Tiffany Shlain (born April 8, 1970) is an American filmmaker, author, and public speaker. Regarded by her press releases as an internet pioneer, Shlain is the founder of the Webby Awards . She has dated quite a few of the Silicon Valley tech people and they have all come together in a unique site called “About Tiffany“. Tiffany can be found on a poster about herself on the back end of San Francisco MUNI buses. She is the co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
Early life and education
Shlain was raised in Mill Valley, California, the daughter of Leonard Shlain, a surgeon, author, and inventor, and Carol Lewis Jaffe, a psychologist. In high school, intrigued by technology and communications, Shlain wrote a proposal called Uniting Nations in Telecommunications & Software (UNITAS), which envisioned students in enemy countries communicating over personal computers and via modems. From this proposal, she was invited to be a student ambassador through the People to People program, and traveled to the Soviet Union in 1988.
While a student at UC Berkeley, Shlain produced and directed Hunter & Pandora, an experimental film which won the university’s Eisner Award, the highest award in art. In 1992, she earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, and was selected as a valedictory speaker for her graduating class.
Shlain additionally studied organizational change at the Harvard Business School Executive Education program and film production at New York University’s Sight & Sound program. She was a 2006-2007 Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.
In 1996, Shlain founded the Webby Awards, an annual event which the New York Times described as the “Oscars of the Web.” In 1998, she co-founded The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. The Webbys had hosts that included Alan Cumming, and appearances by Al Gore, Prince, and Thomas Friedman. Shlain appeared on Good Morning America as the program’s on-air internet expert from 2000 – 2003.
In 2002, Shlain combined her background in technology and the web with her earlier work as a filmmaker, and directed, produced and co-wrote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, a documentary about reproductive rights in America. The film premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was used nationally by Planned Parenthood to mark the 30 year anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
In 2005, Shlain decided to pursue filmmaking full-time; she subsequently sold the Webby Awards and founded the San Francisco film studio, the Moxie Institute. Shlain’s next documentary, The Tribe, co-written with her husband, Ken Goldberg, explored American Jewish identity through the history of the Barbie Doll. The Tribe, which also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was the first documentary short to become #1 on iTunes.
In 2011, her first feature documentary, Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Examining personal connections in relation to global conditions – and the potential of what can happen with so many people online — the film ran in theaters and on television, and was subsequently released on digital platforms. The winner of a Tribeca Film Festival’s Disruptive Innovation Award, in addition to other significant awards, Connected was selected by the United States Department of State and the University of Southern California for the 2012 American Filmmaker Showcase. In 2013, the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired the film’s script for their permanent collection.
In 2011, she introduced the concept of “Cloud Filmmaking” with a series of shorts produced through cloud-based collaborative filmmaking. The first film in the series, A Declaration of Interdependence, was released Sept 2011; the second film, Engage, debuted in early 2012. Later that same year, both a 10-minute film and a best-selling TED Book, called Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks were released. Exploring new research on how to best grow children’s brains and the global brain of the internet, Brain Power premiered in November 2012 at The California Academy of Sciences. It was selected by the US State Department as a part of the 2013 American Film Showcase and was screened at embassies in the Middle East in November 2013. Shlain discussed cloud filmmaking as the keynote speaker at the Tribeca Film Festival’s 2013 Interactive Day where she delivered her “Cloud Filmmaking Manifesto.”
In 2013, Shlain co-founded the nonprofit Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change, and continued making cloud films. The next film in the series was The Science of Character. To premiere the film, Shlain and her co-workers founded Character Day, where schools and organizations around the world would all premiere the film and discuss ideas around character development on the same day in a simultaneous online video conversation. There were over 1500 events in 31 countries. For the second annual Character Day, they premiered The Adaptable Mind, which explores skills needed in the 21st century, and The Making of a Mensch, about the science of character through the Jewish teachings of Mussar, interpreted through a modern-day lens. This second annual Character Day had over 6700 events in 41 countries. The US State Department selected The Adaptable Mind to be part of their 2016-2017 American Film Showcase. Character Day 2016 already has 10,000 events planned and is set for Sept 22nd.
Shlain created two seasons of the AOL original series The Future Starts Here, which includes episodes entitled Technology Shabbats, Motherhood Remix, 10 Stages of The Creative Process, The Future of Our Species, Why We Love Robots, and A Case for Optimism. The series, which began airing on AOL in 2013 was nominated for an Emmy Award in the News and Documentary category in 2014, and has since been viewed more than 40 million times.
Shlain lectures globally on filmmaking, the Internet’s influence on society, and the future, and has spoken at TEDWomen and TEDMED. She delivered the keynote address for UC Berkeley’s commencement ceremony in May 2010; the speech was included on NPR’s list of “The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.”
