Amy Heller is co-founder (with husband and partner, Dennis Doros) of Milestone Films. As newlyweds in 1990, the pair started this very independent film distribution and restoration company in their one-bedroom apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. Now, 27 years later, they continue to seek out films that have been lost, overlooked, and underappreciated — with a special focus on the work of women and African American filmmakers. Heller likes to say that the company’s mission is to “mess” with the canon — and Milestone has had the honor of introducing film audiences to Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1978), Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles (1961), Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery (1956), Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1964), and Shirley Clarke’s The Connection (1961), Portrait of Jason (1968) and Ornette: Made in America (1985)— among many others.
In 1995 and 2004, the National Society of Film Critics awarded Milestone with Film Heritage Awards. LA Weekly named company the 1999 “Indie Distributor of the Year.” In 2004, the International Film Seminars presented Milestone with its prestigious Leo Award and the New York Film Critics Circle gave the company a Special Award “in honor of 15 years of restoring classic films.” In 2007, the Fort Lee Film Commission gave Milestone the first Lewis Selznick Award for contributions to film history. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave its first Legacy of Cinema Award to Doros and Heller in 2008 “for their tireless efforts on behalf of film restoration and preservation.” Anthology Film Archive honored Milestone with a Film Preservation award that same year. In 2011, Milestone became the first distributor ever honored by the National Society of Film Critics with two Film Heritage Awards in the same year. Milestone became the first two-time winner of the prestigious New York Film Critics’ Circle’s Special Award in 2011 for its work restoring and distributing the films of Shirley Clarke.
Heller studied American labor and working-class history at NYU and Yale before starting her career in film distribution in 1985. For the last 17 years she and her partner have run Milestone from the basement of their home in the New Jersey suburb of Harrington Park. In 2016, Milestone produced its first film, Ross Lipman’s documentary essay Notfilm. However Heller is proudest of the couple’s very first production: their 21-year-old son, Adam Doros, a junior at Case Western Reserve University.