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Jessica Congdon - United States
The Best Documentary Award (People)
Jessica Congdon
Editor – Writer
Jessica Congdon, Editor and Co-writer of Delores, is the recipient of TheWIFTS Best Documentary Award 2017 in the People Category. The feature documentary Delores is a magnificent portrayal of Delores Huerta, a woman unrecognized at the height of her fight for farm workers and her accomplishments. The Editing of the film cleverly weaves the story using up-to-date material and archive footage that finally gives Delores her rightful attribution in the struggle.

Jessica was born in California, attended UC Berkeley, and in her first year became enthralled with film. She took a year off to go to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While there, in addition to shooting on a 16mm Bolex and splicing film, she realized she enjoyed the technical aspects of filmmaking, so returned to UC Berkeley and got her Computer Science degree.

Her first internship out of college was with a recording studio to learn sound engineering, and there she met Eric Holland, who would later become her creative partner and husband. She got a job as a sound designer in San Francisco during the first tech boom of the 1990s, and taught herself Avid editing software and learned about editing sound and picture on computers.

Her next job was an assistant editor at a post-production facility in San Francisco working on commercials. She loved learning the whole process of making a mini-film, from shooting on 35mm, transferring dailies, editing, prepping negative key code lists, cutting negative, coloring film, online finishing, graphics, and sound mixing. She built up her editing reel cutting commercials and eventually went freelance, traveling to Los Angeles and New York for project

Dolores Trailer

Classically trained in music from a young age, where she performed in bands in high school, she was also writing songs, playing guitar and singing in her all-female band Vervein. They performed in venues along the west coast and released two albums.

In 1999, together with Eric they started a company called 3five7 to produce web content. After 9/11 and the tech bubble burst, they decided to close the company and went on an extended trip to Berlin to visit friends.

While in Berlin Jessica was offered a job editing the Columbia Tri-Star feature film Big Girls Don’t Cry by Maria von Heland. Although she wasn’t fluent in German, she found that the rhythm of editing transcends language. During this time, she and Eric recorded a studio album under their band name Anagram, enlisting the help of numerous musician friends in Berlin. Some of their tracks became part of the soundtrack for the film.

When she returned to San Francisco, she was brought on to edit Dopamine, which premiered at Sundance in 2003 and received the Alfred P. Sloan award. Eric wrote the original score for the film, and Jessica sang on several tracks. That year she and Eric got married at her parents’ family home in Twentynine Palms, California, near where she was born.

In addition to editing commercials, she started working on longer form documentary films, and found her calling. The ability to dive deeply into a subject matter, tell longer form stories of real people, and essentially write films in the editing room was a perfect match for her storytelling sensibilities.

Miss Representation edited by Jessica Congdon directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

She worked with longtime collaborator Peyton Wilson on Speed and Angels about navy fighter pilots, and Eric composed the score for the film. In 2006 Eric and Jessica released their second Anagram album and their first daughter was born. In 2008 they moved from San Francisco to Guerneville on the Russian River.

Pregnant at eight months Jessica went to London for a commercial editing job, and right after, she met Jennifer Siebel Newsom, writer and director of Miss Representation, who was also nine months pregnant. Jessica’s second daughter was born in 2009, and she began editing Miss Representation a few months later. She would bring her daughter to Jennifer’s house and the two would write, edit, and breastfeed over the course of many months.

The film premiered at Sundance in 2011. The Mask You Live In followed, premiering at Sundance in 2015. Eric composed the score for both films. Other films she edited include Race to Nowhere, Motherland, The Bronzer, and Desert Runners.

Jessica began directing in 2015, working on commercials and her own short documentary film, Empire on Main Street. She and Eric developed a food / travel TV series called places + plates, traveling to Cambodia, Sweden, and Germany for the first episodes. Their daughters traveled with them whenever possible. She met Peter Bratt that year, and co-wrote and edited Dolores, about civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, which premiered at Sundance in 2017.

Jessica Congdon has been a world traveller since the age of four months, when she travelled to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where her father was stationed as a diplomat in the State Department. She spent two years there, and then two years in Vienna, Austria, before returning to Washington, DC where she attended elementary and high school.

Her commercial documentary work has earned her AICE editing awards, the One Show Award, and Cannes Lions awards.


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