Alumni Hub

Featured Filmmaker: Mark Shapiro ’86

A bald white man in pants and a leather jacket stands in front of a wooden building.
  • Name: Mark Shapiro
  • Grad year: 1986
  • Major: English
  • Extracurriculars while at CC: Poetry bookmaking while living at the Wood House, skiing, Intramurals (hockey and basketball champs 1985 & 1986). Do Block Breaks in Telluride count?
  • Current location: Portland, OR
  • Current occupation: Director/Producer at Backlot Docs, LLC

How did your experience at CC lead you to where you are today?

The Block Plan really helped me understand how to dig in and manage seemingly impossible deadlines, and to relish the grind. It impressed upon me the focused journey of a single subject matter at hand and that engagement enabled me to understand prioritizing in the weeds as well as contemplating the bigger picture. Also, Dr. Yaffe’s legendary Creative Writing class was a humbling experience where I realized I had work to do.

Mark is the producer and co-director of the recently released film, Downwind.

How long did it take you to make the film?

Over three years.

What was the most challenging part of the process in creating Downwind?

Making a documentary safely with a skeleton crew during the pandemic was the most challenging part of the process. Adhering to COVID protocols sometimes delayed us from doing interviews or capturing content. Ironically, many of our interviewees’ schedules were clearer than normal because of stay-at-home orders, so we had that in our favor. 

What do you hope viewers take away from watching the film?

In our divided country, my hope is that viewers everywhere, regardless of political affiliation, will be inspired to speak up with compassion and conviction and to not conform to a simple party line in the face of government irresponsibility. I hope we will all consider the dangerous implications of nuclear weapons and the generational impact from toxic fallout. I hope the inspirational activism from Downwinders like Claudia Peterson, Mary Dickson, and others in our film will be recognized. I hope that one day the desert land where the Nevada Test Site rests, although tortured, will be returned to the Shoshone Nation. 

Anything else you’d like CC alumni to know?

I am continually amazed by the reach of CC. I’ve serendipitously bumped into CC grads all over the world, from the Tambopata Jungle in Peru to shark cage diving in the Western Cape. I even had a fender-bender with one! My ten-year-old daughter has CC on her vision board. Although she also wants a pet orca, so…

One response to “Featured Filmmaker: Mark Shapiro ’86”

  1. Stephen Blake Avatar
    Stephen Blake


    By outrageous coincidence I recently spent 5 years not getting a doc green-lighted that included your downwinders. I’d be interested to know if any of your contacts remember Elaine Burnett. Her husband Tony was deeply involved as a Navy specialist working with atomic testing during the entire test sequences and died from the side effects. Elaine wanted to cover all the problems the atomic vets and others impacted and I wound up with quite a bit of material including several in person sequences ranging from bomb development up through the test ban treaty and ongoing after effects covering the resulting global issues, including all the various ‘downwinder’ events.

    My research covered what we were exposed to during our time in Colorado Springs.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you came up with.

    Stephen Blake CC ’70