After Self Health what was your next step

We made our first film about a na ve folk artist that I found. I went on a trip with my daughter, who was around fourteen, and it was one of those wonderful trips where you don't have an agenda. We saw a freeway sign in the Mojave Desert that said, Ghost Town, and we started toward the ghost town. And here, by the side of the road, was this very weird yard with almost life-size figures. And we stopped and I talked to the woman. It was really my first introduction to what's called na ve art, art...

And now the DV cameras

I like it that you no longer have the curse of the heavy equipment. It's kind of a blessed thing, now that I'm older and it's harder for me to lug around all the heavy camera stuff, that they made something small for me in my old age. There was a tape recorder that was half the size of the Nagra that was called the Stella Vox. I remember when I handed it to Chris . . . the look in her eyes, I will hold forever. It was half the size and half the weight, and it was just as...

Are those issues the things that attract you the most or have they just been easy to go from one to the next

Growing up, my father was a lawyer he is still a lawyer. Justice. The courts. He did a lot of civil rights cases early. He was the associate director of the ACLU in the late sixties, early seventies, so there was always talk in my home about issues around justice, around fairness, about disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans. He was involved in a police brutality case in the South. So it was always something that made me feel very incensed, very...

Are you ever tempted to try experimental documentaries again or to do fiction films

I've always been lured by fiction film, which was my earlier love. But I had the desire to have carte blanche when I made my first documentary film. I didn't want anybody telling me to make it longer, shorter, sexier, faster, to use this talent, or don't use that talent, to do that subject or not that subject. So I can, after making documentary films out of college for twenty-six years, tell you that if you don't like my film, it's all my fault. And I never ever want to be in a position where I...

Chapter The Road to Realism

The motion-picture camera made its full-fledged debut in 1895, courtesy of Frenchman Louis Lumi re. Others, including Thomas Edison, invented versions that predated Lumi re's camera, but his was the only portable all-in-one unit that served as camera, film processor, and projector. A few years after coming onto the scene, D. W. Griffith lensed his full-length epic Birth of a Nation (1915) with the new technology, opening up a new world of possibility for film as an art form. Short films and...

Confronting Humanity

A young eye in documentary filmmaking, Liz Garbus comes to the camera with a well-honed sense of social justice. And her films reflect that passion, focusing on judicial reform and youth issues. One of her first films, The Farm (1998), which she codirected with Jonathan Stack, won two Emmy Awards and captured the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Garbus's other films range from Boys Village, a look at four young men in the juvenile justice system, to The Execution of Wanda Jean...

Critics have said Nick Broomfields films are as much about his pursuit of the story as they are about his subjects And

A lot of times it gets in the way of what the story is. He clearly has an agenda and he has an opinion, and he's not subtle about it. That's one of the other canvases that we have to work with. That's the one he chooses and is most comfortable with. I think what happens often when you do verite and you let people talk to each other and interact with each other it's their feelings that are coming across. When you do an interview, they are responding to a question, so it's not coming directly...

Do you do test screenings and do you think they are important

I think test screenings are really important. Our films are very complex. The main reason I believe in a test screening is, after you have been locked in a room for sometimes as much as a year and a half, there is nothing like projecting it, and that's how we do our test screenings. I don't believe in bringing a bunch of people in front of the Avid or the Steenbeck. I believe in doing an interlock screening where you project the work print. There's nothing like sitting with an audience. You see...

Do you go through different versions

The first script that came out is an interesting on-paper narrative thing. But you'd be hard-pressed in the first draft of the film you might wait twenty minutes to recognize something in that first draft that is in the actual finished film. We're constantly designing and redesigning. We hear a story, it gets moved up to the opening. An opening quote that lasted for 90 percent of the editing of Civil War suddenly got taken out and, I thought, would be put into the last...

Do you have a favorite film that youve done

Because it broke all the rules that we made for ourselves. We used to teach I taught for eighteen years, one course, and I always told my students never to make a film about more than three people there are about eleven principals in Shadow . It moves so beautifully and coherently and it has so many subplots that work so well. It's an intricate film. It flows like a perfect drama. And as I say, it has pathos and humor and all the things that work well in a drama and,...

