The Dalai Lama's Gift ~ Wheel of Time

Production Team

Ed Bastian, Producer-Director

Ed Bastian holds a PhD in Buddhist Studies with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism. A speaker of Tibetan, and the producer of several educational films Tibetan Buddhism, he is an award-winning producer of television programs on Asian religion for the BBC, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  At the Smithsonian Institution, Bastian served as Co-Director of the National Forum on BioDiversity and Smithsonian Project Discovery. There, he taught courses and moderated programs on Buddhism, world religion and TIbetan human rights. He co-produced the Smithsonian’s first award winning interactive multimedia production called Life Story with Lucas Film and Apple Computer. He has lectured, presented scholarly papers and his films in the U.S., England, Japan and India. He is the author of the award-winning Living Fully Dying Well, as well as Mandala, Creating Your Spiritual Path, and InterSpiritual Meditation, A Seven-Step Process from the World’s Spiritual Traditions.

Ed was the founding president of Aspen Interactive Media that partnered with Sun Microsystems in 1994 to develop aspen.com, one of the first community websites in the world. He now serves as the founding President of the Spiritual Paths Foundation, a nonprofit, non-sectarian, non-advocacy, educational organization on the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. He also teaches Buddhism, Mindfulness and InterSpiritual Meditation at Antioch University and Spiritual Paths Institute’s online courses..

Catherine Wyler, Producer-Executive Producer

Catherine Wyler has been a studio executive, an independent producer of film and television, and has held leadership positions at major American cultural institutions. She is co-producing THE DALAI LAMA’S GIFT, the story of a seminal event in the coming of Tibetan Buddhism to America.

Previous productions include the celebrated Warner Bros. feature film MEMPHIS BELLE (1990) and documentaries, including Emmy-nominated DIRECTED BY WILLIAM WYLER, the Turner broadcast HOT ON THE TRAIL (The Search for Sex and Romance in the Old World and the New) and WITNESS TO HOPE, a biography of Pope John Paul II, for PBS.

From 2001 through 2009, Wyler was founding Artistic Director of the Rochester/High Falls International Film Festival in Rochester, New York, which celebrates women in creative positions behind the camera. 

In the 1980’s, she was Senior Vice President of Production at Columbia Pictures and, previously, Director of Cultural and Children’s Programming at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). From 1977-81, she was Assistant Director of the Media Arts Program (Film, Radio, Television, Video) at the National Endowment for the Arts. Wyler began her career at The Viking Press, then served as Story Editor, first for producer Ray Stark and then for Joseph E. Levine. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Modern European Literature. 

Wyler has served on film festival juries at Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Chicago and Istanbul, and serves on the boards of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital and IndieCollect.

Sharpa Tulku Tenzin Trinley, CoProducer

Sharpa Tulku Tenzin Trinley was born in Lhasa, Tibet, into the Rampa family, whose members served in Tibet’s Ganden Phodrang government until 1959. He left Tibet following the Chinese occupation and in India he spent time at the monastic settlement in Buxa and at Freda Bedi’s Young Lamas Home School before being sent to the United States in 1962 for Western education along with Geshé Lhundup Sopa and two other tulkus.

In 1966, he returned to  Dharamsala, where he served on the Tibetan Council for Religious Affairs. Subsequently he joined the newly established Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, where he translated for Dharma classes and worked on many translations of  Buddhist texts, including the Yamantaka Cycle Classics published by Tibet House, New Delhi, in 1990.

 

He has translated orally for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kaybjé Ling Rinpoché, Kyabjé Trijang Rinpoché, Assistant Tutor  Serkong Rinpoché, the Ninety-Eighth Ganden Throneholder Jampal Shenphen, Lati Rinpoché, and many other lamas  and geshés. He moved to the United States in 1976 and currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, with his family.

Cynthia Kane, Creative Consultant

Cynthia Kane co-created Sundance Channel’s DOCday bringing Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and Denis Poncet’s The Staircase (2006 Peabody, Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Awards) to US television. At ITVS, she shepherded over 150 international and U.S. co-productions for public media. At Al Jazeera America, she commissioned documentaries and series including Albert Maysles’ final work, In Transit and Barbara Kopple’s Shelter and many others.

More recently she was an exec-producer for New Eyes by Hiwot Admasu Getaneh (Venice, TIFF, Rotterdam), a creative consultant for  Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl’s Letters from Baghdad about the extraordinary life and times of Gertrude Bell, a co-producer for  Kim A Snyder and Maria Cuomo Cole’s Lessons From a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane. Very recent films: The Ants and the Grasshopper (2021), The River Between Us (2021), The Dilemma of Desire (2020), Us Kids (2020) and The Letter (2019).

