My friendship with Al was forged during four months of filming together, just the two of us, in Russia in 1959. When he got a camera against his eye, he was one of the world’s great watchers, and I knew we would always be filmmaking companions.
– D A Pennebaker
“Albert Maysles, the Emmy Award-winning documentarian who, with his brother, David, made intensely talked-about films including “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter” with their American version of cinéma vérité, died Thursday night at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.”
The New York Times just published an article about our search for a home for our archive and films. The article was printed in the Arts sections of Tuesday October 28th’s edition, and also appears online via this link. If you read the article online, you will be able to watch a short video with rarely seen footage from our library.
“Now Mr. Pennebaker and Ms. Hegedus are looking for a new home for their ever-expanding trove: vintage camera equipment, hundreds of file folders and boxes and crates filled with outtakes, correspondence and many, many reels of 16-millimeter films.”
This fall Stranger Than Fiction Docs at NYC’s IFC Center is screening eight films from Pennebaker Hegedus. This is the first time that STF has devoted its entire season to one filmmaking team. Chris and D A will attend most of the screenings for Q&As (please check website for latest info), and tickets for the shows are available here: http://stfdocs.com/
First up is TOWN BLOODY HALL, which screens on Sept. 23rd at 8pm.
On the evening of April 30, 1971, a standing room only audience of local literati and feminists packed New York City’s Town Hall to watch Norman Mailer, who had just written “The Prisoner of Sex,” grapple with a panel of passionate feminists. The subject was Women’s Liberation, an issue on which Mailer seemed like the devil’s own advocate.
JANE, a rarely seen classic of early cinema verite, follows Jane Fonda preparing for her Broadway starring role in “The Fun Couple.” The action behind the scenes becomes more lively than what’s on stage. Filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Hope Ryden (working for the legendary doc company Drew Associates) capture the theatrical team on out of town previews, leading up to the big New York premiere.
The screening will be accompanied by two rarely seen short films DAYBREAK EXPRESS and BABY.
“The great relief of D. A. Pennebaker’s “65 Revisited” – which pulls together never-released footage shot for his documentary DONT LOOK BACK – is that this time you can hear the songs in their entirety. Because Mr. Pennebaker wanted DONT LOOK BACK to be about Bob Dylan, not his 1965 British concert tour, he made the somewhat maddening decision to cut down the songs in that first film to tantalizing bits and pieces. The problem of course being that the songs were as much a part of this youthquaking sensation as his pipe-cleaner-skinny legs, his fuzzy ‘fro, bobbing head, sly smile, riffs, rants, puns and playful, otherworldly genius.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
The screening will be accompanied by the short film SHAKE – OTIS AT MONTEREY.
When COMPANY was first shown at the 1970 New York Film Festival, it caused considerable stir. A police riot squad had to be summoned to quell the outraged turnaways unable to get into the theater. The film documented the grueling 18 1/2 hour recording session for Stephen Sondheim’s new musical “Company,” which had recently opened on Broadway. It included Elaine Stritch’s show-stopping “Ladies Who Lunch” and became the sensation of the festival even though it was only 52 minutes long and intended for television. It seemed for an instant that it could be released successfully in theaters. Columbia Pictures was even interested. But the legal problems were considerable, and eventually Company had its television run in the U.S. and in Great Britain, and then as usually happens, disappeared from view.
The screening will be accompanied by the short film LAMBERT & CO.
“When we rolled across the country with the band-Martin, David, Andy and Alan-in their shiny green jet, with bus-loads of friends and accomplices and two 40-foot semis full of equipment, they were like a shipload of pirates looking for spoils. They’d pick out a city where their records sold well, arrive there at dawn, set up their stuff, and when they had an audience half-crazy with expectation, stage manager Andy Franks would announce, “Start the intro tape!” and the magic would begin. For two or three hours fifty thousand fans would sing and dance as they did for no one else. When it was over, and the fans had gone home, the band and crew would pack up and roll out, a few hundred thousand dollars richer, and by daylight only those who had seen the concert and bought a $20 t-shirt would know what had happened. Their parents would say, “Depeche Who?”
So when this young band decided to risk all and try to fill the Rose Bowl for their final 101st concert we knew we had a band after our own hearts, and we had a film.” – D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus
Hegedus and Pennebaker bring their fly-on-the-wall camera backstage to take a fresh, eye-opening, no-holds-barred look at the big bang adventure of producing a Broadway hit. The Broadway show in question is “Moon Over Buffalo,” starring Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco, a comedy about a low-rent Lunt and Fontaine, hell-bent upon recharging their careers.
Cited by The New York Times as “the best documentary of the year,” the film features hilarious turns by its leading actors-and even funnier behind-the-scenes sequences, as everyone mounting this high-risk Broadway production goes into nail-biting overdrive.