Do you have favorites

Definitely, there are films of ours that are more interesting than others at different times. Little ones have their jewels, too. There's moments in every film that I love. One of the interesting things, I think, about documentaries is that sometimes they're for a very narrow audience and they mean a lot to a certain audience and other people who are interested in peering into a different world can enjoy them, too. There's that aspect of films that aren't made for major distribution they're...

Do you pay people to be in your films and does it violate anything

In the Heidi Fleiss story, I made a point of letting everybody know how much everyone was being paid, and I kind of Aileen Wuornos. Photo courtesy Lafayette Films. Aileen Wuornos. Photo courtesy Lafayette Films. did the same thing in the Aileen Wuornos film. I think it is a reality of filming today that people want to be paid, and if you want to make the film you kind of have to pay them. Otherwise, I don't think you will be shooting anything. And ideally, I don't think you would want to pay...

Do you think there are certain traits that are beneficial to doing this work

I think you have to have a thick skin and you really have to persevere, because getting permission. . . . With Paradise Lost, we had the benefit of making Brother's Keeper. And the idea of cameras in the courtroom we could have the judge call the judge up in Munnsville, New York, and tell him we weren't going to be disruptive and things like that. But in terms of the people you meet, you have to be patient. You can't force yourself. We always say that the work we do before and after we film is...

Do you watch your films after youve made them Do you watch your first film ever

I hardly ever look at them, although if there's a screening or something and I happen to walk in, I'll generally sit down and watch it. But most of them . . . probably a couple of them, I have a problem sitting through, but most of them I like, just because they remind me of those characters, they remind me of that time, and I don't wince in pain. Wild horses couldn't drag me to see my first feature. I've watched it once with an audience, and I didn't think...

Doing documentaries is disruptive to your regular life more so than fiction films especially films like Paradise Lost

Films like that . . . it's your responsibility to be a sponge and to soak up the emotions and what these people are going through on either side of the issue. Because we were just as time-intensive with the families of the victims as we were with the accused's families. And your job is to hold in, and you become like a water balloon and you can't let that water out until you get into the editing room. These films that we made are really impressions of what we experienced. It's what...

Funding

We're not good fund-raisers. So what we mostly do is, we start the project with our own money and then, we'll limp along and we'll get a few grants and we'll make films on incredibly small budgets. Dialogues was ultimately ninety-three minutes long and cost 63,000 that was cheap. Rachel's Daughters, I think, was 280,000, or was it 180,000 In the Shadow of the Stars was just under 200,000. We eventually get our money back, for the most part. We have a new film that has not...

Giving money makes you a part of the story does it not

I think we affect the lives of our characters in our films no matter what we do if we take them out to lunch, or if we pay their rent. I will draw the line at paying somebody's rent because it affects the purity of the story, in which they would have been out on the street, versus they would have been in this house, which is a huge difference. It also affects your relationship. There's a power dynamic. Is this person in the film because they think they can get money from you Is this person...

How do you characterize yourself as a filmmaker Because you constantly experiment is that your style

There is a style there now in the last ten films that Allie and I made. People tell us they can tell our films. I guess it's interview-based. We got to be very good interviewers and people open themselves up to us in a way that sometimes scares us. I remember a number of interviews it was after the interview that the person says, I didn't know I was going to say all that very intimate stuff. There was stuff that we decided not to put into the film because we found it was too personal and it...

How do you characterize yourself in terms of style

I hate labels and I hate categorizing because I feel documentary filmmaking is so ghettoized in terms of people's perception of what film is. To me, there is one giant spectrum of what film is. On one end is the talking head, scripted or heavily narrated documentary, and on the other end is the biggest budget Hollywood feature you can imagine. It's all one big spectrum of filmmaking. And I think all filmmaking is extremely subjective. So to me it's all one continuum, as opposed to documentary...

How do you choose your subjects

For me, there's been an evolution from one film to another. And often, the films that are near and dear to me evolve from the last one. For instance, the first film that I directed was called Primal Judgment. I was talking to Wilbert Rideau, this inmate in Angola, on the phone. I wanted to make the film with Wilbert, which was ultimately The Farm, but I thought it was really more about Wilbert at that time. We were talking about it, but he said, Okay, look, that can come later, but right now...

