Trailblazing Seattle filmmaker finally gets her due | Crosscut

I am so glad I came across this article about a very important early local filmmaker. Her life’s work discovered and saved from the trash bin. The full article link is included, by Robert Horton, March ,2022.

THIS ISN’T the last we will hear of Jean’s body of work…..saved from the trash bin!

Having written my blog for the past 6 years now….a common theme of the women I write about is: They showed up anyway. 

A poster with handwritten messages from a 2011 event celebrating Jean Walksinshaw’s 40 years as a documentary filmmaker in the Northwest is seen at her home in Seattle, WA on March 18, 2022. (Chona Kasinger for Crosscut)

In 2013 Walkinshaw got a phone call from someone at KCTS, Seattle’s public broadcasting station, informing her that a Channel 9 employee had noticed some of her original tapes and films stacked in a hallway. As alarming as the phone call was, it led directly to Walkinshaw recovering a huge amount of her material and, years later, to her work being celebrated and catalogued online by the prestigious American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The robust Jean Walkinshaw Collection was released online in 2021.

Walkinshaw’s career as a documentarian began through luck and proximity. “I came into it through knowing the right people at the right time,” she remembers. “My husband was a good friend of Stim Bullitt, who was head of KING broadcasting company. This was when television was so young, and Stim didn’t have much respect for it, but he was put in charge of the station by his mother [the legendary Dorothy Bullitt], who was the first broadcaster here in the Northwest. He wanted to upgrade everything. I’ve written about Dorothy, a local television pioneer, who brought “truth in reporting” and diversity to our airwaves.

(Left to right) Roberta Byrd Barr, longtime host of the Walkinshaw-produced television series ‘Face to Face,’ cameraman Wayne Sourbeer and Jean Walkinshaw holding the Emmy the team received for the series ‘Faces of the City.’ (Courtesy of Jean Walkinshaw)

“I am a person of causes,” Walkinshaw says, and by that point she already had the idea that TV might be used to investigate social issues. She contacted one of the “interesting women” from her KING series, Roberta Byrd Barr — who would later become the first Black principal of a Seattle school — to host a series called Face to Face. Byrd’s cut-to-the-chase style and telegenic charisma dovetailed neatly with Walkinshaw’s crusading instincts. Face to Face quickly moved from KCTS to KING, gaining national acclaim. “The right thing at the right time,” says Walkinshaw. (Visualize a series of rapid cuts: protest marches, Byrd mixing it up with the Black Panthers, the faces of Latino migrant workers.)

The American Archive heard about Jean Walkinshaw. “We immediately recognized the significance of this collection, not only in documenting the history, people, culture and environment of the Pacific Northwest, but also as a collection of programs produced by a female pioneer of public media,” says Casey Davis Kaufman, associate director of GBH [formerly WGBH] Archives and project manager at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

Kaufman noted that Walkinshaw’s work ticked a number of essential boxes, including the preservation of voices of historically marginalized populations, “thanks to Jean’s career in elevating the lesser-known stories of people in underrepresented communities,” and the deep representation of the Northwest. “It has been our mission to fill regional gaps in the collection,” Kaufman adds.


The American Archive of Public Broadcasting Jean Walkinshaw Collection now boasts 44 documentaries and 200 other items, including raw footage and unedited interviews. If it sounds like vindication and rediscovery for Jean Walkinshaw, that is certainly how the filmmaker herself sees it. “I’m so happy right now, at the age of 95,” she says. “I feel the full circle has come around. It’s the dream of any producer to have this happen.”

In recent years, Walkinshaw has produced a video memoir, which will remain sealed for 50 years. (“I guess I’m ‘Seattle nice,’ ” she explains. “I do not want to hurt anyone with my frank comments.”) She has also been working on a long-form documentary about her family history, which, if the first sections are any indication, contain a flabbergasting number of colorful characters and unlikely coincidences. “So you see why I’m just in awe,” Walkinshaw reflects. “I just stand back and think, well, what next is going to happen that’s lovely?”


I have produced television for The History Channel; KING-TV, NBC affiliate in Seattle; and KCTS, Public Television in Seattle. My work includes more than 45 documentaries. These are human stories from across the world that reveal issues, art, literature and history through the eyes of individuals involved. In my career, I have received more than 23 major awards.

After graduating from Stanford University, I taught school for three years and in 1963 started my TV career. At KING-TV I produced a weekly series, Face to Face, hosted by Roberta Byrd, which in 1968 was the only local program series in the U.S. to consistently report on attitudes of minority peoples.

In 1970 I moved to KCTS where I produced documentaries for both national and local audiences. Much of my work features people and places in the Northwest, but I also produced documentaries in Russia, Ghana and four in Japan. Many of my programs have been aired nationally by PBS and such varied groups as NHK in Japan, Super Channel in Europe, British Airways, and Armed Forces Television Services. My production of Rainier: The Mountain was the first program to be broadcast in high definition by KCTS. 

Sampling of Press Reviews
• Reviewer for the Boston Globe called Kitaro a “brilliant documentary…as a television experience it is mesmerizing.” 
• John Snell, reviewer for the Seattle P.I., found In the Shadow of the Mountains “one of the most extraordinary half-hours of television you will ever see.” 
• Joel Connelly, national correspondent for the Seattle P.I., wrote of The River, “Rarely has an hour of television gone to such depth with such grace.”
• Variety wrote of Tarheels in the Northwest, “This absorbing documentary blends fine photography and skillful editing to depict a unique segment of Pacific Northwest life.” 
• Studs Terkel in reviewing Faces of the City wrote, “This is poetic documentary in the best sense.”

THIS ISN’T the last we will hear of Jean’s body of work…..saved from the trash bin!



Documentarian Jean Walkinshaw Shared Stories Saved From the Trash Bin
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