Behind the Screen

Suzanne Méjean Pinney ’03 made art about artists and wound up with two LA Emmys

by Katie Williard

Under bright lights and with bated breath, Suzanne Méjean Pinney ’03 watched the envelopes unfold. She had only prepared one speech but ended up garnering accolades twice in one night as her work was recognized at the Television Academy’s 2022 Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards. A creative filmmaker, Méjean Pinney served as producer and lead editor for a series titled California Graphic Design 1960s – Present, which aired as part of local news network KCET’s Emmy-winning Artbound series. Her efforts won in two categories: best informational series (more than 50% remote) and best arts programming.

Suzanne Méjean Pinney sitting next to trophies

Photo: Suzanne Méjean Pinney ’03

Suzanne Méjean Pinney ’03’s work on Artbound also won a Golden Mike award and two Los Angeles Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

Having worked on a freelance basis with the station for 10 years, Méjean Pinney was contacted to step in after production had been tabled due to COVID-19. “They reached out and said, ‘We have a project that needs some reformatting and vision. Can you take a look?’ ”

She found herself with material on five prolific, Southern California-based graphic artists whose work set the stage for political and social activism: Sister Corita Kent, the pop-art nun; Black Panther artist Emory Douglas; The Endless Summer film poster creator John Van Hamersveld; activists Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza of Dignidad Rebelde; and artist Ernesto Yerena Montejano, whose work focuses on justice initiatives for Latinx and Indigenous people. In each episode, Méjean Pinney features the work of an artist and employs their design aesthetics as a visual language for telling their stories.

Her love of storytelling through film was born at Bucknell. An art history major, she gained mentorship from Professors Christiane Andersson, art history, and Tulu Bayar, art. Upon presenting her final project — a sculptural photography installation — Bayar encouraged her to “check out the International Center of Photography (ICP).”

“Tulu saw in me what I hadn’t seen yet,” Méjean Pinney says.

She joined the ICP Certificate Program and then headed to CalArts, pursuing a dual MFA in film and photography and eventually building her first documentary.

Now, even as she celebrates her Emmy success, she knows there are more stories to tell. “I’ve worked on a lot of different projects, but my gut instinct always leads me to documentaries. That’s what I really love.”