Winner: 2019 Writers Guild Award
American Experience is pleased to announce that Michelle Ferrari was honored on Sunday with a 2019 Writers Guild Award for The Eugenics Crusade. The film, which was also directed by Ferrari, premiered on the series in October 2018. Three of the four writers nominated in the category – Best Documentary Script (Other Than Current Events) – were also nominated for American Experience films (Sharon Grimberg for The Circus, Part One and John Maggio for Into the Amazon). Ferrari, who has made numerous films for American Experience, earned her first WGA Award in 2014 for Silicon Valley (with Randall MacLowry) and has been nominated four additional times.
The Eugenics Crusade tells the story of the unlikely –– and largely unknown –– project to breed a better American race, tracing the rise of a movement that turned a scientific theory of heredity into a powerful instrument of social control. The goal of the movement was simple and, to its disciples, laudable: to eradicate social ills by limiting the number of those considered to be genetically “unfit” –– a group that would expand to include many immigrant groups, the poor, Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, and the “morally delinquent.” At its peak in the 1920s, the movement was in every way mainstream, packaged as a progressive quest for “healthy babies.” Its doctrines were not only popular and practiced, but codified by laws that severely restricted immigration and ultimately led to the institutionalization and sterilization of tens of thousands of American citizens.
“We’re honored to have worked with Michelle on more than a dozen films, and we’re especially delighted that her brilliant work on this film has been recognized,” said Susan Bellows, American Experience senior producer. “The strange story of the American eugenics movement is complex and relative unknown, and Michelle’s taut script brought the story to life in a way that was powerful, moving and timely.”
Michelle Ferrari (Writer/Director/Producer) has been creating innovative, critically acclaimed documentary narratives for nearly two decades. Her work as a screenwriter and story editor has been seen on PBS, HBO, and at film festivals nationwide, and has garnered honors from the Writers Guild of America, the Western Writers Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The writer of numerous American Experience episodes –– among them The Perfect Crime, Silicon Valley, Roads to Memphis, and Kit Carson –– Ferrari is perhaps best known for the highly rated Seabiscuit, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing. She most recently wrote and directed Rachel Carson, a 2018 Writers Guild Award nominee, and Edison for American Experience. Additional credits include the landmark PBS series Half the Sky and the Emmy-winning HBO documentary Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and holds an M.A. in American History from Columbia University.