Social Issue Documentaries a Specialty

Shirley Thompson has been editing documentaries since 1991, specializing in social issue documentary: independent works with a strong point of view and a desire to change the world. She also works as a story consultant, helping filmmakers fine tune their stories at all stages of post production.

Clients include Pacific Islanders in Communication, Marlene Booth, Kimberlee Bassford/Making Waves Films, Robin Lung/Nested Egg Productions, Kara Herald Media, Debra Chasnoff/Groundspark.

Documentary Credits


Finding Kukan Editor, Producer, Writer. Feature documentary. A sweeping history detective story that spans decades, filmmaker Robin Lung investigates the story of an unsung film heroine, Li Ling-Ai, who along with Rey Scott, made a documentary about World War 2 China in 1939 that won an Academy Award. But the film has been lost and no one has seen it for over 60 years…until Lung uncovers what may be the last remaining print. Why was the film lost? And why has no one ever heard the story of film pioneer Li Ling-Ai? Official selection DOC NYC, Special Jury Award Hawai‘i International Film Festival (2016). 


Kū Kanaka: Stand Tall Editor. Documentary short, PBS half hour. 15 year old Kanalu Young takes a deep water dive into four feet of ocean, breaks his neck and becomes a quadriplegic, forever altering the course of his life. He eventually immerses himself in Hawaiian language, culture and history and becomes a powerful leader and activist. He learns to study and teach Hawaiian history from a Pacific Islander perspective and becomes a fiery advocate for his people. Official selection Hawai‘i International Film Festival. (2016)


Winning Girl Editor. Feature documentary. Twelve year old wrestling and judo champion Teshya Alo dreams of becoming world champion in both her sports. From age 12 to 16, this film chronicles her challenges and triumphs as she grows from child phenom to staunch competitor against women twice her age and experience, all the way to the world stage. Official selection Hawai‘i International Film Festival. (2014)

Winning Girl

Eating Alaska Producer and story consultant for documentary about eating local and sustainable food on the last frontier. Ellen Frankenstein, Producer/Director. (2005-2009)


Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i Editor. Pidgin, a language spoken by 60% of people in Hawai‘i, and the unique multi-ethnic island culture it carries. Marlene Booth, director. Audience Award Best Documentary Hawai‘i International Film Festival. (2008)


Special Circumstances Editor, writer and producer for PBS documentary which follows Chilean exile Hector Salgado, as he returns to Chile from the US to confront the men who imprisoned him and who tortured and killed his friends after the coup of 1973. Marianne Teleki, director. (October 2005, March 2006 – September 2006)


It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in Schools Editor for feature length documentary. Educators in six schools introduce gay and lesbian issues into their elementary school lessons in order to combat homophobia at the elementary school level. 1996 CINE Golden Eagle. Numerous Best of Festival Awards, screened at the White House, used in over 2000 high schools. National PBS broadcast June 1999. For Groundspark (formerly Women’s Educational Media), Debra Chasnoff, Director, Helen Cohen, Producer. (March 1995 – April 1996.)


Breadfruit and Open Spaces Producer/Editor. Micronesians establish a new life on Guam while maintaining their traditional culture and identity, struggle to own their land. Lola Quan Bautista, director/producer. Grand Jury Award Best Documentary Short, Guam International Film Festival. (2012–2013)


Just a Piece of Cloth Editor. Four San Francisco Bay Area Muslim women from diverse backgrounds as talk about what hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf, means to them and how it affects their daily lives. Rosemary Henze, Producer/Director. (2011-2012)


Bachelorette 34 Story consultant and editor of PBS version. A comic documentary on one woman’s attempts to survive her mother’s marriage campaign. Kera Herold, Producer/Director. (July – August 2007)


Tangled Roots Editor. A personal documentary on the filmmaker’s struggle to reconcile her dual identity as both a German and a Jew. A searing look at three generations of a Jewish and a German family, the legacy of war and the Holocaust. For Spirit Productions, Heidi Schmidt Emberling, Producer/Director. (April 2001 – September 2001)

Tangled Roots Trailer

Yield to Total Elation: the Life and Art of Achilles Rizzoli Editor. Portrait of visionary San Francisco artist Achilles G. Rizzoli. For Ferrero Films, Pat Ferrero, Producer/Director. (February – March 1998, August 1999 – September 2000)



San Francisco in the Movies: Bogart & Beyond Editor. The history of San Francisco’s involvement in film from Bogart, to Hitchcock, to George Lucas, to Pixar. Edited by Shirley Thompson & Dee Watt for KRON-TV, San Francisco. Ken Swartz, director. (2001)


San Francisco in the Movies: The Silent Era Editor. The story of how San Francisco rivaled Hollywood during the Silent Era of filmmaking. Edited by Shirley Thompson for KRON-TV, San Francisco. Ken Swartz, director. (2001)


Surfing for Life Editor. Surfers who are still stoked at 70, 80 and even 90 years old. 1999 Best Documentary Hawaii International Film Festival. National PBS broadcast, April 2001. For David L. Brown Productions, David Brown, Director/Producer, Roy Earnest, Producer. (2000)


San Francisco in the 1920’s Editor. A look back into the glamour, scandal, and struggles during the roaring 1920’s in San Francisco. Edited by Shirley Thompson for KRON-TV, San Francisco. Joan Saffa, Director. (1999)


Frontline: School Colors One of five editor team on 2 1/2 hour documentary, about race, multiculturalism and integration at Berkeley High School. Winner of a 1995 DuPont Award for Excellence in Journalism. For Telesis Productions & the Center for Investigative Reporting. Scott Andrews, Director and Stephen Olsson, Producer. (1993)


Frontline: School Colors

Young Aspirations/Young Artists Producer, director and editor. Independent documentary project about an afterschool art and design studio for talented, inner-city New Orleans teenagers. 1994 Emmy Award, and Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival. Broadcast on WYES & KQED-TV, June 1993. Self distributed documentary through the New Day Films cooperative. (May 1991 – July 1992)



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