Mark Samels, Cinematographer

Mark Samels (Former Executive Producer, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE) was named executive producer of American Experience, PBS’s flagship history series, in 2003. Under Samels’ leadership, the series has been honored with nearly every industry award, including the Peabody, Primetime Emmys, the duPont- Columbia Journalism Award, Writers Guild Awards, Oscar nominations, and Sundance Film Festival Audience and Grand Jury Awards. Samels also serves on the Board of Governors at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

Prior to joining WGBH, Samels worked as an independent documentary filmmaker, an executive producer for several U.S. public television stations and as  producer for the first co-production between Japanese and American television. A native of Wisconsin, he is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mark was the cinematographer for the 1981 Kalachakra initiation and the interviews with the Dalai Lama.

Jim Whitney, Cinematographer

Jim Whitney studied at Brooks Institute of Photography and graduated Cum Laude from USC School of Cinema/Television in Los Angeles where he began his career as an editor.  His first assignment, the NBC/Tom Brokaw special Gangs, Cops & Drugs, was the highest-rated documentary ever broadcast on American television (Cine Golden Eagle Award.) Other editing credits include A Home Out West (PBS),  A Time Remembered (directed by Academy Award winner Trevor Greenwood, Golden Maile Award,  Bronze Apple Award) Season of the Lifterbees, (directed by Emmy and Peabody winner Eugene Jarecki, Time Warner Grand Prize, Aspen, Turner Classic Movies,) Addressless (Focus Award for excellence in Documentary Editing, Discovery Channel) and over fifty segments of Unsolved Mysteries (NBC, 6 Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Informational Series.)

As a Producer and Director of Cinematography,  Whitney’s work has taken him to all corners of the globe with a special focus on religious, environmental and indigenous issues. Credits include: The Spirit of Tatá (in progress), Sons of Africa (Numerous International Broadcasts, Winner Best Documentary Feature,  Seattle’s True Independent,)  The Seeds of  Vandana Shiva (Illuminate, Sedona, 2021,) Bridgewalkers (Best Documentary Red Nation,) Design for Modern Living ; Claremont Modern (Paul Bockhorst Productions,) Extraordinary Faith (EWTN,) Katrina Music;  Sweet Chariot USA,; South Central Gospel (World Music Series EU TV.)Productions,) Extraordinary Faith (EWTN,) Katrina Music;  Sweet Chariot USA,; South Central Gospel (World Music Series EU TV.

Jim is the cinematographer for our contemporary interviews with the 1981 participants and noted Tibetan and Western experts on the Kalachakra.

Emmanuel Mairesse, Editor

Emmanuel Mairesse is now based in the Washington DC area after previously working for 20 years in Los Angeles where, among other things, he produced, directed and edited the rock’n’roll series “Musicalifornia” for the French Television Network Antenne 2.

 

It’s only after meeting Jacques Cousteau and his team that his career took a turn in the direction of natural history and science. His films have garnered multiple awards including two Emmy Awards for editing National Geographic Specials and several other Emmy Award nominations for National Geographic and Discovery Specials.

 

Emmanuel–known in the business community as Eman–lives in Silver Spring Maryland with his wife Eliza and their kids, their two dogs, four ferrets, a flock of chicken and ducks.

Mikaila Schmitt, Associate Producer

Mikaila Schmitt is a filmmaker driven by social impact storytelling. With a degree from Emory University and professional experience as a producer and editor in the Atlanta film industry, she brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and passion to our team. Having studied Anthropology and Tibetan Buddhism, this material is close to her heart and her fresh set of eyes highlights the possibility for this film to appeal to audiences of all ages. In 2016, Mikaila had the opportunity to immerse herself in a 6-week summer program in Dharamsala and Mundgod, India, where she studied Tibetan Buddhism, philosophy, and medicine in extraordinary detail. Her class had an audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama and prepared questions for him to answer.  It was a truly transformative experience.

She has worked for clients such as The Veterans Administration, Rotary International, The World Health Organization, and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta to help their stories come to life. Her people-centric approach to storytelling is evident in her work. Compassion and empathy are at the forefront of every project she tackles, making her an asset when telling this particular story. Her dedication to the community is seen in her involvement with the Global Village Project and Global Shapers Atlanta.

Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, Consulting Producers

Before joining forces, both made movies about cultures and political situations outside the U.S. They filmed matriarchs of extended families in Haryana State, India, and young Khmer Rouge guerrilla fighters in Western Cambodia, coca growers in Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley and tribal elders in Kankan, Northeast Guinea.

Their first feature documentary collaboration was a deep look at the barriers to girls’ education in Africa, These Girls are Missing. Their first U.S. film came next—an inside look at the American political asylum system, the groundbreaking Well-Founded Fear.

Then in the summer of 2001, still in the United States, they entered into the mysteries of Capitol Hill, by far the most complex culture and political situation either of them had encountered anywhere. Twelve years later, the New York Film Festival premiered all 10 feature documentaries in the resulting film series How Democracy Works Now. 

In the Fall of 2015, they returned to Lincoln Center and the New York Film Festival to premiere the series’ capstone, Immigration Battle/Reasons to Believe. The national U.S. broadcast on PBS Frontline followed in late October. 

After Capitol Hill, Camerini and Robertson are once again on the loose, in the world