Jean Tsien

Pioneer Award

An older Taiwanese woman with light skin and short black hair wearing a blue dress.

Born in Taiwan and based in New York, Jean Tsien has been working in documentary film for over 35 years, first as an editor, and then over time, as a story consultant, producer and as an executive producer. Tsien's feature editing debut, Something Within Me, won three awards at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. Her notable editing credits include: the 2001 Academy Award® nominee, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy; the Peabody award winning films Malcolm X: Make It Plain, Travis and Solar Mamas; the Academy Award® shortlisted films Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing and Miss Sharon Jones!; and The Apollo, which won a 2020 Primetime Emmy® for Outstanding Documentary. 

Tsien was the executive producer and editor for Plastic China, a feature documentary that won the 54th Golden Horse Award for Best Editing (the “Chinese Oscars”), and helped change China’s recycling policy; Please Remember Me, winner of the 2019 Doc Impact Award for shifting people’s understanding of Alzheimer’s across China. Other executive producer credits include People’s Republic of Desire, which won the Grand Jury Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival; Our Time Machine, nominated for the 2020 Gotham Award and Try Harder! which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. 

In 2021, Tsien received two Peabody Awards, one for the landmark five-part PBS series Asian Americans, which she executive produced; and the other for her role as producer on 76 Days, a film capturing the earliest day of the COVID-19 crisis in Wuhan. 76 Days was also shortlisted for the 2021 Academy Awards®, nominated for the 2020 Gotham Awards, and won the 2021 Primetime Emmy® for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.  

A true believer in nurturing emerging talent, Tsien has served as an advisor at the Sundance Institute Edit and Story Lab, Camden/TFI Retreat, Catapult/True False Rough Cut Retreat, Chicken & Egg Pictures (Egg)celerator Lab, CNEX Chinese Documentary Forum, Dare to Dream Asia, Hot Docs Blue Ice and Cross Currents Labs, IDFAcademy, and IFP Lab. Tsien's artistry as a visionary editor, mentor and field builder has been recognized by a 2018 Art of Editing Mentorship Award presented by Sundance Institute, and a Lifetime Achievement Award presented at DOC NYC’s 2020 Visionaries Tribute.