Independent producer Karen Criswell first met “ONLY THE BRAVE” director-writer Lane Nishikawa in 1987, while he was serving as the artistic director of the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco.
Over the years, they stayed in touch, then met again in the late 1990s to discuss a film he wanted to make about the 442nd. Since she had just finished a trilogy of three Latino-themed short films, they decided to take the same approach – especially with the number of possible stories to dramatize and such an array of perspectives from which to honor these amazing men and their families.
Thus began their collaboration in which Criswell served as a producer on Nishikawa’s critically-acclaimed trilogy: the 35-minute “When We Were Warriors” in 1999, “Forgotten Valor” (which later won the award for Best Short Feature in the Hawaiian International Film Festival) in 2000, and the feature-length motion picture “Only the Brave” in 2005.
Criswell began her entertainment career in theater – first with the Nite Owl Players in Oklahoma of which she was a founding member, then for almost ten years in the Bay Area, where she directed and produced everything from political theater to opera for companies that included Teatro ng Tanan, The San Francisco Mime Troupe, West Bay Opera, Theatreworks, and Common Cultural Practice.
It was while working with the West Bay Opera Company, under the general direction of Maria Holt, that she gained experience in the multi-media world, which led to a creative relationship with Eaglevision Productions in Silicon Valley.
She was a founding partner in Ce Acatl Productions, an independent production company specializing in Latino and Native American themed films. For Ce Acatl, she served as the executive producer on their short film, “Libertad,” which won the award for Best Actress at the Wine Country Film Festival in 1998, and produced their shorts compilation, “Tapas,” which screened to standing room only at the first LA International Latino Film Festival (LALIFF) founded by Edward James Olmos.
She made her directorial debut with the short feature, ‘The Other Side,” in 2001, to coincide with the formation of Koncept Films, designed to specialize in productions by promising first-time directors, writers and producers. She is currently in development on two feature films, both by first-time feature film writers.
Criswell served as the Short Film Jury Chairperson for the Taos Talking Pictures Festival for six consecutive years.
Since 1996, she has lived in Los Angeles, and worked as Facility Operations Manager in charge of production facility operations for Dreamworks SKG.