Abigail Severance

Abigail Severance

Abigail Severance works in narrative, essay, abstract and hybrid cinema forms to excavate personal and political dilemmas of nostalgia, problems of borders and boundaries, and social negotiations. She aims to work with cinema as a visceral language of resistance.

Her films have screened widely, including the Broad Museum, MOCA Los Angeles, Sundance, Los Angeles Film Festival, REDCAT, Studio Museum of Harlem, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco Cinematheque, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Black Maria Film & Video Festival, Antimatter, Curta Cinema Rio, Women in the Director’s Chair, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Frameline, Outfest, MIX (New York & Sao Paolo) and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, among many other galleries and festivals.

Acadia, an essay film on homelands and queer memory in Nova Scotia, will be released in 2020. Severance will be in residence at University College Cork, Ireland in 2020 as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar, making The Edge of the Flat Earth, a hybrid essay-narrative film that investigates boundary regions as sites of transformation. In 2018, she received a CalArts Research & Practice Grant for We The Devoted, a near-future narrative about borders and labor, made collaboratively with its ensemble cast. Other current projects include the narrative features Winterkill and The Summer We Drowned, which earned her a Film Independent Fellowship and was a Sundance Creative Producers project. Severance often collaborates with other artists as cinematographer and/or co-director, including Julie Tolentino, Jenni Olson, Gary Mairs and Kadet Kuhne. Evidence, made with Tolentino, was commissioned by Visual AIDS in 2014 for the 25th anniversary of A Day Without Art

Raised in New York, New England and Nova Scotia, Severance has been based in California since 1992. She holds a BA in cultural studies from Hampshire College and an MFA in film directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Digital Media, where she was a Wasserman Fellow, a Carl David LBGT Fellow, and two-time recipient of the Spotlight Award for Directing. She joined the faculty of the CalArts School of Film/Video in 2009. Severance often speaks on filmmaking and film aesthetics, most recently in Mexico City, the Lima International Film Festival and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. 

Severance is currently Interim Dean of the School of Film/Video at CalArts.