SJ Murray, Ph.D.
Creator. Visionary. Storyteller.
Born in Ireland and based in the US, SJ Murray is an EMMY-nominated filmmaker and award-winning writer, producer, director, & educator.
By combining her expertise and experience in education, filmmaking, and (social) entrepreneurship, SJ has rapidly established herself as one of the most connected executive producers and writers in independent film and media. A world-class expert in story and pioneer in the field of story design™, SJ is able to manage and speak into each stage of film and television development, from creative inception (research and story) to distribution and impact campaign, making her a talented showrunner in the truest sense of the word. Her work has played at major film festivals and has been acquired by PBS and Netlfix.
SJ believes film and story are two of the most powerful tools that exist to educate mass audiences, democratize knowledge and free thinking, and shift the needle on important social issues. That’s why a select group of entrepreneurs in the impact space rely on SJ to create and direct short-form media content to share their story and scale their venture. Since 2014, SJ’s story-driven strategies and campaigns, developed with AnderImage, have won over a dozen international creative awards, including the Silver Telly and Communicator Award of Excellence. She also covers social entrepreneurship for Conscious Company Media.
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During the course of her PhD work at Princeton, where she was recognized as the most outstanding student of the graduate school in the humanities and social sciences, SJ leveraged the power of emerging technologies to code, study, and archive the contents of medieval manuscripts. It was in doing that work, and traveling to private collections and holdings across the world, that SJ became interested in the recognizable traits that led to some stories making the cut and being passed around for hundreds, or thousands, of years. In an age when going viral meant copying stories and manuscripts by hand and getting in a boat and rowing them across oceans, or fleeing the Vikings and carrying them across the continent, the stakes were higher than many of us can imagine. The core of what makes us human evolves little (if at all) over time, and it’s no surprise to her that what made ancient stories go viral is closely connected to what makes a great feature film, documentary, or short today — one that is both marketable and connects with viewers’ hearts to incite them to action. She now imparts that wisdom to her students in oversubscribed workshop-style classes at Baylor University.
SJ’s university teaching engages questions of intellectual tradition and storytelling, and her latest research explores the relationship between genius and faith at the intersection of creativity and innovation. She is the author of three books: From Plato to Lancelot: A Preface to Chretien de Troyes (2008), which climbed to #9 in the amazon academic best-selling list worldwide, Basics of Story Design: Twenty Steps to an Insanely Great Screenplay (2017), and From Idea to Impact: The Business of Documentary Film (2018). As a sought-after speaker on creativity, SJ has keynoted, hosted, and facilitated conversations across the world, including at Harvard, the Sorbonne Nouvelle, NYU, the White House, the US Institute for Peace, Microsoft HQ, the United Nations, and WeWork. Her two very popular TEDx talks, “Hardwired for story” (2014) and “Write and Wrong” (2015) have been viewed over 250,000 times.
She is the Founding Co-Chair (emeritus) of the Working Group for film, media & story, and Industry Advisor for Film, Media & Entertainment for NEXUS Global. In 2018, SJ was selected for the inaugural cohort of #50WomenCan Change the World in Media & Entertainment, celebrating the rising female stars in the media and entertainment spaces, most likely to revolutionize the industry and help achieve gender parity in Hollywood. She lives in Austin with her feisty Wheatonpoo, Coco Chanel, and travels frequently to both coasts.