With an eye for capturing the exquisite in ordinary moments, in both real and imagined worlds, Director, Arlene Nelson has worked with major studios, networks, brands, and agencies around the globe. Whether directing commercial campaigns or documentary features, Arlene’s work reflects a naturalistic, organic quality, conveying passion, beauty, and even at times, the absurdity of the human experience.
Nelson's latest directing projects include the upcoming Apple TV+ Gutsy Women episode ”Mothers and Daughters,” with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton; and a series for HBO centered around the Angel City Football Club, a National Women's Soccer League team owned by Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Mia Hamm, Becky G, and Serena Williams.
Recently, Nelson co-directed A&E’s Secrets of Playboy, a 10-part series investigating the darker underbelly of the Playboy world, which won the Critics Choice Real TV Award for Best Crime/Justice Show. She also series-directed on Home Sweet Home, Ava DuVernay’s social experiment docuseries, which placed two families of different backgrounds in each others’ homes, expanding their perspectives and opening hearts.
Nelson made her directorial debut for HBO with the award-winning trilogy of shorts, Naked States, Naked World, and Positively Naked. Each entry in the trilogy ranks among HBO’s top 10 highest-rated documentaries. Naked States chronicles artist Spencer Tunick as he coaxes people of all shapes and sizes out of their clothes and onto the streets, whether as an act of defiance or as a personal reclamation of their bodies. It earned the Discovery Award for Best Documentary at the AFI Film Festival. The Chicago Tribune described the film as “fluent, clever, perfectly capturing the anarchic spirit that motivated Tunick and the eerily confronting quality of his work.” Hollywood Reporter called its sequel, Naked World, “visually and philosophically revealing…gorgeously photographed…vividly realized.” Positively Naked earned the HUGO Award for Excellence in Television for the Arts/Humanities Film category.
Nelson has collaborated with major studios, networks, brands, and agencies globally. As a cinematographer, Nelson has worked with iconic directors including Christopher Guest, and Academy Award winners Agnes Varda, Louie Psihoyos, Paola Di Florio, and Morgan Neville. She has received numerous awards for her cinematography, including an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for her work on Neville’s Troubadours, a documentary on the singer-songwriter tradition featuring Carole King and James Taylor. She was the first female cinematographer to shoot a narrative feature film, A Mighty Mind, for Warner Brothers/Castlerock.
Nelson holds degrees in Philosophy and Fine Art Photography and has been a guest lecturer at USC, UCLA and SFU. She has served on film juries and panels, as well. An intrepid traveler, Nelson’s work has taken her across the globe, from the Himalayas in India, and the wetlands of Brazil, to camping on the Antarctic Peninsula. When she is not working, she can be found sailing the Pacific or playing ping-pong with her husband at their home in Los Angeles.