Wheaton alum wins Emmy in Documentary Filmmaking

George Kunhardt ’09 and his wife, Jackie Phillips Kunhardt ’09. Credit:

“It was very bittersweet. It has been a dream of mine to win an Emmy but it was for a film about someone who lost their life in the most brutal and public way,” said George Kunhardt ’09. Kunhardt won a 2016 Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking for “Jim: The James Foley Story”.  

According to the Wheaton website, the Emmy was presented at the 68th Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony that was held on Sept. 11 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The ceremony awarded those who worked to create variety, reality and documentary programs.

Kunhardt was one of the producers of the documentary and worked with fellow-producers Eva Lipman and Teddy Kunhardt. The executive producers in the film were Peter Kunhardt, Sheila Nevins and Jacqueline Glover.

Kunhardt Films was founded in 1987 as Kunhardt Productions and is located in Pleasantville, N.Y. Kunhardt made his producing and editing debut in 2015 on “Living with Lincoln” which was nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award in the “Outstanding Historical Programming: Long Form” category as well as in the “Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction” category.

According to the Kunhardt film website, the documentary is about American photojournalist James “Jim” Foley who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. Two years later, the infamous video of his public execution introduced much of the world to ISIS. “Jim: The James Foley Story” was directed by close childhood friend Brian Oakes and tells the story of Foley’s life through interviews with his family, friends and fellow journalists.

“Jim” took about 14 months to produce. The crew interviewed Foley’s family, his friends and six former hostages who were held captive with him by ISIS. “Though I didn’t know Jim Foley, I feel like I do. The Emmy is great mostly because it brings Jim’s story to a larger audience who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about him,” said Kunhardt.

On his time at Wheaton, Kunhardt said, “I loved every minute of it. The best part is that I met my wife Jackie when we were freshmen at Wheaton and have been together for the past 9 years… I took almost every studio art course available – from drawing to sculpture to photography, I pretty much lived in Meneely.”

While at Wheaton, Kunhardt worked closely with Professor of Art Andrew Howard. “With his guidance and encouragement, I graduated as the college’s first Studio Art Major with a Focus in Film and Television. I took screenwriting courses, filmmaking courses and editing classes,” said Kunhardt, “My senior year I worked at “Wheaton In Focus” as a TA for the film professor Jake Mahaffy. Both of these experiences helped me tremendously on my path to filmmaking.”

On his former student, Howard said, “George was always an energetic and focused student in his classes, especially in film … His vision for the project was both technically well done and aesthetically sensitive. I am extremely proud of him and his Emmy win is just amazing.”

“Students should never shy away from hard hitting topics. If they have an interest…or a passion, they should follow it to wherever it ends up,” said Howard, “George is now a stellar resource for future Wheaton students that share his passion and I believe that Professor Patrick Johnson is in touch with him to make that happen.”

Regarding these plans, Kunhardt said, “I’m hoping to visit Wheaton in the fall if not definitely in the spring. I haven’t been back to Wheaton since I graduated so I’m long overdue for a visit.”