“The War Room” was the name for Bill Clinton’s campaign center in Little Rock, Ark. Though the press wasn’t usually permitted inside this small warren of chaos, filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, managed to secure partial access and shot nearly 35 hours of footage there. At the center of The War Room are the two men who guided Clinton’s ship from the beginning: James Carville, the fiery, charismatic, expletive-spewing Cajun who manages the campaign with a mixture of Southern charm and unrelenting passion; and George Stephanopoulos, the brilliant, handsome Rhodes Scholar who, as communications director, calmly but surely mobilizes his staff to take the presidency. – Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Roger Friedman is an entertainment journalist and music fan with a particular love for R&B and soul music from the mid-’50s to the pre-disco era of the early ’70s. Discovered there is little or no surviving film footage of many of the greatest artists of the era performing on-stage, Friedman set out to capture some of his favorites on film with the help of Pennebaker and Hegedus.
Only the Strong Survive features knockout performances from such R&B legends as Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lights, Carla Thomas, Mary Wilson, Ann Peebles, and many more, as well as interviews in which the artists discuss the ups and downs of their music careers.
On May 23rd, our 30 day online crowdfunding campaign for “Unlocking the Cage” came to an end. The campaign was a huge success, and we couldn’t be more thankful for all the support from our Kickstarter backers. Here is the update that we sent out to the backers on the day that the campaign wrapped up:
After an exhilarating four weeks, our Kickstarter campaign is finished and 116% funded! We are very grateful for the 768 of you, from around the world, who are joining us as we finish making Unlocking the Cage. Thank you so much for your generous support and the many words of encouragement that you’ve shared with us in person, in emails, and around web. With this incredible community behind the film, we are more confident than ever that Unlocking the Cage will push the conversation of how and why we should protect animals.
As many of you know, our films are about people who devote themselves to a singular pursuit and dream. Their passion, whether for music, or politics, or pastry-making, is extraordinary. With a mix of curiosity and awe, we accompany these individuals on their journeys and are plunged into their worlds. We like to joke that whenever we make a film, it’s like embarking on a new Phd degree. We always learn so much about these professions and are inspired by the people we’ve grown to admire.
In many ways, Unlocking the Cage is no different from our other films. For over thirty years Steve Wise has been dreaming of this moment: a courtroom scenario in which he pours out all his legal reasoning for chimpanzee personhood, with a chance (however slight) that it will be found reasonable and turned into law. We were invited to take our cameras and follow Steve into the courtroom, and how could we not be there and do it?
But what is different about this film is how we’ve been affected by what we’ve seen. We’ve been introduced to a different type of “person,” one who remains a mystery to all of us, and yet with whom we feel an inexplicable deep connection. Our experiences with these animals, the apes and elephants that Steve is fighting for, have moved us in ways that we never expected. From the moment Kanzi the bonobo used his computer lexicon board to ask Steve for a ball, to watching Merlin the chimpanzee grieving for his recently deceased companion, these moments shook us and have remained with us since. We don’t exactly know what we’ve seen, but we know that we’ve seen someone who, like us, feels joy, pain, and empathy.
After a lifetime of studying the natural world, Darwin concluded, “There is no fundamental difference between man and mammals in their higher faculties: reason, curiosity, memory, imagination, and problem solving.” Whether animals have a belief in a god, he couldn’t say, but he knew that they see beauty. After two years of making this film, we have to agree with him.
It amazes us how in such a short amount of time, Steve has gone from being “barked” out of courtrooms to appearing on the cover ofThe New York Times Sunday Magazine. His once quixotic dream has reached our society at a critical turning point in our relationship with the environment and the other beings with whom we share this planet. Just as our team has learned so much about law and animal cognition, we as a society are continuing to learn more and more about animals, too. What we’re going to learn about them in the upcoming years is going to shake us even more.
And so with this in mind, and with a burst of new energy, we are ready to plunge back into making Unlocking the Cage. We hope that you will stay with us as we go forward with Steve and the film, and we will continue to use our Kickstarter page to share updates and stories about the project.
Thank you again for jumping into this with us. There’s much that we have to do, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without you.
We are very excited to announce that “Unlocking the Cage” has received a development grant from the Catapult Film Fund. Catapult provides development funding to “documentary filmmakers who have a compelling story to tell, have secured access to their story and are ready to shoot and edit a piece for production fundraising purposes.” They support stories that touch on a wide range of issues and perspectives, and range from individual portraits to stories with global implications.
