Janet Hoskins discovered the process of ethnographic filmmaking in 1980 when she climbed a mountain on the island of Flores in Eastern Indonesia and visited Tim and Patsy Asch (who she had known slightly at Harvard) filming the large scale ritual which was to become their final film, A Celebration of Origins. From 1984-85, she completed a post-doctoral year at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, where Tim and Patsy were based, and was part of an ethnographic film screening group that included David and Judith MacDougall.
In 1985, she joined the Center for Visual Anthropology at the University of Southern California, and began work on two of her own ethnographic documentaries The Feast In Dream Village (1988) and Horses of Life and Death (1991), both made in collaboration with Laura Whitney on the Indonesian island of Sumba. She has also compiled a number of ethnographic research videos archived at the Human Studies Film Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, including Obligations to the Ancestors: A 1986 Feast to Rebuild a Tomb, Bridewealth Negotiation in Sumba (1987) and Dancing to Dedicate a New Village (1990).
Since 2002, she has moved her research interests to Vietnam and Vietnamese religious communities in California, looking at transnational exchanges and the ways in which indigenous Vietnamese traditions are adapted to the “New Age” context of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The Left Eye of God (2008) is the first in a projected series of documentaries about the spirited encounters between refugees, immigrants and their descendants and the ancestors, ritual masters and spirits that help to define their religious worlds. She has traveled to Vietnam four times as part of this long term research project, and collaborated with Susan Hoskins and Thien-Huong Ninh in shooting rituals on both sides of the Pacific.