headshot photo of Sally Rubin

Sally Rubin

Associate Professor
Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts
Expertise: Social-Issue Documentary Film; Community Engagement for the Documentary; Documentary Fundraising
Office Location: Chapman Studios West 116
Phone: (714) 289-3505
Tufts University, Bachelor of Arts
Stanford University, Master of Arts

Video Profile


Sally Rubin is a documentary filmmaker, editor, and professor who has worked in the field for over twenty years. She recently completed a documentary about stereotypes of Appalachia and their impact on our last presidential election, entitled hillbilly. The film is in distribution through the Orchard (Cartel Land, Life Animated) funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, recently won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival and has been praised by Michael Moore and Dolly Parton. In 2014 Rubin completed Life on the Line (with Jen Gilomen) about a teenage girl growing up on the U.S./Mexico border. The film broadcast nationally on PBS and premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Rubin's previous film, Deep Down was an ITVS-funded feature-length documentary about two friends in eastern Kentucky who find themselves divided over mountaintop removal coal mining near their homes. The film was part of the 2010-2011 Independent Lens Emmy-winning PBS series, and has reached almost 1.5 million people through its broadcast, distribution, and outreach campaign. It was nominated for an Emmy for its Virtual Mine outreach project, in the category of New Approaches to News and Documentary. It was funded by Chicken and Egg Pictures, the MacArthur Foundation, ITVS, and the Fledgling Fund. 

Rubin's other credits include The Last Mountain, a film about her father's death in a hiking accident that was broadcast on PBS, Robert Greenwald's Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers a​nd the television series The Freedom Files (editor), as well as David Sutherland's 6-hour Frontline special Country Boys (associate producer), and Riverwebs (editor), which broadcast nationally on PBS. In 2004 Rubin founded the groundbreaking Straight Outta Grrrlville Film Festival in San Francisco, and continues to produce local events and benefits for artists and filmmakers, in conjunction with her own continued work.


Rubin is a full-time documentary professor at Chapman University. Other professional memberships and affiliations include: Doculink Steering Committee: Member; Doculink Planning Committee: Member; Tenth Muse Films: President of the Board; International Documentary Association: Member; International Documentary Association David Wolper Award: Member, Screening and Judging Committees; International Documentary Association Awards: Feature Documentary Judge; New Day Films Cooperative:  Member/Owner.


After earning her M.A. in Documentary Film and Video from Stanford University, Rubin fell deeply in love with the field of documentary film, where she hopes to continue working for a very long time.

Recent Creative, Scholarly Work and Publications

HILLBILLY- SELECT UNIVERSITY PRESENTATIONS & LECTURES: Women and Public Policy Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME Union College, Barbourville, KY Spalding University, Louisville, KY Morehead State University, Morehead, KY Pikeville University, Pikeville, KY Columbia College of Chicago, Chicago, IL Berea College, Berea, KY   The Sanctuary, Cincinnati, OH Jessye Norman School for the Arts, Augusta, GA The Capitol Arts Center, Bowling Green, KY Reinhardt University, Waleska, GA Troy University, Troy, Alabama Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL Ritz Theater, Sheffield, AL The Line Hotel, Washington, D.C. Belcourt Theater, Nashville, TN Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY Appalachian State University, Boone, NC West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, Orange, CA Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA University of California, Los Angeles, CA University of California, Santa Cruz, CA Woodbury University, Burbank, CA
Reviewed "Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice" by Jacob Bricca.
Reviewed "The Technique of Film and Video Editing" by Ken Dancyger.
HILLBILLY acquired by the Orchard, the documentary branch of Sony. Purchased by Hulu for online streaming for two years. Educational distribution through Passion River. SELECT FESTIVALS & AWARDS: Los Angeles Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA—Jury Prize for Best Documentary Traverse City Film Festival, Traverse City, MI—Founder’s Award in Documentary Filmmaking (from Michael Moore) Nashville Film Festival, Nashville, TN—Closing Night Movie Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Hot Springs, AR—Opening Night Movie Boone Film Festival, Boone, NC—Opening Night Movie; Winner, Best Documentary Scruffy City and Film Score Festival, Knoxville, TN— Audience Award; Best Score Appalachian Studies Association, Asheville, NC—Jack Spadaro Award Winner, 2019 Franklin International Independent Film Festival, Franklin, TV—Winner, Audience Award DOC NYC, New York, NY MountainFilm, Telluride, CO Santa Barbara International Film Festival: Call to Action, Santa Barbara, CA Sebastopol Film Festival, Sebastopol, CA Doctober, Bellingham, WA Anchorage International Film Festival, Anchorage, AK Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN Ojai Film Festival, Ojai, CA Charlotte Film Festival, Charlotte, NC Cine World Film Festival, Sarasota, FL Beaufort International Film Festival, Beaufort, SC SF DocFest, San Francisco, CA Beloit International Film Festival, Beloit, WI Nevada City Film Festival, Nevada City, CA Arlington Film Festival, Arlington, MA Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, Colorado Springs, CO YES Fest, Columbus, IN Dallas Women’s Film Festival, Dallas, TX
Received Faculty Opportunity Fund grant from Chapman, for $15000 for "Mama Has a Mustache," my new documentary about being gender non-conforming and pregnant.
Editorial Consultant on "This Won't Be on the Test," a work-in-progress documentary about the importance of after-school and extracurricular programs to American education.
Los Angeles premiere of "Life on the Line" at the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Los Angeles Public Library. In conjunction with "The Big Read" Los Angeles. Panelists at the event included Lucy Santana, Executive Director of Girls Inc, Linda Lopez, Chief of Immigrant Services in the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, and moderator Desiree Gutierrez of Impact Media Partners.
Producer on this 15-minute documentary about a transgendered opera singer, directed by Nicole Opper.
Edited a short piece for documentary director Sarah Feeley entitled "Hamsterdam."
Completed (co-directed and edited) feature length documentary film for national PBS broadcast in November 2010. See www.deepdownfilm.org for more. The film was broadcast on PBS’ Emmy award winning series, Independent Lens, to over one million viewers.