Folkstreams | Filmmakers | Paul Wagner

Paul Wagner

Paul Wagner is an Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning independent filmmaker, whose documentaries and narrative features have premiered at the Sundance, Toronto, Telluride, and Rotterdam film festivals.

His many films broadcast on public television include Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle (1982), a feature doc about the Pullman Porters who formed America’s first black labor union; The Stone Carvers (1984), winner of the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary; Out of Ireland (1995), a sweeping history of Irish emigration to America, featuring Liam Neeson, Kelly McGillis, and Gabriel Byrne; Signature – George C. Wolfe (1997), a portrait of the controversial playwright and director; Absolutely Irish! (2008), a performance/documentary featuring the top musicians in Irish music; Thoroughbred (2010), a feature doc about the traditions of big-time horse-racing; Good Work (2016), a group portrait of master artisans in the building trades; and Black in Blue (2018), the tragic, inspiring story of the African American athletes who broke the color line in the Southeastern Conference in the 1960s.

Wagner’s dramatic feature Windhorse (1999) tells the story of three young Tibetans fighting for political and cultural freedom against the Chinese communist regime. It was filmed secretly in Tibet and Nepal in collaboration with the Tibetan exile community, won Best US Feature and Best Director awards at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and was distributed theatrically by Shadow Distribution. Windhorse was the first theatrical feature film to be digitally shot and edited.

Since 2017, Wagner has taught screenwriting and film directing as an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia.

Over the last twenty years, Wagner has served on the board of three non-profit arts organizations: Light House Studio – a educational media center for young people, Live Arts – a large regional community theater, and Victory Hall Opera – an experimental, community- based opera company.

Paul and Ellen Casey Wagner produce films under the banner of their non-profit organization, American Focus, Inc., based in Charlottesville, Virginia.