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Contessa Gayles

Documentary Filmmaker, Cocomotion Pictures
San Francisco, California United States
Available for Freelance


Contessa Gayles is a San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker, an award-winning journalist and an Emmy-nominated producer. She tells stories about identity, movement and social change, with a focus on race, ethnicity and gender. From 2014 - 2018, she was a producer at CNN, where she created, produced, directed, shot and edited award-winning original series and documentaries, including The Feminist on Cellblock Y, Women Who March, Women Who March: The Movement, This Is Birth with Lisa Ling, This Is Sex with Lisa Ling, Unstereotyped and the 2016 News & Documentary Emmy-nominated Feeding America's Most Vulnerable Children. She has additionally contributed to VICE, PBS NewsHour, PBS Frontline, CBS, Al Jazeera, Vox, WIRED, AFROPUNK and forthcoming independent documentary features, including Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (dir. Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster), Black Mothers (dir. Débora Souza Silva) and Surge (dir. Hannah Rosenzweig, Wendy Sachs). Contessa holds a B.A. from Columbia University and an M.A. in Journalism from New York University, with a concentration in Documentary Film. Her thesis documentary, School of Yoga, screened at the 2015 DOC NYC film festival. She is currently creating independent film and media projects under her production company, Cocomotion Pictures, and has been awarded a 2020 SFFILM artist residency.