How do you find your end

Well, I think that a documentary, a nonfiction film, has to have a beginning, middle, and end. And the seeds of the end have to be in the beginning or the middle. It can't come out of the blue. In life, it does come out of the blue, but in a documentary film, which is about life, you can't do that. The other thing is, a film has to have a beginning to start at the beginning, and so, in Rachel's Daughters, it starts with Jenny's funeral and then, right away, it moves backwards and maybe people...

How do you think you push the medium of documentary film

Sometimes I wish I did cinema verite because it's the only process that happens in the present. As Irving says, Documentary film is about the past, because they're usually about something that's already happened. The other thing about cinema verite is that people think it's the total truth, and it's not. There's much more to truth than what you see happening in front of you at the moment. This is an example In Dialogues with Madwomen, there's a three-minute sequence in my story where I use...

How would you characterize yourself as filmmakers

That verit was not our phrase the French made that up but it's always been applied to American films, which amuses them greatly. Jean Rouche was practically the originator of it. It doesn't seem to me that it's my responsibility to figure out names for these things, because they don't help me much in my work. I want to be able to do a scripted film or a fiction film if somebody brings me something that intrigues me. I don't want to feel that's not my business somehow. So I never think...

If you didnt make films what would you do

I'd be in the South of France drinking wine. Since the age of twelve I've wanted to be a film editor and a filmmaker. That's thirty-three years. I probably would have been a pretty good politician, or a very good social worker. But there's not much else that really interests me, because I think, when you find what you really like, it's like breathing. I don't have a Monday through Friday. Life is just . . . there are 365 days of the year whether I'm working or not working, on a project or not....

Im also exploring the kind of character it takes to make documentaries Its not an easy road Funding is difficult to

Life is not for sissies, as I always say. It's an amazing adventure to make films, and it's a privilege to live somebody's life with them, especially during a time that's exciting, like watching people elect a president and watching these two kids live through this dream and it ends up being this historic Internet bubble. It's hard work, but it's very rewarding and when you spend a lot of time with people and get to know them, to me it's very rewarding and I always learn something from the...

In Charleen were you a character

I wasn't, but you hear my voice from behind the camera, and I state in a title card at the very beginning that Charleen had been my high-school teacher and has since become a friend. So I think the viewer clearly senses that there's a connection between the two of us. In fact, that connection becomes very important as the film goes along. It starts off being a portrait of a very dynamic and interesting and somewhat controversial high-school teacher in Charlotte and really shifts into a much...

In terms of your editing and shooting when do you know that youve got the end to your story Can you preplan it or is

In fact, we even set it up. I remember in Fidel we set it up, but the ending became the beginning and the beginning became the ending. And I know that epiphany usually happens not for the ending, but for the moment of truth of the film, that exciting moment, which usually happens about two-thirds, three-fourths into the film. At that point, we grab each other's hand, if I'm not shooting, or look at each other because we know we have a movie now. We do plan for beginnings...

Is that a topic you chose yourself

I was approached by Steppenwolf and we met for dinner with a couple of the people and I said, Yeah, this would be something that I'd be interested in. And for every one film I do there has to be two or three that I don't do because the dedication of a year or two is, like, Shit, I'd better do something I really like. If I'm not interested in the subject of the film, then my audience will never be interested, either. So I know if I'm interested in it then I can make an interesting film.

Is there a film that youve done that is a favorite of yours

I'm the father of two teenage daughters who are up and out of the house, and I think I'd be remiss if I said I loved one child more than the other, and I don't. Each film has meant something to me, so one film like the Civil War might get more attention and more awards and more whatever, but that doesn't mean that the energy and love I gave to the Shaker film is any less, and so I love it just as much. Just as a child who went on to become somebody famous and celebrated a doctor or a...

Is there a way that you could describe yourself as a documentary filmmaker For you is it a search for self or is there

I'm scared every time. I never feel like I have the capacity or the ability to do it. So each time, it's going into a really scary foreign country for me. I have a wall of . . . just like of power, not my own power, particularly, but a balance of power, I guess. I have to always remember that I'm helping somebody tell her story or his story, that this is not my story. There are elements and seeds of my story in everything I do because there's always a hook, a personal...

