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

Hi-Tops Youth and Gender Forum, March 2023: Invited Speaker, screening "Mama Has a Mustache" and discussion of youth and gender.
Did a screening and discussion of "Hillbilly" with Literacy Together, an organization based in Asheville, North Carolina.
Held screenings of "Mama Has a Mustache" at schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified Public School system, along with exercises and activities around gender identity in the classroom.
2021-2023 film festival screenings of "Mama Has a Mustache," my short animated documentary about kids and gender, released in August 2021: NATIONAL Frameline, San Francisco; Holly Shorts Film Festival (Oscar-qualifying), Los Angeles; Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival; Mill Valley Film Festival; Outfest, Los Angeles; San Francisco International Film Festival; San Francisco Transgender Film Festival; MountainFilm, Telluride; Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, Colorado Springs; Vail Film Festival; Dunedin International Film Festival, Best Director and Best Editing Awards; Tampa Bay International Film Festival (Oscar-qualifying); Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (Oscar-qualifying), Embrace Award; Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis (Oscar-qualifying); Nantucket Film Festival; Frozen River Film Festival, Winona; Hamptons International Film Festival; Kid Flicks Tour (national screenings organized by New York International Children’s Film Festival); New York International Children's Film Festival (Oscar-qualifying), Nominee, Audience Award; The Women’s Film Festival, Philadelphia; ?Providence Children’s Film Festival; Port Townsend Film Festival, Women and Film Seattle International Children’s Film Festival, Winner, Best Short Documentary; TRANSlations: Seattle Trans Film Festival; Q-Fest, Eau-Claire INTERNATIONAL Calgary International Film Festival (Oscar-qualifying), Alberta, Canada; Global Media Makers Workshop, Kerala, India; Film Independent Documentary Workshop, Kolkata, India; Flatpack Film Festival, Birmingham, United Kingdom; Florence Queer Festival, Florence, Italy; Cinhomo, Valladolid, Spain
Producer of this feature-length documentary "Skydiving Over Sixty," which will broadcast on PBS later this year.
Presentation, lecture, and discussion of "Mama Has a Mustache" at the Trans Youth Forum, a conference for trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming youth.
Plenary session and presentation/lecture about gender identity to 400 attendees at the EDGY: Dimensions of Gender conference for public health workers here in Southern California. The presentation included a screening of "Mama Has a Mustache." View the video of the presentation here:
Screening of "Mama Has a Mustache" and discussion around youth and gender identity at the International Lesbian and Gay Association's annual conference.
Presented "Mama Has a Mustache" at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, and led a discussion about youth and gender identity.
Screened "Mama Has a Mustache" at San Bernardino Valley College, and led a discussion about the film, youth, and gender identity.
Contributed a chapter to Professor Charles Dye's book, "Nonfiction Filmmaking for the Screen." Professor Dye teaches at Virginia Tech and will be releasing the film later this year.
Presented to 200 viewers at Show & Tell's virtual conference/ webinar on pitching and distribution: Invited Speaker, presented about creating documentary impact through conferences and partner organizations.
Screened "Mama Has a Mustache" at the national Out and Equal annual summit conference, which brings together leaders from the nation's top corporations making an effort to create a hospitable workplace environment for LGBT people.
Winner, Foreign Press Association, Best Arts and Culture Story of the Year for HILLBILLY, submitted by Al Jazeera.
Released new film, MAMA HAS A MUSTACHE, a ten-minute, fully animated documentary about gender identity, as seen through children's eyes. The film premiered at OUTFEST in August 2021 at the DGA, and was called "One of 10 Must-See Films at Outfest" by IndieWire. I have raised over $40,000 for the impact campaign on the film, and have created partnerships with PFLAG, GLAD, the NCLR, and all of the major, national LGBT organizations.
Completed "Appalachian Futures," a short commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute for inclusion in their "Futures We Dream" exhibition, which will be unveiled in November 2021 at the Smithsonian. They expect over a million people to attend the exhibit. The eight films commissioned as part of this exhibit, each of which received $17,000 for production, will also be bundled together for potential release on PBS.
Nominated for the George C. Stoney Award in 2020.
Participated in This. Is. Kentucky., a virtual event about what’s important to Kentuckians in rural and urban communities today around arts education, cultural/regional identity, Black Lives Matter protests and demands for racial justice around the Breonna Taylor killing in Louisville, the 2020 election year and why Kentucky matters.
Screened at and won the Best of Festival Award at the Frozen River Film Festival in Winona, Minnesota.
HILLBILLY acquired by and broadcast on Al Jazeera across several countries internationally. Al Jazeera nominated the film for an AIB (Association for International Broadcasting) Award for Arts and Culture.
HILLBILLY nominated for a Grierson Award in the category of Best Arts or Music Documentary.
Worked as a consulting writer on the documentary DISCLOSURE, which premiered at Sundance in 2020, about media representation of the transgender community.
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
Screening of HILLBILLY at the Marubia Outdoor Cinema in Tirania, Albania, as part of the American Film Showcase program through the United States Embassy. The film also screening in Moscow, Prague, and Ecuador as part of AFS.
Served as a grant writer and consultant during the period of submission to the National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
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.
Ongoing production and now post-production on a documentary I'm co-directing and co-producing, entitled "Hillbilly," about media representation of the Appalachian region and rural America. The project has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. We have raised half a million dollars for the project and expect to complete it by the end of 2017.
