Tiffany Shlain

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Tiffany Shlain
Born (1970-04-08) April 8, 1970 (age 45)
Residence Mill Valley, California
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Filmmaker, Author, Public Speaker
Board member of Prince of Wales Fellowship at MIT
MIT-IBM Network Science Research Center
The Institute for the Future
Spouse(s) Ken Goldberg
Relatives Leonard Shlain

Tiffany Shlain (born April 8, 1970)[1] American filmmaker, author, and public speaker. Regarded as an internet pioneer, Shlain is the founder of the Webby Awards and the co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Shlain was raised in Mill Valley, California, the daughter of Leonard Shlain, a surgeon, author, and inventor, and Carol Lewis Jaffe, a psychologist. In high school, intrigued by technology and communications, Shlain wrote a proposal called Uniting Nations in Telecommunications & Software (UNITAS), which envisioned students in enemy countries communicating over personal computers and via modems. From this proposal, she was invited to be a student ambassador through the People to People program, and traveled to the Soviet Union in 1988.[3][4]

While a student at UC Berkeley, Shlain produced and directed Hunter & Pandora, an experimental film which won the university’s Eisner Award, the highest award in art. In 1992, she earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, and was selected as a valedictory speaker for her graduating class.[5]

Shlain additionally studied organizational change at the Harvard Business School Executive Education program and film production at New York University’s Sight & Sound program. She was a 2006-2007 Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.[6][7]


Shlain was inspired to be a filmmaker after taking a class in history of film at Berkeley.[1] In her early twenties, Shlain began work on her first feature film, Zoli’s Brain. Three years into the production, Shlain put the unfinished film on hold and began paying off her film debt through working in technology.[8] While researching a project for the musician Sting, she was introduced to the Internet.[9]

In 1996, Shlain founded the Webby Awards, an annual event which the New York Times described as the “Oscars of the Web.” As the organization’s CEO and creative director, she co-produced and directed theatrical productions of The Webbys in addition to directing short films for the show.[10] With hosts that included Alan Cumming, and appearances by Al Gore, Prince, and Thomas Friedman, among others, The Webby Awards consistently sold out the venues in which they were presented.[11][12] Shlain appeared on Good Morning America as the program’s on-air internet expert from 2000 – 2003.[13]

In 2003, Shlain decided to combine her background in technology and the web with her earlier work as a filmmaker, and directed, produced and co-wrote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, a documentary about reproductive rights in America. The film, using found footage, animation, and fictional stories, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival[14] and was used nationally by Planned Parenthood to mark the 30 year anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

In 2005, Shlain decided to pursue filmmaking full-time; she subsequently sold the Webby Awards and founded the San Francisco film studio, the Moxie Institute.[15] Shlain’s next documentary, The Tribe,[16] co-written with her husband, Ken Goldberg, explored American Jewish identity through the history of the Barbie Doll. One of earliest films to use digital distribution platforms, The Tribe, which also premiered at Sundance, was the first documentary short to become #1 on iTunes.[17] Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, a short about technology and the importance of “unplugging," also premiered at Sundance and was selected as a finalist for Guggenheim Museum & YouTube’s YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video.[18]

In 2011 her first feature documentary, Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology, premiered at Sundance.[19] Examining personal connectedness in relation to global conditions - and the potential of what can happen with so many people online—the film ran in theaters and on television, and was subsequently available through digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix.[5][20] The winner of a Tribeca Film Festival’s Disruptive Innovation Award,[21] in addition to other significant awards, Connected was selected by the United States Department of State and the University of Southern California for the 2012 American Filmmaker Showcase. In 2013, the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired the film’s script for their permanent collection.[22]

In 2011, she introduced the concept of “Cloud Filmmaking” with a series of shorts produced through cloud-based collaborative filmmaking. The first film in the series, A Declaration of Interdependence, was released Sept 2011; the second film, Engage, debuted in early 2012. Later that same year, both a 10-minute film and a best-selling TED Book, called Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks were released.[23] Exploring new research on how to best grow children’s brains and the global brain of the internet, Brain Power premiered in November 2012 at The California Academy of Sciences.[24] It was selected by the US State Department as a part of the 2013 American Film Showcase and was screened at embassies in the Middle East in November 2013. Shlain discussed cloud filmmaking as the keynote speaker at the Tribeca Film Festival’s 2013 Interactive Day where she delivered her “Cloud Filmmaking Manifesto.”[25]

