Jeffrey Tuchman, groundbreaking documentarian, dies at 62

September 5, 2017
Jeffrey Tuchman

Jeffrey Tuchman, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary producer, director and writer who also produced political advertising for Bill Clinton’s presidential and Hillary Clinton’s senatorial and presidential campaigns, died on Sept. 2 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from complications arising from treatment for pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Among his many credits were the Peabody and Emmy award-winning “Voices of Civil Rights,” an oral history of the civil rights movement; “Mavericks, Miracles and Medicine,” an award-winning, four-part TV series on the history of medicine; and “The Man From Hope,” the acclaimed Bill Clinton biography shown at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, which was widely hailed as a historic piece of political filmmaking and won a Pollie Award, given for works of political communication.

He also wrote and lectured extensively on documentary filmmaking during seven years on the faculty of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Tuchman grew up on New York City’s Upper West Side — where we lived in the same building. He was the elder son of Marcel and Shoshana Tuchman, Holocaust survivors from Poland and Hungary, respectively, who imparted to Jeffrey and his brother, Peter, their zest for culture, intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of social justice.

After attending Hunter Elementary School and Riverdale Country School in New York, he graduated from The Concord School in Hertfordshire, England, before enrolling in Hampshire College in Massachusetts, where he first began working on documentaries alongside a group of aspiring young filmmakers, including documentarians Ken and Rick Burns.

Tuchman returned to New York and embarked on a career producing nonfiction films of social import for the nonprofit Public Agenda, co-founded by public opinion researcher and analyst Dan Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Sr. Around that time, Tuchman met political consultant Mandy Grunwald, with whom he would collaborate on political work over the next several decades.

Grunwald suggested that Tuchman work with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason on the film that would introduce Bill Clinton as the Democratic Party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention in 1992 in New York. That film, “The Man From Hope,” was widely credited with launching Clinton and establishing the narrative and themes that would transport him to the White House.

In 1994, Tuchman wrote and directed “White House,” a film portrait of the Clinton presidency as seen through the eyes of White House photographer Bob McNeely. Tuchman also wrote, produced and directed the series “Science Times: The Science of Crime” for the Discovery Channel/TLC and the series on the civil rights movement “Voices of Civil Rights” for the History Channel, which won Emmy and Peabody awards in 2006.

In recent years, Tuchman moved to Los Angeles, where he produced nonfiction projects for the California Endowment about poverty in the state and building healthy communities, as well as “We Are All Immigrants,” a study of immigration in California, and video content for the new Sacramento museum about the Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Tuchman remained involved in political advertising and advocacy messaging for nonprofits. He worked on such memorable ads as “Invisible People” for Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign, and “Love Wins,” a message about LGBT inclusion shown on the Jumbotron at Staples Center during a Los Angeles Kings hockey game. He also consulted and produced advertising for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns.

He is survived by his father, Marcel; brother Peter; sister-in-law Lisa Zumwalt; and girlfriend Jackie Tepper.

A memorial service is planned for New York’s Riverside Memorial Chapel on Sept. 17. Friends will gather in Los Angeles at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the International Documentary Association, on whose board Tuchman served.

TOM TEICHOLZ is a film producer in Los Angeles and author of the tommywood blog at jewishjournal.com.

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