Courter Films has been a family-owned and operated business since Gay and Phil Courter met in New York City in the late 1960s. Phil had just finished a widely-acclaimed documentary for Bank Street College about children growing up in poverty on Manhattan’s west side when Gay cajoled him into joining her team at ACI Films, a leading distributor of educational programming. Gay wrote and produced the films that Phil shot and edited. They married a few months later had have been partners in films, books, raising children, and negotiating life’s journey together ever since.
This unlikely couple sprang from diverse backgrounds and educational choices. Gay grew up in international settings and graduated Antioch College. Phil came from Pennsylvania Dutch background and studied film at Bob Jones University. Together they shared a desire to enable each other’s creativity and give back to their community.
Early work in association with Screenscope in Washington, D.C. included some of the first documentaries on the nascent Head Start program filmed in the coal camps of West Virginia. Another project commissioned by NASA, Reflections in Space, became the most highly awarded documentary of 1971.
As part of a pre-school literary campaign, the Courters developed a series of animated children’s stories for Western Publishing’s Golden Books division. Industrial clients included IBM International, who commissioned films to launch innovative commercial systems as well as motivational films for conferences.
After the Courters began their own family, they produced the Parenting Pictures series. Based on market-share figures, one-third of the families giving birth in the U.S. viewed at least one of these films, which became a powerful force for consumerism in family-centered childbirth.
Seeing a need to better prepare firefighters in up-to-date techniques, they launched Firefighter Films by writing, producing, and distributing a series for this worldwide market.
Courter Films specialty is the long-form documentary. Working in partnership with Tampa’s public television station, WEDU, the Courters produced the two-hour series The Florida Water Story, which enjoyed rave reviews, repeated broadcasts, and long-term educational circulation.
Where’s My Chance—The Case for Our Children, which connected the issues of foster care and juvenile delinquency was recognized with a regional Emmy Award from the National Academy for the Television Arts and Sciences.
The Courters’ expertise in the area of child advocacy led to commissions from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Casey Family Services, National Association for Court Appointed Advocates (CASA), the Child Welfare League of America, the Superior Court of California, UCLA, Kinship Center (California), Northwest Institute for Children and Families (Seattle), Santa Clara County (California) Department of Social Services, The North American Council on Adoptable Children, the Pew Charitable Trust, Kids Central (Florida) and others concerned with children’s issues. Their public television series of Micro Docs with suggested solutions on children’s issues also won a regional Emmy Award from the National Academy for the Television Arts and Sciences.
The Courters have been delighted to have their three children involved in the business from young interns to paid professionals to “voluntary” consultants.