Director/producer Bios

Helen S. Cohen, Producer/Director

Helen S. Cohen is an award-winning filmmaker and painter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work as a documentary filmmaker draws on a long and diverse history of activism and professional work with cultural, educational and community development organizations. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College and a master’s degree in urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).                                             

From 1992-2004, Helen was co-director of Women’s Educational Media (now called Groundspark) a nonprofit organization specializing in the production and distribution of social issue documentaries. She is the co-creator and executive producer of the acclaimed Respect for All Project, a program that produces cutting edge films, curriculum guides and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people.

Helen’s producing credits include the first three films in the Respect for All series: It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School (1996); That’s a Family! (2000); and Let’s Get Real (2003). With Mark Lipman, she recently produced and directed the award-winning feature documentary States of Grace (2014). Helen has also directed, produced and/or executive produced documentaries for public interest organizations, including Homes & Hands: Community Land Trusts in Action, (1998) and Streets of Dreams: Development Without Displacement in Communities of Color (2013).

Through Open Studio Productions, Helen continues to make independent and commissioned films. She is a long-standing member of New Day Films, a national cooperative of independent filmmakers who self-distribute social issue documentaries. 


Mark Lipman, Producer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor

Mark Lipman has worked as a documentary filmmaker for over thirty years, exploring a wide range of subjects from domestic violence to human sexuality to affordable housing and community organizing. His films have been broadcast nationally on public television and won numerous awards. His producing credits include To Have and To Hold (1981), the first documentary to look at domestic violence through the experiences of men; Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street (1996), a film about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s successful efforts to revitalize a Boston neighborhood devastated by redlining, arson and illegal dumping; Father’s Day (2003), an experimental documentary about the death of Mark’s father; and Gaining Ground (2013), a sequel to Holding Ground that explores DSNI’s success in preventing foreclosures and fostering youth leadership.

Mark has produced media for non-profit organizations throughout New England including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where he documented the creation of new artwork by internationally renowned artists-in-residence. As a freelance editor, he has worked for the NOVA series at WGBH/Boston and for many other Boston-area companies.  After moving to San Francisco in 2004, and forming Open Studio Productions with Helen, they produced Streets of Dreams: Development Without Displacement in Communities of Color (2013); and the award-winning feature documentary States of Grace (2014).

Mark also has extensive experience designing and implementing audience engagement campaigns for his films. The Ford Foundation included Holding Ground as one of ten case studies in an evaluation of its most successful media grants over the prior twenty years. Since 1981 he has been an active member of New Day Films, a national cooperative of social issue filmmakers who collaborate in the distribution of their films, serving several times as its chief financial officer and as a member of its steering committee.  Mark has an MFA in filmmaking from the Massachusetts College of Art and a BA in psychology from Harvard University.


John Emmeus Davis, co-producer

John Emmeus Davis has been assisting community land trusts and other nonprofit community development organizations in the United States and other countries for nearly 40 years. He worked for several years as a community organizer and nonprofit executive director in East Tennessee and served for ten years as the housing director in Burlington, Vermont under Mayors Bernie Sanders and Peter Clavelle. He has taught housing policy and neighborhood planning at New Hampshire College and MIT. In 1993, he co-founded Burlington Associates in Community Development, a national consulting cooperative. His publications include: The Community Land Trust Handbook(1982); Contested Ground: Collective Action and the Urban Neighborhood(1991); The Affordable City: Toward a Third Sector Housing Policy (1994);Shared Equity Homeownership: The Changing Landscape of Resale-Restricted, Owner-Occupied Housing (2006); The City-CLT Partnership(2008); The Community Land Trust Reader (2010); Manuel d’Antispeculation Immobiliere (2014); and Affordable for Good: Building Inclusive Communities through Homes that Last (2017). He is also the “master gardener” behindRoots & Branches (, a website documenting the origins and evolution of the community land trust as a model and international movement.