Shlain created the AOL original series The Future Starts Here, which includes episodes entitled Technology Shabbats, Motherhood Remix, 10 Stages of The Creative Process,[26] The Future of Our Species, Why We Love Robots, and A Case for Optimism.[27] The series, which began airing on AOL in 2013 was nominated for an Emmy Award in the News and Documentary category in 2014, began airing on AOL in 2013 and has since been viewed more than 30 million times.[28]

Shlain lectures globally on filmmaking, the Internet’s influence on society, and the future, and has spoken at TEDWomen and TEDMED.[29] She delivered the keynote address for UC Berkeley’s commencement ceremony in May 2010;[29] the speech was included on NPR's list of "The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever."[30]

Philanthropy and activism[edit]

Through cloud filmmaking via her non-profit Let It Ripple, Shlain has made over 1000 free customized films for non-profits. All of the films deal with themes of humanity.[31] She has served on the boards and advisory boards of The Commonwealth Club of California, The Institute for the Future, Berkeley Center for New Media, the Sundance Film Festival Filmmaker Advisory board and the International Museum of Women, among others.[32][33][34]

Personal life[edit]

Shlain lives in Northern California’s Marin County with Goldberg, with whom she frequently collaborates on art installations and other projects. They have two daughters, Odessa and Blooma, and have received significant media attention based on the family’s weekly observance for what she and her family call their “Technology Shabbat.” They have observed the Shabbat since 2010.[35][36]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Emmy nomination (News and Documentary) (2014)
  • "Best Commencement Speeches, Ever," NPR (2014)
  • Disruptive Innovation Award, The Tribeca Film Festival
  • Best Director, Los Angeles Movie Awards (2011)
  • Women in Film Award from All Roads Grant National Geographic
  • Women of Vision Nomination from L’Oreal/Entertainment Weekly/Sundance
  • Eisner Award, Highest Award in Art by the Chancellor’s Committee, UCBerkeley (1992)
  • Artist-in-Residence, Headland Center for the Arts Fall (2006)
  • Women in Film Award for making “Connected,” All Roads Award National Geographic (2011)
  • Keynote Commencement Address, UCBerkeley (2010)
  • Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute (2007 – present)
  • For Creating Socially Responsible Films by Partners Ending Domestic Abuse (2009)
  • The Victoria Award for Ethical Leadership, The Woodhull Institute, NY (2006)
  • Activist Award on behalf of Women’s Rights, Ritz Carleton, Given by Planned Parenthood GG (2004)
  • Newsweek Magazine’s “Women Shaping the 21st Century” (2001)
  • Shining Star Award recipient, American Women in Radio and Television (2000)
  • Valedictorian Speaker, Interdisciplinary Department. UC Berkeley (1992)
  • Student Ambassador in the People to People program (1988)


Year Title Credit
2014 The Future of Our Species Director, co-writer
2014 Creative Bondage Director, co-writer
2014 Parentechnology Director, co-writer
2014 Transboom Director, co-writer
2014 The Photosynthesis of Social Media Director, co-writer
2014 Robots, Botox & Google Glass Director, co-writer
2014 Punk Rock Diplomacy Director, co-writer
2014 A Case for Dreaming Director, co-writer
2014 The Science of Character Director, co-writer
2013 Technology Shabbats Director, co-writer
2013 Motherhood Remixed Director, co-writer
2013 Tech Etiquette Director, co-writer
2013 Why We Love Robots Director, co-writer
2013 Participatory Revolution Director, co-writer
2013 The Creative Process in 10 Acts Director, co-writer
2013 Idea Porn Director, co-writer
2013 A Case for Optimism Director, co-writer
2013 The Future Starts Here' (series) Director, co-writer
2013 Facing the Future Director, co-writer
2012 Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks Director, co-writer
2012 Engage Director, co-writer
2011 Connected: An Autobiogography about Love, Death & Technology Director, producer, co-writer
2011 Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" Director, co-writer
2011 A Declaration of Interdependence Director, co-writer
2006 The Tribe Director, producer, co-writer
2003 Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Director, co-writer

