Daniel Bernardi

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Daniel Bernardi
Born (1964-06-16) June 16, 1964 (age 55)
Alma materUniversity of Arizona, UCLA
Spouse(s)Helen Na
Scientific career
Fieldsmedia studies, cultural studies,
narrative theory, critical race theory
InstitutionsSan Francisco State University, United States Navy Reserves, El Dorado Films

Daniel Leonard Bernardi (born in 1964) is the Director of the Veteran Documentary Corps and a Professor of Cinema at San Francisco State University. He is the former Interim Dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, Chair of the Cinema Department, Director of the Documentary Film Institute, and founder of El Dorado Films. Bernardi earned a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-TV (1984) and a Masters of Arts in Media Arts (1988) from the University of Arizona. He went on to earn a PhD in Film and Television Studies from UCLA (1994). He completed a University of California postdoctoral research fellowship in 1997.

His main academic interests are media studies, cultural studies, narrative theory, critical race theory, and rumors as narrative IEDS. His work in media, which is perhaps most well known, emphasizes whiteness as a historical formation of meanings. Borrowing from Michael Omi and Howard Winant's theory of racial formation, he argues that whiteness is a historically powerful set of meanings that serves to either implicitly or explicitly dominate the shifting and reforming meaning of race in U.S. media.

Bernardi is also a filmmaker. His work focuses on telling the veteran story through documentary modes of filmmaking. One of his more recent films, The American War (2018), tells the story of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietcong. The trailer can be viewed on YouTube. An upcoming feature, armed with newly discovered archival footage, is The War to End all Wars: And its American Veterans [1] presents a more holistic depiction of the American experience in World War I and its immediate consequences at home.


Bernardi has taught film, television and new media at UC Riverside (1997–1998), UCLA (1999-2000), the University of Arizona (1999-2011), and SFSU (2011–Present). He was awarded a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (1994), a UC President's Post-Doctoral Fellowship (1995–1997), and a Fulbright Fellowship (2009). His deployment to Iraq prevented his acceptance of the Fulbright Fellowship. From 1998 to 2000, he worked for the Sci-Fi Channel as a consultant, writer and producer/host of the web feature Future Now (since deleted).

Daniel Bernardi has earned a reputation of notoriety among the more avid Star Trek fans due to his writings about the role of race in the films.

Bernardi is also an officer in the United States Navy Reserves. He has served at sea on the USS Coronado, the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), and the USS Cleveland (LPD-7), as well as at shore in Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and at the Pentagon with the Chief of Navy Information. From May 2009 to February 2010 he was recalled to Active Duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for ten months. In Iraq, Bernardi served with US Special Forces as the Public Affairs Officer for Special Operations Task Force-Central, where he trained Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) and Emergency Response Brigade (ERB) Soldiers on combat camera and media operations. He also managed US media embeds, including CNN, NBC and AP, and US Army and US Navy journalists and photographers. In 2011 he returned to Active Duty for nine months and served as the Mission Public Affairs Officer for Pacific Partnership 2011, an annual humanitarian assistance initiative sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bernardi managed a team of military (U.S., Australian and New Zealand) and NGO (Project Hope) photographers, videographers and writers assigned to document and report on the mission.

Following his tour in Iraq and the South Pacific, Bernardi, working with a larger research team including H. L. (Bud) Goodall Jr., received a $1.6 million renewable grant from the Office of Naval Research to catalogue and study the impact rumors have on counterinsurgency operations. As an example, when multinational forces began a cattle vaccination program in 2005, a rumor spread among the Iraqis that U.S. forcers were poisoning their livestock. Though they had intended on using modern medicine to protect their food supplies, the rumor completely disarmed their efforts. In order to combat such debilitating narratives, Bernardi and his team worked to create a comprehensive database of known Islamist narratives and reveal how these narratives are used to influence populations in the Middle East and North Africa. The hope is that expeditionary forces would have access to these narratives and, through the team's analysis' on hand, work against them.

