Kathryn Dietz

I got my first job at WGBH while a senior at Tufts University. I worked as an intern at Victory Garden, under Jo Madden. One day she drove me down the block to the ZOOM mailroom and next thing I knew, I was working as a Pre-Production Screener, aka Riddle Reader.

I graduated Tufts and continued to work at ZOOM part-time while picking up freelance secretarial jobs for people like Rick Hauser (Scarlet Letter) and Austin Hoyt, and then interviewed that summer for a production secretary position with World. The early team was just David Fanning, Lou Wiley, Chris Gilbert, and me. Eventually, Cindy Meagher Kuhn was hired as our production assistant and she taught me the ropes when I took over her job.

I liked post-production and thought of moving in that direction, but Ofra Bikel, who had hired me as her associate producer for “The Russians are Here” for Frontline, convinced me not to spend my life “in a darkened room on someone else’s schedule.”

I had a short stint in local programming, including at La Plaza, and associate produced “Violette: A Life in Dance” with Rebecca Eaton. Dick Ellison hired me to associate produce the last film in the Vietnam series, “Legacies,” which won a National Emmy; I’m still disappointed that it was left out of the American Experience rebroadcast. A year later I went to Cuba to associate produce “Castro’s Challenge” with Marilyn Mellowes, spending enough time with our film researcher, Sue Williams, at the Cuban film archives that later we decided to start a company together.

In 1986 we opened Ambrica Productions in NYC, and over the next 23 year we raised over $8 million and made five feature-length films about China plus biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Pickford for American Experience. WGBH was always our presenting station and partner, with Judith Vecchione as executive producer.

I left Ambrica Productions in 2009 and began working more locally, making “Big Little Town: The Story of Needham” for my town’s 300th anniversary (it aired locally on WGBH), and then “Getting Better: 200 Years of Medicine” for the New England Journal of Medicine, with a WGBH friend, Nancy Porter. After that I was executive director of Filmmakers Collaborative, doing media conferences and launching a film festival, and then shifting gears again.

Nowadays I’m a Visiting Artist at Tufts, coming back full circle in a sense. I’m creating a series of short films about teens and adults on the autism spectrum, while also consulting and writing proposals for other independent filmmakers — including many who also got their start at WGBH!