Cynthia Wade

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Cynthia Wade
Born United States
Occupation Film director, producer, cinematographer
Years active 1993–present
Relatives John Orr Young

Cynthia Wade is an American television and film director, producer and cinematographer based in New York City. She has directed documentaries on social issues including Shelter Dogs in 2003 about animal welfare and Freeheld in 2007 about LGBT rights.


Wade is the daughter of a computer systems architect and a psychiatric nurse, and the great-granddaughter of John Orr Young, the founder of Young & Rubicam.[1] She attended Smith College where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree, and Stanford University where she received a master's degree in Documentary Film Production.[2] In the fall of 1987, she attended the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. In 1999 she married Matthew Syrett.[1] She taught advanced digital cinematography[3] and film production in the graduate certificate program in Documentary Media Studies[4] at the The New School and runs two production companies — Cynthia Wade Productions and Lieutenant Films.[2][5] She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.[2]


In 1999, Wade’s personal documentary Grist for the Mill aired on Cinemax.

In 2003, Wade directed and produced Shelter Dogs, a documentary about the animal welfare system in the United States and the ethics of animal euthanasia.[6][7] For this film she won the Grand Prize at the Director's View Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Newport International Film Festival, the Best of the Fest award at the Northampton Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Orinda Film Festival.[8] It was aired on television as part of the documentary series America Undercover.[9]

In 2007 she made Freeheld, a documentary telling the story of terminally ill New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester. Hester came to public attention when she appealed to her local authorities to change the policy that prevented her female domestic partner from receiving pension benefits on Hester's death. While filming Freeheld, Wade spent time living with Hester and her partner Stacie Andree in New Jersey.[5] Wade and producer Vanessa Roth won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008.[10] The film won 16 other awards including the Special Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, a Special Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Boston Independent Film Festival, the Audience Award at L.A. Outfest.[11][12]

In 2008 and 2009 Wade spent 14 months shooting the documentary Living the Legacy: The Untold Story of Milton Hershey School at Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania, one of several films she has made for schools and non profit organizations.[6][13] It is to be shown on the Sundance Channel and the Independent Film Channel.[6] In January 2010, Wade’s documentary Born Sweet, about a Cambodian boy who is poisoned with arsenic, had its World Premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; the film was awarded Honorable Mention.

In 2013, Wade was nominated for her second Academy Award for her film Mondays at Racine. In an event during the Sundance Film Festival 2014, she released a short film "Selfie" in conjunction with the Sundance Institute and Dove (soap) dealing with how social media is changing the way women define beauty. "Selfie" is the latest installment of the 'Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. [14] The Selfie project has garnered generally positive press and went highly viral in its first week on YouTube where the 8-minute version of the short documentary hit the top ten most popular videos Worldwide for YouTube and the 3-minute version had over 1.5 views. [15]




  • 1995: Almost Home
  • 1999: Grist for the Mill
  • 2003: Shelter Dogs
  • 2006: Gender Rebel
  • 2007: Freeheld
  • 2012: Mondays at Racine



  1. ^ a b "Cynthia Wade and Matthew Syrett", The New York Times, 1999-09-19, retrieved 2009-08-11  Check date values in: |year=, |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  2. ^ a b c Cynthia Wade Productions (2007). "Filmmaker Profile". Official site. Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  3. ^ "Bio". 
  4. ^ "AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…". Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  5. ^ a b "Oscar nomination for documentary about lesbian cop", Pink News, 2008-01-23, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  6. ^ a b c Dunkle, David N. (2009-08-09), "A conversation with director Cynthia Wade", The Patriot-News, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  7. ^ Daniel, Jeff (2004-01-25), ""SHELTER DOGS" IS MORE ABOUT ETHICS THAN AN EXPOSE", St. Louis Post-Dispatch: F6 
  8. ^ "Press — Awards". Shelter Dogs — Official site. Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  9. ^ Parker, James (2004-01-27), "'Shelter Dogs' unleashes painful facts about strays", The Boston Globe, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  10. ^ "Story of lesbian cop's pension struggle wins Oscar", Pink News, 2008-02-25, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  11. ^ Kort, Michele (2008-01-23), "Golden Moment", The Advocate, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  12. ^ "Press — Awards". Freeheld: The Laurel Hester Story — Official site. Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  13. ^ Dunkle, David N. (2009-08-05), "Oscar winner directs documentary about Milton Hershey School", The Patriot-News, retrieved 2009-08-11 
  14. ^ Kelly, Samantha Murphy (2014-01-20), Dove Short Film Embraces 'Selfies' to Redefine How We Perceive Beauty, mashable, retrieved 2014-01-20 
  15. ^ Erik, Oster (2014-01-22), Recommended Media’s ‘Selfie’ for Dove Leaves Us a Bit Verklempt, media bistro, retrieved 2014-01-22 

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