Ned Augustenborg: One Driven Documentarian

By Susan Hayes

Ned Augustenborg

It would be easy to entitle this opening blog entry, “The Man Behind the Movie,” but Ned Augustenborg is much more.

His unwavering motivation to keep the dream of bringing “The Ballad of Don Lewis” to the big screen over the past decade- despite personal and professional delays – could cause a lesser-driven director to permanently shelve it. 

But not Ned Augustenborg. He’s a man on a mission. 

The inspiration could have easily begun in 2004 when Ned, already an accomplished television director and producer, first met Don Lewis in LA. But the seed germinated decades before when he first started playing around with his dad’s 8 mm Bell & Howell film camera at age 10.

“I’d beg my mom for money and we’d shoot little films. My dad also had an editor where I could splice the film. We put movies together- with glue…” he emphasized.

Around the same time, he discovered Sears sold short reels of NFL game highlights. “I’d buy them for a dollar and cut together my own football highlights.” (ironically, decades later, he's received multiple Emmy Awards and nominations not only in Sports Coverage but in a variety of genres…just without the glue.)

While sports and piano lessons took up a large part of his youth, the visual arts captured his imagination and he’d often find himself painting and drawing well into the night. “I was fascinated with drawing faces, painting portraits and action sports paintings. I worked in acrylic and pencil and didn’t delve into oils until I was at USC.” 

Originally a Fine Arts major at USC, Ned switched to Broadcast Journalism where he was first introduced to directing, and rediscovered his childhood fascination for film. 

“I didn’t plan on doing it as a living until the broadcast journalism was looking for art majors for their department,” he said. “That’s where I got the bug to do it.”

From that moment on, he was on a mission. Realizing his best shot was to break into a medium market, he took charge of his career and – surprising his family- transferred to University of Arizona. “I didn’t know anyone there, but it had a good department.” 

Three weeks into his first broadcast class, the instructor announced a job “no one wanted” at a radio station. “I just got up, walked out of class, applied for the job- and got it,” he said, paying attention to his gut instinct. “That’s how you get ahead in this business.”  

He continued in school full-time while working the board and reading news at KTUC full-time. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep that semester,” he said. After graduating from Arizona with a Telecommunications degree, he headed back to LA to find work. 

In 2004, Ned’s gut instinct kicked in yet again when he heard the journey of musician, composer, and technological pioneer Don Lewis.  Beyond the story of Lewis’ musical genius and his contributions to popular music, Ned knew the story’s social justice and historical implications were a mandate to tell the story on film. Even if all he had at his disposal were his creative eye, technical filmmaking expertise, and maybe a little bit of glue…


Susan Hayes is a professional writer, editor and documentary film enthusiast based in Northern California.  Her Sundance Film Festival record stands at 13 films in four days.  

Julie Lewis