Alumnus serves as editor for Academy Award-nominated documentary

February 07, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An award-winning and impressive decade and a half for one Penn State alumnus in Hollywood took another positive turn this year with an Academy Award nomination.

Joshua Altman served as editor for the Oscar-nominated documentary “Minding the Gap.”

The 93-minute film directed by Bing Liu focuses on three young men who bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. At the same time, they face adult responsibilities and unexpected revelations that test their relationship. In 2018, “Minding the Gap” earned a special jury award at the Sundance Film Festival, bolstering Altman’s reputation in the filmmaking community.

He also edited “The Price of Free (FKA Kailash),” which earned the grand jury prize at Sundance in 2018. That film is is now streaming on YouTube.

When Altman moved to Los Angeles in 2003 after he graduated with a degree in film-video, he started working as an editor on reality television shows. He added a variety of documentary work and even a short film, “Fresh Squeezed,” that he wrote and directed, to his credits.

In 2009, “We Live in Public,” which he edited, took home the grand jury prize at Sundance. “The Tillman Story” was on the 2011 Oscar short list for best documentary and “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography” was No. 1 on iTunes upon its release. His writing and editing on “Code Black” earned that film the best documentary award at the LA Film Festival and was later adapted into a CBS TV series. He also edited “The Final Year,” an HBO documentary following President Barak Obama’s foreign policy team during its final year.

Opportunities for editing work, largely based on referrals, provide consistent opportunities these days. Altman is currently co-directing a feature-length documentary with Liu. He’s also an executive producer for a docu-series that’s filming across the globe and has been sold to Netflix.

Altman appreciates the steady work editing has provided and he’s not afraid of additional challenges.

Altman, who was born in Staten Island and grew up in New Jersey, chose Penn State for the same reason as so many other students: “When I came there, I just knew.” He learned a lot about film as an undergraduate, and made some important lasting relationships.

“The program was great, and I was only getting part of it. I was just too young and too immature to fully embrace the time I had been given to experiment and learn until about my senior year," he said. "What really helped was some social growth and being around other people with the same interest. 

“The best thing was all the editing skills. With the resources and computers at Penn State, I learned to edit. When you get out of college you want to be a writer and director. But the editing skills were what helped me — and my wife, who I met in documentary class — to get jobs.”

Both he and his wife, Allison, who earned her film-video degree with a minor in history from Penn State in 2003, initially worked almost side-by-side in their first jobs in the industry. For the past few years, though, she has scaled back her work to focus on the family’s two children, Quinn and Levi. The family lives in Venice, California.

Last Updated February 07, 2019