UW-Madison alum Jason Cohen (Journalism & Mass Communication and Communication Arts, 1994) is among the five directors who were nominated for an Academy Award this year in the category of “Best Documentary Short Subject.” Cohen’s film, Facing Fear, “tells the story of a gay teen being brutally beaten, and the journey to forgiveness that the victim and his attacker make together 25 years later.” Here’s what Cohen had to say in a recent interview in the Wisconsin Alumni Association newsletter:
I lived in Vilas Hall — I majored in journalism and communication arts. I wrote for The Daily Cardinal and worked at the NBC affiliate in Madison while I was in college. After graduating, I decided I didn’t necessarily want to go into broadcast journalism, and I liked film, so the mixture of those really is documentary, or long-form storytelling.I started freelancing in New York, then moved to San Francisco, where I did some sound work and camera work. I ended up meeting [Academy Award-winning director] Steven Okazaki and worked with him on the documentary Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street, which was basically just the two of us, out on the streets, following five heroin addicts for two years. It was the first big documentary I really worked on.
I’ve been fortunate to travel around the world on different types of shoots: wildlife, adventure sports, social issues, some commercial work. It’s been a hodgepodge, really. And I love it all. I’d never give it up. I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff.
In 2001, the School honored Cohen with the Ralph O. Nafziger Award for distinguished achievement by an alum within 10 years of graduation. Read more from Cohen’s interview here!