Elizabeth Coffman

Elizabeth Coffman is a documentary filmmaker and film scholar. She's published work in Camera Obscura, Journal of Film & Video and other places. Her film work has been broadcast and screened at festivals in Europe and the U.S. Elizabeth maintains messy homes in Chicago and in Tampa, where her two children live with their father during the week, and stay with her on the weekends. Elizabeth and her filmmaking partner have a media production company -- Long Distance Productions.

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Most Recent Articles

October 7, 2010
After flying in from Chicago to visit my children recently, I arrived in time to watch them perform in the marching band for their weekly football game. My daughter, Katie, who plays the trombone, spotted me in the audience and needed to leave the stands and come weep a bit on my shoulder. She couldn’t explain exactly what was wrong, but it seemed to be a combination of loneliness, not finding enough friends in the band, and missing me a bit.
September 22, 2010
The last few years have been a bit of a roller coaster ride for my son Nick. He’s been busy with school obligations, starting rock bands with his friends, and trying to pass a full schedule of Honors and AP coursework. Nick seems happy. He works as a lifeguard and plays in his school’s marching band. But for some reason, he refuses to do much homework and his grades have dropped.
September 9, 2010
September 6th was the 150th birthday of writer, philosopher and political activist Jane Addams --the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and the founder of Chicago’s Hull House. I decided to require my honors students to meet me for class this week at the Hull House museum, where a block party birthday celebration was planned for the community (with free food...).
August 26, 2010
Geez! Tuesday was the first day of school for my teenagers and my alarm did not go off! Either that or I had turned it off and rolled back to sleep. I was in Florida at the beginning of this week, both to get my teenagers off for their first day of school and also to vote. I have assessed that it is statistically more important for me to vote in the state of Florida than it is in Illinois where my university job resides (but Blagojevich has me questioning that decision...) My son Nick woke me up frantically in my bedroom, “Mom! It’s after 7!”
August 12, 2010
I am writing this column from the annual conference that I attend every year with fellow academics — the University Film & Video Association (UFVA). This year we’re meeting in Burlington, Vermont. Like many schools, my university travel budget is fairly low this year. So this trip is also my vacation.
July 28, 2010
Now that my children are almost college-age, I have to face some cold, hard facts of personal accounting. I have not been saving for my teens’ college tuition plan. On my college professor’s salary I cannot afford to send my kids to the same kind of private institution that I attended as an undergrad. Nor do I want them to wind up with $80,000 in student loan debt by the age of 21. (I can’t even do the math for the additional costs of a graduate education for them.)
July 15, 2010
My daughter, Katie, is staying with me in Chicago for a few weeks this summer. She turns fifteen this Thursday, and we’ve been spending a lot of time together planning her birthday — her Quinceañero, as she keeps reminding me… Last week we drove to my parent’s house in Florida. Their 50th wedding anniversary is coming up this fall and we’ve been looking through photo albums. My sister Julie -- a writer, Presbyterian minister and our resident family genealogist -- was also there, overseeing our photo archiving.
July 1, 2010
I’ve been traveling around the country lately talking about the B.P. oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, screening excerpts of my Louisiana documentary and seeking solutions with other concerned individuals. It’s clear that no group or individual — not BP, the federal government, Kevin Costner -- has enough answers to this environmental disaster. It should be no surprise that the communities along the Gulf Coast feel abandoned with this mess.
June 17, 2010
For the next few weeks my two teenagers are with their dad and my contact with them is primarily digital. Unfortunately, I can't get Nick or Katie interested in ‘Skype-ing’ with me except when we 'chat’ virtually with their cousins who live in England. We take turns walking laptops around our houses, pointing them at children lounging in bed, or aiming it at the new pet — delighted with our free international communication. I love seeing that my sister’s house is messier than mine…
June 3, 2010
The media and the sciences… They mix like oil and water. Commercial media seeks narrative personas, two-sided conflicts and attention-grabbing images of disaster. The sciences demand careful process, time to uncover truths and talented storytellers to achieve a big audience.

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