Shlain will be directing a film on women and power that will be released through Refinery29’s “Shatterbox Anthology” featuring women film directors.
Philanthropy and activism
Shlain has served on the boards of The Commonwealth Club of California, The Institute for the Future, Berkeley Center for New Media, among others. Through cloud filmmaking via her non-profit Let It Ripple, Shlain has made and donated over 3000 free customized films for schools and nonprofits.
Shlain lives in Northern California’s Marin County with husband Goldberg, with whom she frequently collaborates on art installations and other projects. They have two daughters, Odessa and Blooma, and have received significant media attention based on the family’s weekly observance for what she and her family call their “Technology Shabbat.” They have observed the Shabbat since 2010.
Awards and recognition
- The Adaptable Mind Selected by US State Department American Film Showcase (2016)
- Black Maria Global Insights Award for “The Making of Mench” (2016)
- Emmy nomination (News and Documentary) (2014)
- “Best Commencement Speeches, Ever,” NPR (2014)
- Disruptive Innovation Award, The Tribeca Film Festival
- Best Director, Los Angeles Movie Awards (2011)
- Women in Film Award from All Roads Grant National Geographic
- Women of Vision Nomination from L’Oreal/Entertainment Weekly/Sundance
- Eisner Award, Highest Award in Art by the Chancellor’s Committee, UCBerkeley (1992)
- Artist-in-Residence, Headland Center for the Arts Fall (2006)
- Women in Film Award for making “Connected,” All Roads Award National Geographic (2011)
- Keynote Commencement Address, UCBerkeley (2010)
- Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute (2007 – present)
- For Creating Socially Responsible Films by Partners Ending Domestic Abuse (2009)
- The Victoria Award for Ethical Leadership, The Woodhull Institute, NY (2006)
- Activist Award on behalf of Women’s Rights, Ritz Carleton, Given by Planned Parenthood GG (2004)
- Newsweek Magazine’s “Women Shaping the 21st Century” (2001)
- Shining Star Award recipient, American Women in Radio and Television (2000)
- Valedictorian Speaker, Interdisciplinary Department. UC Berkeley (1992)
- Student Ambassador in the People to People program (1988)
|2016||50/50: Women at the Table (will be released this fall)||Director, co-writer, editor|
|2015||The Adaptable Mind||Director, co-writer, editor|
|2015||The Making of a Mensch||Director, co-writer, editor|
|2014||The Future of Our Species||Director, co-writer|
|2014||Creative Bondage||Director, co-writer|
|2014||The Photosynthesis of Social Media||Director, co-writer|
|2014||Robots, Botox & Google Glass||Director, co-writer|
|2014||Punk Rock Diplomacy||Director, co-writer|
|2014||A Case for Dreaming||Director, co-writer|
|2014||The Science of Character||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Technology Shabbats||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Motherhood Remixed||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Tech Etiquette||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Why We Love Robots||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Participatory Revolution||Director, co-writer|
|2013||The Creative Process in 10 Acts||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Idea Porn||Director, co-writer|
|2013||A Case for Optimism||Director, co-writer|
|2013||The Future Starts Here’ (series)||Director, co-writer|
|2013||Facing the Future||Director, co-writer|
|2012||Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks||Director, co-writer|
|2011||Connected: An Autobiogography about Love, Death & Technology||Director, producer, co-writer|
|2011||Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”||Director, co-writer|
|2011||A Declaration of Interdependence||Director, co-writer|
|2006||The Tribe||Director, producer, co-writer|
|2003||Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness||Director, co-writer|
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- Moore, Boothe. “From the Valley of the Geeks Comes the Digital Diva”. July 7, 2000. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
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- “// Program Spotlights // A New Type of Film Workshop – In The Cloud A New Type of Film Workshop – In The Cloud”. US Dept of State. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
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- “NOMINEES FOR THE 35TH ANNUAL NEWS & DOCUMENTARY EMMY® AWARDS ANNOUNCED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS & SCIENCES”. emmyonline.org. Emmy Awards. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- Public Affairs. “Invoke A Little Moxie”. May 2010. UC Berkeley News Center. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
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- Ge, Linda (May 2, 2016). “Kristen Stewart, America Ferrera and Gabourey Sidibe Directing Projects Lead Refinery29’s Original Video Slate”. The Wrap. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
- Lee, Ellen. “Tiffany Shlain: Net’s growth like brain”. November 18, 2012. San Francisco Gate. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
- “The Filmmakers”. 2014. Let It Ripple.
- “Global Impact”. mcnultyprize.org. McNulty Prize. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- “Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain Discuss Her Family’s ‘Technology Shabbat‘“. December 3, 2013. Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
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