A filmmaker with a hard news background, Rick Wilkinson is an Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning producer/director/writer whose international projects have taken him to Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda, Antarctica and beyond. Whether traveling around the world or across the United States, his stories communicate the experiences of people from all walks of life with intimacy, authenticity and cultural sensitivity.
His recent string of credits includes serving as Senior Field Producer for the Netflix series, "BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD" writer/producer for the Emmy-nominated syndicated strip series, CRIMEWATCH DAILY, producer on Red Bull TV's series VISIONS OF GREATNESS, Co-Executive Producer for CMT’s 11-part series, DOG & BETH: ON THE HUNT, director/producer for the History Channel series BIG RIG BOUNTY HUNTERS, director/producer on the Discovery Channel series AIRPANE REPO, producer for the Nat Geo Series X-RAY EARTH, as field producer for the Animal Planet special GLORY HOUNDS, director/producer for the series LOCK & LOAD on History, writer/producer/director for SECRET WORLDS, a six-part Travel Channel series as well as producing for the series AX MEN. On the hard-news side, he’s produced stories for the PBS NEWSHOUR, he’s won a National Headliners Award for his work with the AL JAZEERA AMERICA network as well as producing for SOCAL CONNECTED, the hard-hitting news program for Los Angeles PBS station KCET. Wilkinson received the PEABODY AWARD for his SOCAL CONNECTED report “Cannabis Cowboys” which takes an insider’s view of a 36-hour armed operation to destroy marijuana crops run by drug cartels deep inside California national parks.
Wilkinson is a native of New York City, where he grew up and launched his career at ABC NEWS. He served as both a staff and freelance producer at NIGHTLINE, where he received SIX EMMY® AWARDS, THREE DUPONT-COLUMBIA AWARDS for journalistic excellence, 2 NATIONAL HEADLINER AWARDS, 2 LOS ANGELES PRESS CLUB AWARDS and an OVERSEAS PRSS CLUB AWARD, among other honors. His travels with NIGHTLINE have taken him from the windblown barrenness of the South Pole to killing fields of Rwanda, and hundreds of places in between.
It was his continuing desire to focus on storytelling that led to a shift in focus from journalism to drama.
Wilkinson, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the prestigious American Film Institute (AFI), won the SUNDANCE CULTURAL SPIRIT AWARD and numerous Jury and Grand Prize awards on the film festival circuit for his masters thesis film, A SHORT WAIT BETWEEN TRAINS. The short film follows four black World War II heroes who return to Georgia, where they discover that putting their lives on the line for America doesn’t count for much back home. In its review of the Showtime Black Filmmaker Showcase in 1999, DAILY VARIETY praised the film as “a clear standout” and “heavy-duty stuff that portends a bright future for helmer Wilkinson.”
In 2003 he was asked to embed with the Marines during the invasion of Iraq. He was assigned to a front line Marine Corps infantry combat unit for ABC News and remained in the field throughout the operation – from its beginnings in the Kuwaiti desert until the end of offensive military operations. After his return, Wilkinson produced a short documentary examining his experiences with the Marines during the invasion of Iraq, LIFE WITH THE 3/2, which was included in WAR STORIES, a two-DVD set released by ABC News.
In 2005 Wilkinson traveled to Sudan and neighboring Chad with Academy Award® nominee Don Cheadle (HOTEL RWANDA, CRASH) as part of a Congressional fact-finding mission looking into the genocide taking place there. Cheadle reported his experiences for a special edition of Nightline. Later that same year, Wilkinson returned to Africa with Cheadle, this time to Uganda to document the world of Northern Uganda’s “night commuters,” the thousands of children who must flee their homes each night to sleep in guarded camps rather than face the prospect of being abducted by rebels fighting a 20-year-old war with the Ugandan government. The resulting documentary short JOURNEY INTO SUNSET made its World Premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The film went onto to screen at festivals in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Jackson Hole to London and Sapporo, Japan, as well as private screenings at the U.S. State Department in D.C. to the Criminal Court in the Hague.
In 2006 Wilkinson traveled to Afghanistan and spent a month embedded with the Army forces for the TED KOPPEL/DISCOVERY CHANNEL special OUR CHILDREN’S, CHILDREN’S WAR. Seven months after returning from Afghanistan, Wilkinson was back in Iraq producing and shooting a PBS documentary about the 3rd Infantry Division and its continuing mission in Anbar Province in western Iraq.
For the PBS series AMERICA AT A CROSSROADS, which premiered in 2007, Wilkinson was invited by the Corporation For Public Broadcasting (CPB) to read and judge proposals by independent documentary filmmakers. Also in 2007, Wilkinson traveled to a physics lab in Canada located 6,800 feet underground and then to the 800-year-old Indian ruins of Costa Mesa, Colorado, for the PBS series WIRED SCIENCE. He also produced for the PBS pilot GLOBAL WATCH.
Rick Wilkinson’s award-winning career includes staff and freelance positions at network, cable and public television. He has worked in the genres of hard news, soft news, entertainment as well as science and technology. He actively pursues a directing career in both documentary and dramatic filmmaking.
Along the way, he has worked at the DR. PHIL SHOW, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT and THE INSIDER. He was also a field producer for the HISTORY CHANNEL series SHOCKWAVE and the Fox series COPS, and entered into the world of sports television as a producer with the NFL NETWORK.
Wilkinson’s professional journey began immediately upon graduation from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree, Television & Radio. He joined the ABC News Advertising and Promotion department, where he won several awards for creative excellence before going on to join NIGHTLINE and embark on his filmmaking path.
RIck currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife Maja, a television director and their 3-year old mutt, Pup. When not on the road in pursuit of his next story, blogging about his adventures or working on his next film project, he enjoys diving, skiing, photography, music and…traveling.