Journalist Storyteller

Berlinger began his career in advertising but made the transition to filmmaking after working with David and Albert Maysles on an ad campaign. Berlinger cut his teeth in verite filmmaking at Maysles Films, where he met his frequent co-collaborator, Bruce Sinofsky. Their films, verite portraits of people and communities, often in crisis, consistently place in critics' top ten films of the year lists. Berlinger and Sinofsky's first feature film, Brother's Keeper (1992), garnered several major...

Part of the challenge in nonfiction filmmaking is you dont have the same schedule that you do in fiction films For

When you decide to make a film you make an incredible commitment to it. And, for me, I don't want to leave a stone unturned. I want to do more than is expected and think of all the different things that I could possibly look at to illuminate for an audience what the situation is, or who these characters are, or what's happening. And, you know, it's not forever. You go out there and do it. And when you're out there, you're solely and totally committed to it. Even when you're doing a fiction...

Personal Journeyman

McElwee combines a unique verite style with musings from behind the camera to create films that communicate and engage viewers on many levels. His films are unique among the voices here in that he not only captures slices of life, but he includes his connectivity to them and their experiences with very compassionate and personal commentary. From his first film, Charleen (1978), which was awarded Best Feature Documentary of 1980 by the Boston Society of Film Critics, to Sherman's March A...

Recreating Emotions

Saraf was raised in Israel and moved to the States to earn a degree in film from UCLA. He was the founder and former head of the KQED-TV film unit, and then became manager of the Saul Zaentz Production Company, where he served as postproduction supervisor of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He has worked in feature and documentary film as producer, director, and editor with over 150 films to his name, many for TV. With his filmmaking partner, Allie Light, Saraf won a 1991 Academy Award for Best...

Searching for Metaphor

Light brings to filmmaking a poetic sensibility and a background in writing. When she began partnering with her co-filmmaker, Irving Saraf, she brought that sensitivity to the moving images, which, she says, are a search for metaphor. From her first film, Self Health, to their Academy Award-winning In the Shadow of the Stars (1991), to their Emmy-winning Dialogues with Madwomen (1993), and, also, Rachel's Daughters Searching for the Causes of Breast Cancer (1997), Light strives to push the form...

So ethical decisions are made on a casebycase basis

I mean, of the people you film, some people you really like and some people you don't. I mean, I just recently was subpoenaed to appear in this court with Aileen Wuornos to testify on her behalf, or what I thought was her behalf, but it became more complicated. Her best friend was there, who was really poor, and I ended up giving her money. I guess because I liked her and I felt that the film had made money and it seemed kind of weird not to. It's strange that you make films...

So from the very beginning you have been a player in your films in some sense

Well, I wasn't really a player in Charleen. But you did hear my voice talking to her, and it was clear that she and I had a connection, so in that sense, yes, I was a player, but the film was in no way autobiographical. And there was a film called Space Coast, which I made with another person, Michel Negroponte. It was a portrait of three families who lived in Cape Canaveral. And it was not autobiographical, although it's clear that we've established a strong rapport with our subjects and they...

So is there a good balance between the two

I think I've done many, many more nonfiction than fiction. But I love fiction, also. Doing Homicide was so much fun. I just adored it. It was so great. Producer Tom Fontana is amazing. Such an extraordinary person, and he's such a good person and gives people great opportunities and helps them in so many ways. And I remember he was looking for something for me for a while, and the first Homicide I did was called The Documentary, aptly. And before I went, he was telling me all the different ways...

So that kind of thing is acceptable

Well, I don't necessarily fall over tables and stuff but sometimes, if it's just really awful, I just say, I don't think it's working. I mean, I can think of an interview I did this time, and ostensibly it was a great interview but it was flat, flat, flat. And I don't know if we did something wrong or it was one of those situations where we went in and then it was too dark and we had to put lights up or something, which I never normally ever do. And by the time we actually got around to doing...

