Director Gail Levin on Marilyn Monroe

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Gail Levin is an Emmy Award-winning producer/director of both television and film. Her most recent AMERICAN MASTERS production won a 2005 Cine Golden Eagle award. Below, she answers some questions about her latest project, AMERICAN MASTERS Marilyn Monroe: Still Life.

Q: What makes Marilyn Monroe an American Master?

A: Not only did she master her own image, create it and ultimately control it, she was the subject of many of the great masters of photography of the 20th century. This film not only depicts Marilyn, but also the very individual artists with cameras who were involved with her and with making these remarkable and sustaining images. AMERICAN MASTERS continues in its inimitable way to showcase the brilliance of its characters by finding that moment which should be forever memorialized. Read the rest…

Director Sydney Pollack on Frank Gehry

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 Throughout the course of an extraordinary career that began in the 1960s, Sydney Pollack has earned critical and popular raves as a director, producer and actor. With his first feature-length documentary, AMERICAN MASTERS Sketches of Frank Gehry, Pollack boldly enters new territory. The film premieres Wednesday, September 27 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS. Below, Pollack discusses friendship, filmmaking and the future:

Q: When did you first meet Frank Gehry?

A: I met Frank in the early ’80s at a party. Frank was a part of a group affiliated with the therapist who’s in the documentary, Dr. Milton Wexler. The group consisted of very high achievers who were all artistic in some way. Some of them were directors, some of them were doctors, painters. I was not in the group but I did go to the parties sometimes and I met Frank that way. I think we hit it off because we were both big complainers. Read the rest…

Director Ric Burns on Andy Warhol

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Ric Burns Q&A: AMERICAN MASTERS Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film

Ric Burns has written, directed and produced award-winning historical documentaries for nearly 20 years. His latest project is a two-part film on pop artist Andy Warhol, a Pittsburgh native who found beauty in everything from soup cans to movie stars. AMERICAN MASTERS Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film premieres Wednesday, September 20 and Thursday, September 21 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Below, Burns answers some questions about his upcoming film:

Q: Eugene O’Neill, the Donner Party, Coney Island, Ansel Adams, New York, and now Andy Warhol for AMERICAN MASTERS. What is it about these seemingly disparate subjects that attracts you as a filmmaker?A: I think what most filmmakers are looking for in a subject is something which is transfiguring. If you look at the history of New York or the story of Andy Warhol or the story of the Westward migration or the story of Coney Island, the central thing that ties it all together is each one of these events, personalities, institutions, or cities transfigured the reality of American culture completely and continues to do so. The contribution of someone like Warhol in terms of how he changed and continues to change our culture is inestimable. Read the rest…

Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character

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In the interview below, the versatile performer provides her own take on an award-winning career that began in New York City in the 1950s. Read the rest…

Links to recent articles

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Elizabeth Gilbert Turns Life into Art


Dis is How We Speak

Beautiful Bounty

Ernest Hemingway’s majordomo

Former Hillary Clinton press secretary Lisa Caputo

Independent film director Adam Rifkin

Time Out: Governors Island

Salon: Smoke and Mirrors

New Jersey: The Power Issue

As Starving Family Waited, Teen Died

“Red Room” founder Ivory Madison

How to Pitch

How to Pitch ESPN the magazine


American Masters Q&A Comments Off on Resume


Dawn Shurmaitis


Writer / Editor / Public Relations / Marketing / Social Networking

Special Skills: Strong print and web writing and editing for multi-industry clients. Superior planning and organizational skills, with a keen attention to detail. Working with talent. Executive speechwriting, blogging and social networking. Developing and positioning creative ideas and concepts. Fostering and maintaining creative team environments. Scripting and refining corporate and non-profit message to achieve maximum results. Adobe Photoshop, Excel. Recognized for excellence with multiple media and industry awards.

Career History

Advertising Specialty Institute, membership organization for $19 billion ad specialty business.

Senior writer, Marketing, Dec. 2008-present. Research and write press releases, ad copy and CEO speeches. Responsible for writing CEO’s award-winning blog and promoting the company across all social networks. Revamped and now manage the company’s intranet site to introduce breaking news stories and coverage of all employee initiatives.

Thirteen/WNET New York, Peabody, Emmy and Academy Award-winning PBS flagship station.

Associate Director, Communications, 2005-2008. Researched and wrote press kits, web materials and executive speeches to promote numerous high-profile national television series such as Nature and American Masters, including Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Ric Burns’ Andy Warhol and Sydney Pollack’s Sketches of Frank Gehry. Chief PR writer for miniseries such as Broadway: The American Musical, The Supreme Court and Simon Schama’s Power of Art. Editorial associate for Educational Broadcasting Corporation annual reports. Radio and TV ad copywriter; blog and daily press briefing editor.

ABC, Inc., multi-billion dollar media network.

