster that took the lives of more than 400 people and ending the celebrated career of William Mulholland, the man who build the 1913 aqueduct that made modern Los Angeles possible. A 2016 Amazon Nonfiction Book of the Year and winner of the Historical Society of Southern California's Martin Ridge Award for the Best Book about California History after 1848.


Screening Reality: How Documentary Filmmakers Reimagined America

 A book about the history of American documentary filmmaking.  Published by Bloomsbury Publishing (2020)

* All programs produced, directed and written by Jon Wilkman unless otherwise indicated.