MacArthur Fellows Program

Jon H. Else

Documentary Filmmaker | Class of 1988

Documentary Filmmaker
Portolo Valley, California
44 at time of award
Area of Focus
Moving Image
Published August 1, 1988

About Jon's Work

Jon Else is a documentary filmmaker.

Else’s highly-acclaimed film, The Day After Trinity: J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb (1980), exemplifies his considerable analytic sophistication.  He has been the cinematographer on hundreds of documentaries, including the BBC’s History of Rock and Roll, and several feature films, as well as numerous music videos.  He was the series producer and cinematographer for Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1987).  Else wrote, produced, and directed Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven (1989), A Job at Ford’s for the PBS series The Great Depression (1992), Cadillac Desert: Water and the Transformation of Nature (1997), Sing Faster: The Stagehands’ Ring Cycle (2000), and Open Outcry (2001).  He is at work on Wonders Are Many, a feature-length documentary that chronicles the making of Peter Seller’s and John Adam’s opera, Doctor Atomic, and presents a visual history of nuclear weapons.


Else is a professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he heads the documentary program.  He was a consulting professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University (1993-1996).

Else received a B.A. (1968) from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. (1974) from Stanford University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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