Bess O'Brien

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Bess O'Brien—Director/Producer

Bess O’Brien is currently producing The Listen Up Project—an original musical based on the lives of Vermont teens that will be touring the state in 2020! To learn more go to our website:

O’Brien’s last film was Coming Home, a documentary film focused on five people returning to their Vermont communities from prison. The film spotlights the innovative COSA program—Circle of Support and Accountability—which helps reintegrate former prisoners back into their daily lives. The film premiered in the fall of 2018 and toured across Vermont and was screened for the Governor Phil Scott, Legislators and T.J. Donovan, Vermont’s Attorney General.

Other films by O’Brien include All of Me, a film on body image and eating disorders, The Hungry Heart, about prescription drug crisis in Vermont and the compassionate work of Dr. Fred Holmes. The film won the American Society of Addiction Medicine Award for outstanding media and was honored by Vermont Governor, Peter Shumlin as the film that served as a catalyst for opiate addiction awareness across the state.

Other award-winning documentary films by O’Brien include: Ask Us Who We Are, a powerful documentary about foster care in Vermont,  Journey into Courage about women in the Northern part of Vermont who survived domestic violence and sexual abuse, Where is Stephanie? about the murder of a young girl in Rutland, VT, and Here Today about Vermont families struggling with heroin in their lives. Bess O’Brien co-founded Kingdom County Productions with her husband Jay Craven in 1991. She is also the director/producer of the highly acclaimed feature film Shout it Out based on the lives of Vermont teens and the original Voices Project live musical.

O’Brien co-produced the feature films Where the Rivers Flow North starring Rip Torn, Tantoo Cardinal and Michael J. Fox, and A Stranger in the Kingdom starring Ernie Hudson and Martin Sheen.


Awards and Accolades

  • 2019  Vermont International Film Festival Community Champion Award to Director Bess O’Brien

  • 2019 Public Health Campion Award to Bess O’Brien from the Vermont Public Health Association

  • Hungry Heart winner of the 2016 PRISM award by the Entertainment Industry Council in Los Angeles.

  • Hungry Heart winner of the 2016 National Institute on Drug Abuse Media Award.

  • Hungry Heart winner of the 2015 Media Award from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

  • 2014 Walter Cerf Award for Excellence in the Arts

  • 2012 Labor of Love Award from Vermont Works for Women.

  • 2011 Voices For Vermont’s Children Youth Advocacy Award in recognition for O’Brien’s dedicated, creative and artistic advocacy on behalf of VT children.

  • 2010 National Education Association (NEA) Human and Civil Rights Award for Shout it Out for empowering youth voice.

  • U.S. Department of Justice Special Recognition for documentary film, Journey into Courage.

  • Jack Barry Communication Award for Here Today, state-wide recognition for Excellence in prevention awareness

  • Vermont Agency of Human Service 2005 Award in recognition of The Voices Project for excellence in improving the lives of Vermonters.

  • Member of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences

  • Recipient with Jay Craven of the prestigious Producers Guild Of America's NOVA Award.


Quotes and Press

Thank you to Bess O’Brien for being Vermont’s storyteller, but even more importantly thank you to Bess for being Vermont’s truth teller.
— Attorney General T.J. Donovan

Bess O’Brien and Kingdom County Production’s work is exemplary in the state of Vermont and has raised issues that are critical to children and families.
— Senator Bernie Sanders

Bess O’Brien’s film The Hungry Heart is a brilliant and beautiful film that captures the true lives of people in recovery—it should be seen by everyone!
— David Sheff, best-selling author of Beautiful Boy

O’Brien’s latest film, Ask Us Who We Are, is superb, one of the best films I have ever seen!
— Howard Frank Mosher, Writer

O’Brien’s film The Hungry Heart displays the unflinching honesty necessary for addiction recovery.
— Geoff Kane, MD, MPH, Chief of Addiction Services, Brattleboro Retreat
Every state should be so lucky to have Bess O’Brien working for them in support of children and families!
— Governor Peter Shumlin

In nearly two decades of making documentaries that shine light into the shadowed areas of Vermont life, O’Brien has acquired a knack for getting people to talk about uncomfortable subjects. Her latest Ask Us Who We Are is a work of art, beautifully crafted.
— Joseph Gresser, The Chronicle
Filmmaker Bess O’Brien’s Ask Us Who We Are is an inspiring tribute to the human spirit.
— David Moats, Rutland Herald