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Layman Low, Amanda (December 4, 2013). "SO WHAT DO YOU DO, TIFFANY SHLAIN, FILMMAKER AND FOUNDER OF THE WEBBY AWARDS?". Mediabistro. Retrieved October 15, 2014. 
  2. ^ Moore, Boothe. "From the Valley of the Geeks Comes the Digital Diva". July 7, 2000. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Davis, Rebecca. "Shlain on the job: Life before – and after – creating the Webbys". June 12, 2012. Daily Maverick. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Said, Carolyn. "The Woman Behind the Webbies / S.F., N.Y. woo Web award impresario Tiffany Shlain". July 20, 1998. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Shaw, Lucas. "Why Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain Has Given Up On Movie Theater". October 11, 2013. The Wrap. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "2007 We Go To Eleven Class". 2007. Aspen Institute. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". 2004. Film Festival Collection. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Shlain, Tiffany. "Tiffany Shlain Explains How and Why Non-Profits and Others Can Crowdsource Film Production for Free". May 6, 2013. IndieWire. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "You Have A Vision, A Story". 1991 (Archival). Movie Maker. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Thomas, Stuart. "Ex-Webby boss Tiffany Shlain on how the internet is revolutionising film". June 8, 2012. Yahoo News. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Kunzru, Hari. "News Media Digital media Digital diva's big night". May 21, 2000. The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  12. ^ Carr, David. "Accepting a Webby? Brevity, Please". June 8, 2005. New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "Tiffany Shlain, Internet Expert". September 15, 2003. Good Morning America. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (2002)". 2002. New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Smiley, Tavis. "Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain". November 8, 2011. PBS. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Pries, Jenn. "Tiffany Shlain". 2008. SOMA. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "The Tribe hits #1 on iTunes". October 26, 2007. JTA. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Itzkoff, David. "Highly Subjective Highlights From the Guggenheim YouTube Contest". September 20, 2010. New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "Connected: An Autoblogography". 2011. Sundance Institute. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Dunaway, Michael. "Sundance 2013: An Interview with Tiffany Shlain". January 28, 2013. Paste. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  21. ^ "Tiffany Shlain". 2013. Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  22. ^ "Margaret Herrick Library". Oscars. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Daly, Jim. "The parallels between our highly wired minds and networks: Q&A with TED author Tiffany Shlain". November 15, 2012. TED. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  24. ^ Fancher, Lou. "Berkeley: Mutlimedia maven Tiffany Shlain connects all the links". November 21, 2012. San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  25. ^ "2013 TFI Interactive: Tiffany Shlain Keynote". 2013. TFI Interactive Film Institute. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Popova, Maria. "The 10 Stages of the Creative Process". February, 2014. Brain Pickings. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Barker, Michelle. "Webby Awards founder, Tiffany Shlain, launches film series The Future Starts Here". September 8, 2013. Buzzquake. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  29. ^ a b Public Affairs. "Invoke A Little Moxie". May 2010. UC Berkeley News Center. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  30. ^ Bowers, Jeremy; et al. "The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever". Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  31. ^ "Highlight on Innovative Filmmaker and Internet Pioneer, Tiffany Shlain". Indiewire. Retrieved 6 May 2015. 
  32. ^ Lee, Ellen. "Tiffany Shlain: Net's growth like brain". November 18, 2012. San Francisco Gate. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Filmmakers". 2014. Let It Ripple. 
  34. ^ "Global Impact". McNulty Prize. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  35. ^ "Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain Discuss Her Family's 'Technology Shabbat'". December 3, 2013. Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  36. ^ Brickman, Sophie. "Tiffany Shlain". August 28, 2011. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 20 February 2014.