Director, Editorial Projects, 1999-2001. Wrote press releases for ABC News magazines, 20/20, Prime Time, Downtown and ABC News specials. Wrote speeches, remarks and scripts for executives, including company president, network president, news president and ABC talent. Researched and wrote ABC, Inc. portion of Disney annual report. Ensured overall consistency of corporate brand messaging.

Editor, ABC Ink, 1996-1999. Supervised editorial, photography and design staffs, producing award-winning 16-page, four-color monthly magazine for distribution worldwide to ABC Inc. and The Walt Disney Company employees. Wrote all celebrity profiles and cover stories.

Freelance Editor and Writer, 2001-2005; 2008. Multi-media, public relations, legal, consumer publications.

Speeches, press kits, media consultation, corporate reports, articles, PSAs for numerous clients, including Thirteen/WNET New York, ABC Inc., New York University Langone Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital Corp., Metropolitan Family Health Network Inc., Intrepid Museum Foundation, Fisher Brothers real estate investment firm, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood international law firm, mPRm Public Relations, JEG Associates, and Fusion Design.

Copy editor and writer, Lanford Marketing web sites.

Freelance writer for a variety of publications, including Salon, Time Out, MediaBistro, New Jersey, Contribute, Knight-Ridder news service, The Bergen Record.

Contributing writer, RiseUp, a magazine insert in numerous major market newspapers, including New York Daily News and The Washington Post, with a circulation of 4 million.

Reporter-Editor, The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA, Knight-Ridder newspaper, 1986-1996. Responsible for investigative projects, 1A Sunday stories, feature, health and science reporting. Assistant city editor.


Published Works and Awards

Associated Press Managing Editors Awards

2003 First place, breaking news reporting

2003 First place, feature reporting

1993 First place, business series

1989 First place, news reporting

Keystone Press Awards

1997 First place, news series

1996 First place, beat reporting

1995 First place, investigative reporting

1995 Second place, political reporting

1994 First place, business and economic reporting

1993 First place, business and economic reporting


International Mercury Awards

Grand Winner, Gold and Bronze awards for feature article writing, celebrity profiles

International Association Business Communicators

1998 Silver Quill Awards for magazine publishing

New York ACE Awards

1987 Excellence and Merit Awards for magazine publishing and design

09/11 8:48 AM, Documenting America’s Greatest Tragedy

Two reports included in anthology benefiting American Red Cross

Finalist – 2002 Independent Publisher Book Awards

09/11 8:48 AM, One-act play directed by veteran actor and director Murray Woodfield and adapted from the personal testimonies of seven writers, including Dawn Shurmaitis. Performed in London at the Old Vic Theatre benefiting New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund




Hudson County Community College, Jersey City, NJ, English composition adjunct professor, 2001-2003

Luzerne County Community College, PA, journalism, English composition adjunct professor, 1990-1996




2001Fade In Screenwriting Awards

Exit Hero,” Quarterfinalist out of 8,000 submissions

2001 CineStory Screenwriting Awards

Exit Hero,” Quarterfinalist out of 1,000 submissions

2001 Hollywood Symposium Screenwriting Awards

Exit Hero,” Top 50 Finalist out of 500 submissions



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Simmons School of Management, Strategic Leadership for Women, Boston

 Note: No dolphins killed in preparation of this resume




American Masters Q&A Comments Off on Bio

Officially, Dawn Shurmaitis is an award-winning writer whose journalism background, rigid adherence to deadlines and flair for creative writing under pressure make her an ideal candidate for any assignment, across any medium. Her full-service writing/editing company is called Stella Ink.

Unofficially, Dawn has annoyed Bill Clinton’s Secret Service guards, snuck into the Pentagon, taught creative writing to maximum-security prisoners, and learned how to sail New York Harbor. She’s now writing a comic memoir called Smoking With the Patch On.

She’s worked as communications director and associate director for ABC, Inc. and Thirteen/WNET, where she wrote press kits for the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning PBS series American Masters, among many other programs.

She’s won more than a dozen awards for investigative, business, feature and breaking news reporting, and has reported on numerous subjects, including politics, health, aging, immigration, gardening, the environment and the nuclear industry. She’s reported from New Orleans after Katrina, Ground Zero, the Mississippi River, Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, and Ecuador, where she spent two weeks inside a makeshift OR documenting American doctors and nurses on a charitable mission.

Her work has appeared in Time Out, NY Daily News, Salon, MediaBistro, Rise Up, New Jersey, Contribute, the AP and Knight-Ridder news services, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bergen Record, Fort-Worth Star Telegram, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

She is also an accomplished photographer whose photos have appeared in New Jersey, Contribute and Rise Up magazines. She shoots with a digital Nikon D200 and is represented by the Open Your Eyes to Dream art gallery.