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 ,...

How do you find the time

It's so exciting. I love it. I live in this little village where any kind of notoriety that I have plus fifty cents gets me a cup of coffee. So you can't take yourself too seriously. It's like having a big sore thumb. When you start feeling like you're somebody, you sort of look and the thing is throbbing and you go, oh, yeah, you're just the same. There is a thing out there called a Ken Burns film, but a Ken Burns film is really just acknowledging an...

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...