Paul J. Stekler (born January 3, 1953) is a political documentary filmmaker, a professor, and former head of the production program in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin College of Communication. Although known for his political films, he is perhaps recognized best by the public as the on-camera advisor to the cast of The Real World Austin during their attempt to create a documentary about the South by Southwest Music Festival (2005-2006). Among other major filmmaking awards, he has earned two Peabody, three Columbia/duPont, and three national Emmy awards.
He obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1982. His first film to win national acclaim (a Peabody Award) was his 1997 PBS Democracy Project film "Vote for Me: Politics in America" (produced, directed and written with Louis Alvarez and Andy Kolker), a behind-the-scenes exploration of running for public office done by chronicling American politics, including veteran Chicago political operatives, consultants creating negative ads in Alabama, and legislators` arm-twisting on the floor of the Texas Statehouse. The film also follows Maggie Lauterer a folksinger turned TV reporter who runs for congress. The film ('The Political Education of Maggie Lauterer') follows Lauterer as she learns the ropes of running a campaign. The Peabody committee called the film "a glimpse of our system that ultimately turns the surprising trick of making viewers more appreciative of and less cynical about the political process."
In 2000, Stekler and Daniel McCabe received the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for the three-hour documentary "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire" which the New York Times called "a full-blown Shakespearean saga."
Paul Stekler was nominated by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in 2004 for outstanding achievement in television writing for his documentary film "Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style" which aired nationally on the PBS series "P.O.V." The film takes a behind-the-scenes look at Texas politics during the 2002 elections, which pitted President Bush's Lone Star state Republican Party against a historic multi-cultural Democratic ticket. The film received widespread acclaim from the Dallas Morning News, indieWIRE, New York Magazine, Variety, and the Washington Post.
Stekler's other award winning work for PBS includes two segments of the 1990 "Eyes on the Prize II" series about the history of civil rights; "Last Stand at Little Big Horn" (written with the late Native-American novelist James Welch); and Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics" (directed with Louis Alvarez and Andy Kolker).
Stekler has served as host and executive producer of the statewide PBS television series, "Special Session," which covered issues and politics confronting the Texas State Legislature. He was the co-Executive Producer on Margaret Brown's "Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt" (2004) and a consulting producer on Peter Frumkin's "Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home" (2006). In 2008, Stekler co-produced and co-wrote Frontline's "The Choice", about the Obama/McCain race, with director Mike Kirk and Jim Gilmore.
Stekler's most recent documentary film, co-produced and directed with Louie Alvarez, Andy Kolker, and Peter Odabashian, is "Getting Back to Abnormal" (gettingbacktoabnormal.com), a film about New Orleans five years after Katrina. The films explores the city, that was unique, joyful and dysfunctional before the storm, as it attempts to rebuild, as seen through stories involving politics, housing and culture. The film was completed in 2012 and will premiere and be broadcast on PBS in 2013.
"Hands That Picked Cotton: Black Politics in Today's Rural South" (1985) (produced, directed and written with Alan Bell)
"Among Brothers: Black Politics in New Orleans" (1987) (produced, directed and written)
"Eyes on the Prize II" (2 episodes, 1990) "The Keys to the Kingdom: 1974-80" and "The Promised Land: 1967-68" (producer, director, writer with Jackie Shearer)
"Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics" (1991) (producer, director, writer with Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker)
"Last Stand at Little Bighorn" (1992) (producer/director, written with James Welch)
"Vote for Me: Politics in America" (1996) (producer, director, writer with Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker)
"George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire" (2000) (producer, director, writer with Daniel McCabe, co-writer Steve Fayer)
"Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt" (2004) (executive producer for director Margaret Brown)
"Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style" (2004) (TV) (producer, director)
"Woody Guthrie: Ain’t Got No Home" (2006) (consulting producer for director Peter Frumkin)
Frontline's "The Choice" (2008) (co-producer and co-writer with director Mike Kirk and Jim Gilmore)
"Getting Back to Abnormal" (2012) (producer/director with Louis Alvarez, Andy Kolker and Peter Odabashian)