In 2012, Bernardi launched the Veteran Documentary Corps (VDC) project. Founded by donations and grants, the VA and National Cemetery Administration including, VDC produces and exhibits short documentaries on the struggles and successes of veterans from across the world. To-date, VDC has produced and distributed thirty short documentaries on veterans dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the fall-out of the former "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and a range of other topics. The films are made by professional filmmakers. Bernardi acts as executive producer. He has also directed two of the films, one on Tim Koches (Vietnam War) and one on Michael Blackwell (Iraq War). Blackwell was a Combat Camera photographer that served with Bernardi in the U.S. Iraq War.

The Veteran Documentary Corps was met with wide acclaim, and was received positively from veterans and the public alike. Created in 2018 by Bernardi, El Dorado Films brought superior talent and organization to the Veteran Documentary Corps' mission of creating 100 'shorts' by 2020.


As author[edit]

  • Off the Page: Screenwriting in the Era of Media Convergence (co-author). 2017. University of California Press.

Examines the business and craft of screenwriting in the era of media convergence. Daniel Bernardi and Julian Hoxter use the recent history of screenwriting labor coupled with close analysis of scripts in the context of the screenwriting paraindustry—from “how to write a winning script” books to screenwriting software—to explore the state of screenwriting today. They address the conglomerate studios making tentpole movies, expanded television, Indiewood, independent animation, microbudget scripting, the video games industry, and online content creation. Designed for students, producers, and writers who want to understand what studios want and why they want it, this book also examines how scripting is developing in the convergent media, beneath and beyond the Hollywood tentpole. By addressing specific genres across a wide range of media, this essential volume sets the standard for anyone in the expanded screenwriting industry and the scholars that study it.

Bernardi and his co-authors characterize rumors as bits and pieces of prevailing narrative systems and local cultural artifacts, and that their anonymous origin and dubious truth claims afford them a type of concealment until their effects are known and the damage is done. Focusing on the impact of rumors on counterinsurgency operations (Iraq), counter terrorism whisper campaigns (Indonesia), and civil disobedience online (Singapore), they argue that rumors are narrative IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Device, in that they’re constructed of locally available materials and hidden in the landscape until detonation. Bernardi and his co-authors see rumors as similarly ad hoc, constructed of bits and pieces of narrative systems, and lying unseen to the military information operator, diplomat, civic outreach coordinator, or business strategist until exploding and disrupting expensive and highly wrought communication campaigns.

  • Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future". 1998. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2466-0

Bernardi traces the shifting and reforming meaning of race articulated throughout the Star Trek television series, feature films, and fan community, investigating and, in his word, "politicizing" the presentation of race in Star Trek in the original series of the 1960s, the feature films and television spin-offs of the 1980s and 1990s, and the current fan community on the Internet. Through both critical and historical analysis, he proposes a method of studying the framing of race in popular film and television that integrates sociology, critical theory and cultural studies. Bernardi goes on to examine the representational and narrative functions of race in Star Trek and explores how the meaning of "race" in the science fiction series has been facilitated or constrained by creative and network decision-making, by genre, by intertextuality, and by fans. He interprets how the changing social and political movements of the times have influenced the production and meaning of "Trek" texts and the ways in which the ongoing series negotiated and reflected these turbulent histories. Unpopular with many Trekkers, Star Trek and History went into a second printing after a year of its original publication. Other readers feel Bernardi apologies for Star Trek's racial vision.

As editor[edit]

In these books, Bernardi relies on a range of scholars to show how race in general and whiteness in particular formed unique representational, narrational, and institutional patterns across U.S. film history. The introductions to each book set out a broad theory of whiteness in American film that, in brief, positions whiteness as a performance about who passes and who doesn't pass as white — and what it means in specific films and periods of film history to either pass or not pass as white. The last book in the series, Filming Difference, includes essays and interviews by filmmakers who address critically and creatively how they go about representing race, gender and sexuality in their work. .

Selected publications[edit]

Sources quoting Bernardi[edit]