Producing "Her Appalachia," an interactive website and digital storytelling project to accompany "Hillbilly." "Her Appalachia" is funded by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and uses photography, audio stories, archival footage, and personal artifacts, to tell the stories of mountain and Southern women.
Emmy Awards, National Academy of the Arts and Sciences: Judge
Producer on this short, experimental documentary film about a transgendered opera singer in San Francisco. The film premiered at the Frameline and Outfest film festivals in 2016.
Editor on "After Coal," directed by Tom Hansell, a feature-length documentary for public television broadcast, directed by Tom Hansell, about how small communities survive after their natural resources have been extracted. Premiered on WVPB West Virginia PBS and at the Princeton Environmental, Hay, Athens International, and West Virginia International Film Festivals.
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.
Additional film festival screenings of "Life on the Line" in 2015, in addition to the ones already listed below: Big as Texas Film Festival, Boston International Kids Festival, Los Angeles Indie Film Festival, Oregon Underground Film Festival, Providence Children’s Film Festival, Saint Louis International Film Festival, The Big Read Official Selection, Viva Latino Film Festival
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.
"Life on the Line" re-broadcast nationally on PBS in September as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Producer on this 15-minute documentary about a transgendered opera singer, directed by Nicole Opper.
Editorial Consultant on this film about how small communities in Wales and Appalachia are able to survive after their natural resources are gone. Directed by Tom Hansell, for PBS.
Screened at the 2014 University Film and Video Association, won Honorable Mention in the category of Best Documentary.
"Life on the Line" film festival run still in progress: Best Environmental Documentary, Mexico International Film Festival; Arizona International Film Festival; Los Angeles Lift Off Film Festival; Chicago Social Change Film Festival Saint Louis International Film Festival; San Francisco Independent Film Festival; Santa Barbara International Film Festival; White Sands International Film Festival
'Life on the Line" selected as official documentary for "The Big Read," an annual initiative through the Los Angeles Unified School District that disseminates documentaries to schools and public libraries across the city. Film will be seen and used by thousands of students as a result.
"Life on the Line" broadcast nationally on PBS in September 2014 as part of Hispanic National Heritage Month, and ongoingly for two years following.
Completed "Life Lines," interactive youth digital storytelling project created with organizational partners Las Latinitas, Girls Inc, and El Viento, working with youth in the four Mexico border states to tell stories about their lives. For online dissemination in conjunction with "Life on the Line." Two Chapman students were hired as paid Editors.
Feature-length documentary in progress about the history of media representation of the Appalachian region over the past century and a half.
Completed (co-directed and edited) "Life on the Line," documentary film for national PBS broadcast in September 2014. See for more.
Documentary completed in 2010, "Deep Down," will be included in the American Conservation National Film Festival.
Edited additional behind-the-scenes documentary/promo for PBS Frontline national broadcast of the documentary "Kind-Hearted Woman." This additional piece was included on the national press tour for the film.
Edited 27-minute cut of the documentary "Real Boy," about a transgendered teenager and directed by Shaleece Haas, intended for national PBS broadcast.
Completed initial cut of "Life on the Line," documentary intended for national PBS broadcast about a teenage girl living on the border of Arizona and Mexico. Film has so far received grants from Chapman, the Puffin Foundation, the Fledgling Fund, and was a finalist for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's ITVS Open Call grant. Film is currently in consideration for funding through ITVS in partnership with KAET Phoenix.
Developed transmedia project about youth on the Mexico/US border, called "Voices from the Line," which received funding from the Fledgling Fund. Project is currently in production.
"Deep Down" documentary, Winner, Best Documentary Award, University Film and Video Association's Annual Conference.
Created several short pieces about ranchers on the border of Arizona and Mexico, to accompany my feature-length documentary-in-progress on the topic, intended for PBS.
Edited "Wildness," a feature-length documentary for theatrical release. The film premiered at South By Southwest Film Festival in January, and screened at this year's Hot Docs festival in Toronto.
Edited a short piece for documentary director Sarah Feeley entitled "Hamsterdam."
Selected for PBS and Independent Lens’ Community Cinema screening series, where about eight films are chosen to be screened in small communities around the country. “Deep Down” has screened in over 150 small communities through this initiative alone, in addition to another 75 or so through our faith-based and environmental outreach campaigns.
Selected for the UFVA’s American Documentary Showcase, an initiative through the US State Department that takes 18 films to every country in the world that has an American Embassy. Invitations have included Nigeria and an upcoming week in Belarus at the end of October. Filmmakers bring their film to universities and embassies to discuss democracy in action, as portrayed in their film.
Edited feature length documentary entitled “The Senior Games” for national broadcast. The film premiered at Silverdocs.
Shot, directed, and edited a short documentary about David Sutherland, cinema verite documentary filmmaker (maker of “Farmer’s Wife” and “County Boys” which had over 40 million viewers collectively). This piece will play online in conjunction with the Frontline broadcast, will be on ITVS’ websites for the film, and will be included on the DVD extras.
Field produced, recorded sound, and edited a 20-minute piece about a 7-year old diabetic girl.
Created additional short piece for national PBS broadcast, about new media initiatives for the film (mountaintop removal coal mine in the virtual reality program, Second Life). Nominated for an Emmy award in August 2011.
Completed (co-directed and edited) feature length documentary film for national PBS broadcast in November 2010. See for more. The film was broadcast on PBS’ Emmy award winning series, Independent Lens, to over one million viewers.