THS graduate part of team that produced award-winning documentary film | News

A graduate of Tehachapi High School finds success in the world of documentary cinema.

Daniel A. Nelson, THS class of 2006, is co-director, producer and director of photography for the award-winning documentary film “And So I Stayed”.

The film is about survivors of domestic violence who have spent years behind bars. It had screenings across the country and recently won the Audience Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival. It also won two awards at the Brooklyn Film Festival in June.

Nelson and other members of the film’s crew were featured on an ABC News show in October as part of its coverage of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In an interview recently, Nelson said he spent about six years working on the film, which was based on a master’s thesis by Columbia Journalism School student Natalie Pattillo. Pattillo, now a New York-based multimedia journalist, is the film’s co-director, producer and writer.

Filming wrapped just before the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020, and post-production work was handled by working remotely with members of the film’s crew, using Zoom and cameras. phone calls.

The project was a labor of love for Nelson, who said he maxed out his credit cards twice to keep the film going for the first two or three years of production, covering travel and accommodation expenses. equipment.

“It’s not something I would advise anyone to do,” he said, noting that his passion for the film sustained him until funding for the project was finally secured.

Now his effort is to help the film – and the criminalization of victims of abuse – gain exposure and hopefully get sold to a distributor like Netflix or HBO.

Working on the film opened his eyes to gender-based violence, he said.

“I have seen with my own eyes how misogyny and racism, which are so prevalent in our society, seep into courtrooms and distort the truth,” Nelson wrote in a commentary included on the website of the movie.

“When a male judge can look a survivor of domestic violence in the face and tell her that she ‘reluctantly consented’ to the horrific abuse she suffered, despite evidence to the contrary, or that a prosecutor of Caucasian can call a mother and a survivor, who is Black, a ‘hood diva’, he tells you everything you need to know about how much work to do,” he noted.

Nelson received a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking from Columbia Journalism School in 2016. His thesis at Columbia was a short documentary titled “Posture,” about the controversial world of competitive yoga. It premiered at the 2017 Long Island International Film Expo and was released online at

He also worked as a cinematographer and researcher on Oscar-nominated director David France’s feature-length documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” which celebrates the lasting political legacy of trans icon Marsha P. .Johnson. The film premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and can be viewed on Netflix.

Roots of Tehachapi

Nelson moved to Tehachapi from Southern California when he was in eighth grade, attending Jacobsen Junior High School and later THS. After high school, he moved to Santa Barbara and spent about five years at the city’s college before moving to the Bay Area where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at San Francisco State.

He began working for the Santa Barbara student newspaper, perhaps influenced by his journalist parents, former Tehachapi residents John Nelson and Jill Barnes Nelson.

“I wanted to be a sports journalist while in college, which my parents did for a very long time,” he said. “I joined the school newspaper, started doing sports writing in Santa Barbara and San Francisco, and became a beats writer for the SF Bay newspaper, covering the 2014 Giants season from San Francisco for this post.”

Although he loves baseball, this experience nearly ruined him as it became a job, he said. Today, he calls himself a “recovering sportswriter.”

During his final semester at San Francisco State, he moved into what was then the emerging field of multimedia journalism.

“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I enjoyed working with video…the medium is incredibly impactful for storytelling, but it was my last semester and I felt like I couldn’t get enough.”

Wanting to gain more experience, he thought about graduate school and discovered that Columbia – one of the most revered institutions for studying journalism – had a documentary trail. He was thrilled to be accepted in the fall of 2015, joining what was only the eighth class to complete the documentary program.

He still lives in New York and teaches at Columbia while working as a freelance videographer while continuing to promote “And So I Stayed.”

Nelson’s parents moved from New Jersey to Southern California when he was young and eventually to Tehachapi where they raised horses at their Bar Double J Ranch in Sand Canyon.

His father, John Nelson, spent 27 years with the Associated Press in New York, covering sports around the world, and was the AP’s national baseball writer for 10 years. His mother, Jill Barnes Nelson, also had a distinguished career as a journalist. After writing for the Mojave Desert News for several years, both joined the Tehachapi News staff in 2015 and continued with the paper until they retired and moved to a small town in New York State in 2017.

Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be contacted by email: