Elisabeth Haviland James is an award winning film director, producer and editor based in Durham, North Carolina, where her company Thornapple Films is headquartered.
She is currently directing and producing the international documentary OVERLAND (filmed on location in the American West, Scotland, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and South Africa). James was the head editor for the third and fourth seasons of the PBS Series, A Craftsman’s Legacy. She was also commissioned in 2017 by the Morehead Planetarium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to write and curate a fulldome production about the American South, currently in production. In 2015, James was named one of two film fellows in the state by the North Carolina Arts Council. She is the Producer and Editor of Althea, (dir Rex Miller), a feature documentary about pioneering tennis icon Althea Gibson, which was the season opener for PBS’ prestigious American Masters series in September 2015, and has played to great acclaim in festivals around the county (DOCNYC, Full Frame, Athena, Palm Beach, American Black Film Festival), and was included in the Emmy Nomination for Best Arts Series. Her documentary hybrid feature-directing debut, In So Many Words, premiered at the 2013 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and has screened at festivals, museums and conferences around the country. James was the Producer and Editor of The Loving Story (co-produced with HBO, dir. Nancy Buirski) for which she was short-listed for the Academy Award, winner of a George Foster Peabody Award and an Emmy Award (Best Historic Program) and nominated for two additional Emmy Awards (Best Documentary, Best Editing). The film has screened in festivals around the United States (Full Frame, TriBeCa, Silverdocs, Traverse City, Virginia, Hamptons, among dozens of others), and as a participant in the Sundance Film Forward program, with the US Department of State and with the American Film Showcase. It premiered on Valentine’s Day, 2012 on HBO, and has also been very successful in the VOD and Educational markets.
Her work as a consultant includes the Farmer Veteran Project, Untitled Ashe film, and Private Violence among many others. She was a consulting producer and pre-production researcher on location in the Dzangha-Sangha National Park in Central African Republic to the narrative feature Oka!. Other recent credits include Producer of The Good Fight and co-Producer of The Lord God Bird (both dir. George Butler). She served as Director of Photography and Editor on the 2003 documentary Brothers in Arms, featuring now Secretary of State, then Senator John Kerry. Her clients and collaborators include Revere La Noue, Rex Pix Films, Augusta Films, Roland Films, HBO, White Mountain Films, Paul Alexander, National Geographic, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Burt’s Bees, and others.
James is a graduate of the M.A. Program in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University, where she produced and directed four award-winning short documentaries, including Precipice, a national finalist for the 2002 Academy Award in the Student Documentary category. In 1999, she earned a BSFS with honors from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where she majored in Culture and Politics. She is fluent in French and speaks some Spanish, and has led tours for art museums, botanic gardens and cultural institutions around the world, including to France, Spain, Italy, Russia, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. James has taught documentary filmmaking at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies and as an artist in residence at the Oklahoma Arts Institute; she has also served as a guest lecturer for the State Department in Central Asia. She is a former board member of the Southern Documentary Fund. James is married to frequent collaborator, artist and filmmaker Revere La Noue; the two have a young daughter and a naughty dog.