So they emerge

In the case of Shelby Foote, I had assumed we'd do dozens and dozens of interviews. Shelby Foote happened to have been the first because Robert Penn Warren, the great novelist and poet, the first poet laureate of our country, called me up and said, You have to do Shelby Foote. And it was a name I'd known as I was beginning to read Civil War literature. So being a dutiful student, I took my mentor's advice. But I had no idea that most of the other people we would interview would be...

Was it difficult to stray from your roots in verit Was it difficult to start using catalysts to move the story along

By nature, I'm a nonreligious person. I don't believe in any dogma. So, anything to tell a better story. And it's interesting, when I was a student, Hollywood people would come and give lectures, and directors tell us that you have to tell a story in a film. I thought, that's old stuff. We don't need to tell a story we have to show tension in the film. And then, when I started working and making films, I realized that that's all we are doing we have to tell a good...

Was your first film commissioned or did you come up with that on your own

Maybe one time I've worked on a film for someone else. But no, it's an idea that I had. I was, I think, thirty-five at the time, and I wanted to learn, actually, how to do my own cervical exam. I was older than other women at the clinic, so I felt embarrassed to go in there and take off my clothes and use a speculum. And so, I thought, let's make a film about it so that way, I could do it and still maintain some control. That's one of the things we set up as a crew, that we didn't want to be...

What are some of your favorite films

It's like asking a person to choose their favorite child. They all have their own strengths and their own magical moments for me. In the Shadow of the Stars I love it because I feel connected with my own life. It was a way of saying good-bye to my first husband, who was a singer. My husband was a member of the San Francisco Opera chorus and he always wanted to be a star. He had a wonderful voice, but he died when he was very young, of cancer. And he never had a chance to achieve stardom, but...

What is the ratio you shoot

I don't think like that. You think about who would be interesting. You follow some people, and then some people lead you to other people. We just got back from the Hamptons in Long Island. We're doing a miniseries for ABC looking at different charac-ters their dreams over the course of the summer. And you never know what's going to happen. And for us, September 11 happened. And so, for me, this piece has now totally changed, and now it's sort of a look at...

What is your shooting ratio and when youre shooting are you aware of the big picture of your film or does it evolve in

But the editing is when you see better what you've made. When you're shooting you're not sure what you're making but you know when you're getting close. It's like you're warmer or colder. You can sort of tell by the relationship of the people you're shooting. I always think of it kind of like an investigation in some ways. The process of finding your story while you're making it because you don't really know what it is while you're going along, and there's a lot of...

Whats next on your drawing board

We are in the process now of really making two films and planning several others, or in the earlier stages. One film is a rather light, funny film that is the story of the first transcontinental car trip done on a bet by a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor who was told that no car would ever be able to cross the United States, as indeed many earlier attempts had failed miserably, barely getting out of the starting blocks. And this young guy bet fifty bucks in a men's club in San Francisco and...

When you first began did you take a vow of poverty

I think every documentary filmmaker, if they're realistic and love their work, knows that you take not only a vow of poverty but anonymity. At best, your films are going to be shown at film festivals to a few hundred people, and that there might be a showing on public television that might bring in a larger audience, but traditionally even public television tends to marginalize documentaries. I was living in New York and shooting my first film on the Brooklyn Bridge and moved to the house I'm...

Where are you headed

I consider myself a documentary maker first and foremost, and mainly a verit filmmaker. I had this Blair Witch experience first of all, the movie I wrote and directed is not the movie that was released, and that was a source of great pain to me because I pitched them on a very risky approach, which was not to make a teen slasher movie but one targeted to a slightly older audience, and not to do a sequel to the story itself but to do a sequel to the phenomenon. It sort of honored my role as a...

With such a low usual shooting ratio arent you afraid youre going to miss something

You're convinced you've missed something. You edit these things thinking, This is impossible. We miss things all the time. It wasn't a matter of courage. We had limited access and George Stephanopoulos did not want us hanging around the War Room all the time because his neck was at stake. We had to continually weasel our way into that situation. We would see discount fares to different cities and, lo and behold, Little Rock was one of them. And we'd fax George and say, We've...

Would you do another fiction film

I want to do another fiction film, but the big lesson of Blair Witch 2 is, I was not passionate about it and I allowed the studio to change the movie. If you look at my director's cut, I did a great job of delivering exactly the script that I wrote, and that was approved. If you look at the final movie, it bears little resemblance to the movie I wrote and directed and handed in. Because it was uncharted territory for me, I allowed myself to lower my standards and not stand up for what I believe...

