D A (Donn Alan) Pennebaker is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of cinema verite filmmaking. In 2013 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized D A Pennebaker’s body of work with an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. In the early sixties, Pennebaker and his colleague Richard Leacock developed one of the first fully portable 16mm synchronized camera and sound recording systems which revolutionized filmmaking and helped to created the immediate style of shooting so popular today. Pennebaker is the recipient of numerous filmmaking awards including the IFP’s Gotham Award. Pennebaker made his first film, the short DAYBREAK EXPRESS, in 1953. In 1959, he joined Drew Associates, which produced for Time-Life the highly acclaimed “Living Camera” series in the early 1960s. The filmmakers’ subjects ranged from the Broadway debut of Jane Fonda (Jane), to President Kennedy’s presidential primary run against Hubert Humphrey (Primary), to the desegregation of the University of Alabama (Crisis). In 1967, Pennebaker released the seminal film DONT LOOK BACK, which followed Bob Dylan’s last acoustic concert tour in England. The film broke box office records and is considered a classic of both documentary and rock filmmaking.
Pennebaker’s next film, MONTEREY POP, was a record of the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival that launched the careers of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. A critical and commercial hit, Monterey Pop was the progenitor of a host of rock documentaries, from Woodstock to Pennebaker’s own KEEP ON ROCKIN’ which featured rock n’ roll legends Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley; and ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, Bowie’s final Ziggy performance. Pennebaker’s television documentary COMPANY – The Original Cast Album, about the recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical’s cast album, includes Elaine Stritch’s infamous performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch.”