Piper Hendricks, BS’99

Director’s Cut

AARON CLAMAGE

 

A disappointing court decision led attorney Piper Hendricks to an unusual change of career—documentary filmmaking—with a little help from a nun.

“I was working in international human rights litigation,” recalls Hendricks, “and was handling cases against corporations, including one against [a tire manufacturer] for using child labor in Liberia. It was an extremely strong case, but due to a decision that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, it was dismissed.

“It was really heartbreaking. I thought, if we can’t win a case like this—in which the CEO admitted that child labor had been used—then what can we win?”

Hendricks began looking for other ways to make an impact. On a trip to Israel, she found herself explaining human rights litigation to a Catholic nun. As an example, Piper mentioned a global food-product company’s role in human rights abuses. Without hesitation, the nun swore never to buy their product again.

“That was powerful,” says Hendricks. “I then realized if you could tell everybody about these things, then you could have a significant impact.”

She decided to do just that by going into the movie business. Today she is founder and president of p.h. balanced films, a nonprofit organization that makes awareness-raising documentary films.

By the end of 2014, the organization plans to launch a series of short films called “Your Wallet, Your Voice,” exploring the toll that global industries pertaining to products such as coffee, chocolate, cut flowers and palm oil have on people and the planet.

When asked how she went from the courtroom to the director’s chair, Hendricks just laughs. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I just jumped right in.”

—BECCA JENSEN