Would you say that you began in documentary as a cinema verit filmmaker

I remember in 1963 we were filming a series called the Anatomy of a Hit, about how a film becomes a hit. That's how I met Saul Zaentz. And I ordered a lightweight camera that the Maysles brothers were using and I just unpacked it right on the set and put it on my shoulder and went crazy. Here was something you could run around with. And at first it was crazy because we were running around with it rather than letting the action unfold in front of us, so it was useless. I said...

You are one of the preeminent names in nonfiction filmmaking Is fundraising easier now than when you began

It's terribly, terribly difficult. I think no matter who you are and what you do, fund-raising is always difficult, and it's harder and harder every year. When I first started there was the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities and other foundations, and it was terribly difficult, but at least it was out there. But those agencies have been cut back so much. Also, if you've done a couple of films they think you really don't need it, so they give it to...

You spend a lot of time in grim situations Is documentary filmmaking a growth process for you through your films Is

I think that's something I need to work on my own self-discovery. I'm so immersed in my stories, I should probably do more self-examination to figure out how I'm changed by them. I know that through my filmmaking, as a person, the ability to empathize has developed and deepened. In my filmmaking, also, I approached, for instance, The Farm from the perspective of being around inmates. And then in a recent film I just finished for HBO about a woman who was executed in Oklahoma in January The...

Your ratio is

And quite often, when you take a subject like jazz, more than half the images have nothing to do with jazz. They have to do with African-American life, urban life, what the insides of concert halls were like, what street scenes were like, all of that stuff. And you quickly learn, while it might be nice to master the archival chops of your subject, you're also forced, because of the subthemes I insist on engaging particularly race in most of the films in an exploration quite apart...

Your speaking from behind the camera and being in front of the camera has become a device that moves your films along

I've done short pieces for television, the local PBS outlet, WGBH, here in Boston, which are not of that style, but I can't really make more than one film at a time. I think I'm simpleminded in that way. I have no idea if I'll ever diverge from the style that I've found is comfortable for me to embrace. It's possible that someday I could try a fiction film, but on the other hand when I see people struggling mightily to get scripts produced thousands and thousands of people have scripts. And all...

What part of the process is the most challenging for you

If I could turn it around, I have three things that just make me glad to be alive. There's a moment when I'm out shooting. It's usually late, late at night or early, early in the morning and you're carrying heavy equipment and suddenly the light is just so and you're able to frame a shot that you know will get into the film somehow. And there's a great exhilaration. It's not dissimilar to the same exhilaration when you're in a dusty old archive and you've got your...

As a documentary filmmaker you are chronicling their lives versus you are a part of their lives Is there a boundary

In certain ways, it's a case-by-case decision. I think that any documentary filmmaker who tells you that there's a hard and fast line where you have to keep a distance, is probably not making the same kind of film that I am. There's a financial thing. If you're working with people who are poor, I think that there has to be a line in terms of money. I will take my subject out to eat. I will buy my subject a birthday present. If somebody comes and tries to hit me up for 500 because they can't pay...

How did you get into filmmaking and in particular documentaries

With filmmaking, Irving and I are truly partners. He was a filmmaker before I was. When we got together I had just gotten my degree in poetry writing from San Francisco State. So I was an artist, and I've always felt that that's what I was, from the time that I was a small child. But I didn't know a lot about movies, and I actually didn't know a lot about visual arts. So after I finished with my poetry, I felt that I really needed to do something else with my poetry, which would be visual, like...

How did you get into filmmaking

I came somewhat late to the profession. I came to it as a student who was not a declared filmmaker. I was an undergraduate at Brown and was supposedly writing a thesis, but during my senior year I became very interested in what was going on at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which is adjacent to the Brown campus. There I saw people my own age eighteen, nineteen, twenty making movies, and that was a very engaging idea to me. I'd never seen the process before, of editing and dealing...

