Jack Willis

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Jack Willis is a journalist, writer and filmmaker.


Jack Willis, documentary filmmaker and television producer, was the co-founder of Link TV[1] a Direct Broadcast Satellite channel currently in over 34 million American homes via DirecTV and the Dish Network.

He has been a producer and executive in commercial, cable and public television. He was a Senior Fellow at George SorosOpen Society Institute where he developed and directed a program on media policy. From 1990 to 1997 he was President and CEO of Twin Cities Public Television.[2] He was also vice-president of programming and production for CBS Cable, where he developed the critically acclaimed performing arts channel, Director of Statue of Liberty Programming for Metro Media Producer’s Corp. and Director of Programming and Production of WNET/13 in New York City.

Jack Willis has created and produced many award winning series including the Emmy-award winning news show The 51st State[3] for WNET/13. He was Co-Executive Producer of PBS’ groundbreaking, Emmy winning, The Great American Dream Machine,[4] and the Emmy-winning series City Within a City, a documentary which was widely credited with helping to achieve passage of Milwaukee’s Open Housing Law.

He has also produced and directed numerous award-winning documentaries. He has produced films for CBS News as well as The Human Animal series, with Phil Donahue, for NBC. His independent documentary, Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang, about the government cover up of the fatal effects of the Nevada nuclear bomb tests on military personnel and civilians living downwind from the tests, won an Emmy and the George Polk Award[5] for investigative journalism. Two of his films, Lay My Burden Down,[6] about the plight of black sharecroppers in the rural south, and Every Seventh Child, about Catholic education were shown at the New York Film Festival.[7] His first film, The Streets of Greenwood about voting rights in Mississippi, won the Gold Medal at the San Francisco Film Festival.

With his wife, Mary, he has written several highly rated network movies and co-authored the book But There Are Always Miracles.

He has a BA and LLB from UCLA and an Honorary Doctor of Law from Saint John's University in Minnesota.


  • Stella Adler, Awake and Dream[8] (1992) (Executive Producer)
  • The Uncompromising Revolution (1990) (Executive Producer)
  • The House of Mirth[9] (1981) (Executive Producer)
  • Summer (1981) (Executive Producer)
  • Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang[10][11] (1979) (Producer, Co-Director, Writer) - A political documentary about government suppression of the health hazards of low-level radiation. Paul Jacobs died from lung cancer before the documentary was finished. His doctors believed he contracted it while he was investigating nuclear policies in 1957. Jacobs interviewed civilians and soldiers, survivors of nuclear experiments in the 50s and 60s, testing the effects of radiation. The film won an Emmy Award (1980), George Polk Award[12] for investigative journalism on TV, Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award,[13] and Best Documentary at the Mannheim Film Festival.[14]
  • Power and the Presidency (1975) (Producer)
  • The Case Against Milligan (1975) (Producer) Emmy-nominated
  • City Within A City - Emmy-award winning documentary about poverty in Wisconsin, widely credited with helping to achieve passage of Milwaukee’s Open Housing law.
  • Hard Times in the Country (1969) (Producer, Director, Writer) – Cine Gold Eagle, American Film Festival
  • Some of My Best Friends (1969) (Producer)
  • Appalachia: Rich Land, Poor People (1968) (Producer, Director, Writer) American Film Festival selection
  • Every Seventh Child, (1967) New York Film Festival selection (Producer, Director, Writer)
  • Newark Town Meeting (1967) (Producer)
  • Lay My Burden Down,[15] (1966) New York Film Festival Selection, Emmy Nominee, Cine Gold Eagle, Brotherhood Award National Conference of Christians and Jews.
  • Crime in the Streets (1965) (Producer, Writer, Director)
  • The Image Makers (1964) (Producer, Director, Writer)
  • The Quiet Takeover (1964) (Producer, Writer)
  • The Streets of Greenwood[16] (1963) - GOLD MEDAL at the San Francisco Film Festival

Television Series (as Executive Producer)[edit]

  • The Human Animal, (1985)
  • The 51st State[17] (1971) 4 Emmys WNET/13
  • The Great American Dream Machine[18] (1970) 2 Emmys
  • City Within A City – (1968) Emmy, widely credited with helping to achieve passage of Milwaukee’s Open Housing law

Two-Hour Teleplays (with Mary Pleshette Willis)[edit]

  • Seizure[19] (1980)
  • A Question of Guilt[20] (1978)
  • Some Kind of Miracle[21] (1976)




  1. ^ LinkTV,
  2. ^ True Grit: Twin Cities Public Television President Jack Willis Interview
  3. ^ The 51st State
  4. ^ The Great American Dream Machine at IMDB
  5. ^ George Polk Awards 1979
  6. ^ Lay My Burden Down at IMDB
  7. ^ New York Film Festival Special Events
  8. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0481628/ Stella Adler, Awake and Dream at IMDB
  9. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0189588/ The House of Mirth at IMDB
  10. ^ http://www.linktv.org/programs/paul Paul Jacobs at Link TV
  11. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=BQsAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=paul+jacobs+and+the+nuclear+gang&source=bl&ots=OtTlrxx3-P&sig=N3XuAYrwtef1WvmqXk0CNftNQvk&hl=en&ei=OcUsTbC7NYK8lQet4vjNCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=paul%20jacobs%20and%20the%20nuclear%20gang&f=false Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at Google Books
  12. ^ http://www.liu.edu/About/News/Polk/Previous.aspx#1979 1979 George Polk Awards
  13. ^ http://www.playboyenterprises.com/home/content.cfm?content=t_title_as_division&ArtTypeID=0008B752-BBD0-1C76-8FEA8304E50A010D&packet=FF4A5C94-C26C-A360-E8535955335DAFD7&MmenuFlag=foundation&viewMe= Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award
  14. ^ http://www.iffmh.de/en/1979_Awards_and_Juries 1979 Mannheim Film Festival Awards
  15. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1756586/ Lay My Burden Down at IMDB
  16. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405351/ The Streets of Greenwood at IMDB
  17. ^ http://www.thirteen.org/the51ststate/history.html The 51st State at thirteen.org
  18. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066665/ The Great American Dream Machine at IMDB
  19. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081482/ Seizure at IMDB
  20. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078130/ A Question of Guilt at IMDB
  21. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079930/ Some Kind of Miracle at IMDB

External links[edit]