Donna Kanter

Donna Kanter

Donna Kanter has earned distinction as owner of a film and television company, as writer-producer-director of live-action shorts, and over two-dozen films and documentaries for cable channels and their digital film platforms.

Most recently, she was a principal cinematographer and the writer-producer-director of two feature length, theatrical documentaries:


THE PRESENCE OF THEIR ABSENCE (2018, 84 minutes, pioneers a new tradition of story telling that belongs uniquely to adult children of Holocaust survivors. The film follows Fred Zaidman, a Los Angeles son of survivors, on a journey to trace his “inherited trauma”.  With only the will to push his limits and scant clues from his parents, now gone, Fred is dropped into the unknown to tell his story for this first time.

With helpers abroad and an unlikely source - a Baptist minister in Atlanta - Fred finds his roots in the ashes of the Shoah, unshackles his own pain and reconstructs his future.

Virgil Films Entertainment distributes the documentary:; Amazon: The documentary has been selected so far for screenings at the Directors Guild, Writers Guild, and the Skirball Cultural Center, with theatrical release set for Summer 2019.


LUNCH (2014, 88 minutes, features 12 comedy legends who had been swapping stories and sustaining friendship over matzo ball soup for 40 years.  Included are Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Arthur Hiller, Gary Owens, John Rappaport, Monty Hall, and Donna's father, Hal Kanter.

The film was selected for theatrical screenings at the Directors Guild and Writers Guild, in international film festivals, won first prize in the National Entertainment Journalism Awards, and the Gold Remi in the Houston WorldFest. Vision Films, Inc. distributes LUNCH.

Donna preceded LUNCH with a theatrical short featuring seven comedy writers and the waitress who inevitably steps on their punch lines.

She then wrote and directed Friends for Life.  The short, live-action film is based on the Paulist Press book she edited about feature-film stillman Louis Goldman and the Italian priests who hid him during WWII, when Goldman, then 18, focused his lens on his enemies. Donna has completed the screenplay A DANGEROUS ALLIANCE based on Goldman's story.

She is developing a feature documentary, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, about children of war survivors.

As owner of the Donna Kanter Company, Inc. for 19 years, Donna has excelled in her mission to employ new filmmakers, directors, and editors.  She has served as a mentor to young filmmakers, four of whom she made eligible for membership in the Writers Guild of America and American Cinema Editors.


During her six-year service as Governor of the Writers Peer Group in The Television Academy, Donna waged a successful campaign to retain the writer and director awards on the Primetime Emmys broadcast, and the crafts awards on a single, televised Emmys program.


She earned special merit as Treasurer of The TV Academy when she led a group of television and film executives in the formation of the TV Academy's first investment policy. 


As treasurer for five years, Donna championed new tools for artistic creativity.  She supported fiscal formation of the Emerging Media Task Force (EMTF) to review the structure of the Emmy® awards, recommend new categories for programs distributed over broadband, and extend Academy eligibility to new media professionals. 


She spearheaded the awarding of the Primetime Emmy Engineering Award to Panasonic and the Joint Video Team Standards Committee (JVT) for their development of the MPEG-4 coding system for delivery of HD over multiple platforms and for Blu-Ray disc. 


A member of the Writers Guild Standing Negotiating Committee with the AMPTP, Donna was a leader in forming contracts for independent and low budget filmmakers.  Upon her creation of the ABC series, FBI: The Untold Stories, she formed the Guild's reality-drama hybrid formula.


Donna has launched 14 documentary/reality series, directed the pilot Rescue 911(CBS), Crosshairs of Fire: The NoHo Shootout (Discovery): the first drama-reality hybrid series, FBI: The Untold Stories (ABC), and Cold Case Cops (Discovery).  She is producer/writer of the MOWs Long Journey Home (CBS Films), The Flood and The Last Victim (NBC).  She was a writer of the feature film Acceptable Losses for Interscope Films, and co-Executive Producer, writer-director of A Civil Action: In Pursuit of Justice for Touchstone Films and Tru TV.

Other credits: Pope John Paul II's VaticanThe White House: Behind the GatesLucy: Queen of ComedyInside the FBIRinging Bros. RevealedGreat HeistsThe Angry EarthEyes to the SkiesNo Access (multiple episodes, Discovery); 4 seasons of Badge of Courage (Tru TV) and Save Our Streets (NBC).

Raised in an atmosphere of comedy writers and publishers, Donna gravitated to labor and investigative reporting at KING-TV Seattle.  She became its first Executive Producer and leader in transforming KING stations from 16 mm film to video news-gathering, before joining Newsweek, ABC as a foreign editor, and senior producer for David Brinkley.

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Donna earned her M.A. in Romance Languages from the University of Florence. She completed her doctorate requirements in Italian Literature at UCLA, then left her studies on The Resistance: WWII Italy to work for Ralph Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law and the FCC.

A two-time Emmy recipient and member of the AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, Donna Kanter is a founding member of New York Women in Film, a member of the WGA, DGA, AFTRA, and IDA.

She has conducted interviews with Warsaw Ghetto and Italian Holocaust survivors for the Shoah Foundation and Yale University Archives. In 2016, she won the National Journalism Entertainment's First Prize for her tribute to writer Ben Starr in the Writers Guild Magazine.

Donna is a board member of the Norman Lear Center, USC Annenberg School for Communication, a public policy center that explores implications of the convergence of entertainment, technology, and society. 


She is a trustee of her father Hal Kanter's film and television archives and has accepted an invitation to donate his vast work to The Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Donna is the middle of three daughters, her parents Hal and Doris both writers (Hal, also a film and television producer and director), and granddaughter of Albert L. Kanter, creator and founder of Classics Comics and Classics Illustrated.