How did you get into filmmaking and how did you get into history

Well, those are really two separate and distinct questions. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a filmmaker. From early childhood, I was so caught by movies and their power over me and other lives. My father had a fairly strict curfew but it was always relaxed and completely forgiven if there was an opportunity to stay up late and watch an old feature film on the late show, even on a school night. He took me to film festivals, and I went off to college absolutely convinced that I...

Experiential Filmmaking Bringing Us into the Story

Sinofsky began his filmmaking career at Maysles Films, where he met Joe Berlinger. The two collaborated on a documentary short, Outrageous Taxi Stories (1989), and thus began their filmmaking partnership. Brother's Keeper (1992) was their first feature-length documentary endeavor, and it became a much-lauded film and one of the most successful self-distributed documentaries at that time. Their next coproduction, Paradise Lost The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), began as a chronicling...

Do you find the end to your film when you are shooting or when you are editing

I think you know you have great moments that are the conclusion . . . In Brother's Keeper, we knew generally the story was over because the boys were acquitted. However, we had invited them to come to New York. At the end of Brother's Keeper, Roscoe says, Come back up in the spring when, I forget the words, when the green leaves come out again. We see them broken down by the tractor and have this conversation with Roscoe the day after the acquittals. And a few...

How long did it take to edit Civil

Civil War took more than two years of absolutely solid work, with ten or twelve of us working six days a week, ten hours a day. Baseball took two years, Jazz took nearly three years. It's a process, and I think one of my two skills in some way has almost nothing to do with all of the different hats that I wear as executive producer, producer, director, music arranger, and, sometimes, cinematographer it really has to do with having a trust in the process, so that when, early on in editing, it...

What excites you about documentary filmmaking

Part of it is that I'm fascinated by environments and places that I don't normally frequent. We've always loved subcultures and things like that. I'm always interested in the human condition, so I'm always fascinated to live, in some ways, through other people's experiences. I've never been on trial for murder and lived in a trailer park and all those things, but I am fascinated by the human condition and love spending time with people who walk in different circles. So I get to hang out in the...

Chapter Albert Maysles

Lauded as the father of direct cinema, an American parallel to the French verite style, Albert Maysles is a landmark figure in nonfiction films. With the revolution of sync-sound and portable film cameras, Albert and his brother, David, shot films handheld, with very little, if any, interview interaction, simply allowing life to unfold before the camera, capturing more truth than would be possible if they attempted to direct subjects and situations. Their style and their films are legendary...

Chapter DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

Pennebaker began in film over forty years ago. With a background in engineering from Yale, M.I.T., and the Navy, his expertise made him extremely instrumental in developing equipment for recording sound synced to the pictures captured by a film camera. Together with Albert and David Maysles, Richard Leacock, and Robert Drew, Pennebaker developed the first fully portable 16mm synchronized camera-and-sound system, revolutionizing the way films could be shot. Now they didn't have to rely on...

Emotional Archaeologist

Perhaps one of the most recognized names in documentaries, Ken Burns's prolific filmmaking specializes in making the history of our country come alive in a notable string of PBS series. His first film, Brooklyn Bridge 1981 , made with two college friends who started Florentine Films with Burns, earned an Academy Award nomination, paving the way for the litany of films that followed. He has traversed such complex and controversial subjects as The Shakers 1984 , Huey Long 1985 , Congress 1988 ,...

Chapter Susan Froemke

Longtime filmmaker with Maysles Films, Susan Froemke has been Albert's primary collaborator since his brother David died in 1987. Froemke came to Maysles after a brief stint with WNET in New York. Over two decades, and four Emmy Awards later, she is one of the most respected nonfiction filmmakers in the field. With Maysles, she has crafted close to twenty nonfiction films, including Christo in Paris 1990 , Soldiers of Music Rostropovich Returns to Russia 1991 , Letting Go A Hospice Journey 1996...

What do you think your shooting ratio is

I think we shot somewhere around forty hours for The War Room. D.A. There's sort of a point where you get bored, and it's usually about forty hours. I think the film Don't Look Back was forty hours, but some films where they have a little repeat built into them that you didn't expect, like Moon Over Broadway 1998 , they kept changing the script so we'd have to reshoot all the rehearsals because we'd never see the old ones again. Moon Over Broadway is a film chronicling the opening of the...