“The film projects receiving grants this round are incredibly diverse but they all have great story and narrative in common,” said Catapult Film Fund co-founder Bonni Cohen. ”We are excited to see both seasoned filmmakers, like Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, amongst the grantees along with emerging filmmakers like Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson who already have an excellent track record.”
To learn more about the Catapult Film Fund and their Spring 2014 grantees, visit their website.
Want to be a part of our new film “Unlocking the Cage“? Visit our Kickstarter campaign where you can learn more about the film and watch our campaign video. And if you make a pledge to the project and join our team, you can choose from any number of Pennebaker Hegedus-related rewards.
This week we met with Alec Baldwin, a big supporter of documentary films and animal rights, and he generously offered to do a video testimonial in support of our new film, “Unlocking the Cage,” and its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. We had a fantastic time with him, and he shared many kind words about Chris and Penny’s work. Thank you again, Alec!
FilmWax Radio is part of Rooftop Films, a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.
“Work with someone you love. Love what you do. Listen to your partner, but stay true to the voice inside. It’s not always easy, but why easy? Take a deep breath. If you’re lucky, it’ll be the best adventure of your life. And you’ll share it with your love.
We got a dog. A big black dog.
“In Tell Me Something, veteran filmmakers like Barbara Kopple, Albert Maysles, Michael Apted, Frederick Wiseman, Robert Drew, Martin Scorsese, Michael Moore, DA Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus and Errol Morris and renegades like Morgan Spurlock, Amir Bar-Lev, Margaret Brown, Yung Chang, Marshall Curry, Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern, Gary Hustwit, Lucy Walker and many more, deliver advice on everything from career development to personal relationships to risk taking to fashion choices. They even throw in some filmmaking advice too!
Tell Me Something: Advice from Documentary Filmmakers Edited by Jessica Edwards
Conceived and edited by filmmaker Jessica Edwards and designed by Philipp Hubert of Visiotypen, Tell Me Something features full-color photographs taken by esteemed photographers from around the world. Doc-makers are a rare breed, they’re creative, persistent and they’re master storytellers. In Tell Me Something they share insightful advice for people in any creative field.”
The Art of French Pastry / Photo from The French Pastry School
KINGS OF PASTRY star chef Jacquy Pfeiffer just released his much-anticipated THE ART OF FRENCH PASTRY. It’s an absolutely beautiful book with recipes for pastries, cakes, cookies, bread, and savory Alsatian snacks. More than a collection of recipes, the book goes into the science and technique behind creating incredible desserts.
Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer / Photo from The French Pastry School
THE ART OF FRENCH PASTRY is the perfect gift for any dessert enthusiast, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with our friends and families this holiday season.
Holiday sables / Photo from The Art of French Pastry
“The recipe for classic puff pastry is seven pages long. If you want to make a Napoleon or mille-feuille with that puff pastry, it’s an additional four pages. But that’s because the instructions are written so that it’s almost as if Pfeiffer were there next to you telling you exactly what to do each step of the way, and why.”
The Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival has invited Chris and Penny to help kick off its 6th year screening documentaries from some of today’s best filmmakers. On Saturday December 7th at 7pm, the Festival will honor them with a cocktail gala followed by a screening of THE WAR ROOM and a post-screening audience discussion.
“Today TFI has announced the 2013 grantees for the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, which provides production and finishing finances, year-round support and guidance to domestic and international documentary filmmakers with feature-length films highlighting and humanizing critical issues of social significance from around the world.
Having supported 45 films in its six year existence, GTDF is now welcoming nine new projects to the club, which are selected from 500 submissions from 60 countries to receive a total of $150,000, to be administered by the Tribeca Film Institute.
For the third year, the Kering Foundation (formerly the PPR Corporate Foundation for Women’s Dignity & Rights) has joined the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund to present the Spotlighting Women Documentary Award. Three film projects have been chosen that illuminate the courage, compassion, extraordinary strength of character, and contributions of women from around the world.
Projects this year include works from Oscar-nominated filmmakers, GTDF alumni and range from compelling stories on the business behind the international arms trade to the complexities of U.S. national security to the women behind the first girls’ school in a small Afghan village, to name just a few (full list/description of projects are below).
2013 projects were selected by a jury comprised of: Brian Sirgutz (SVP of Social Impact at AOL/Huffington Post Media Group); Jada Pinkett Smith; Molly Thompson (SVP, A&E IndieFilms); Olivia Wilde; and director Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence, God Loves Uganda). The committee chose the recipients from finalists selected by TFI. In addition to funding, grantees will each receive year-round support from TFI, including one-on-one guidance and consultation to help each film to reach completion, enter the marketplace, and find broader audiences for their work.”
Unlocking The Cage, Directed by DA Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus; Produced by Rosadel Varela & Frazer Pennebaker. Renowned animal rights attorney Steven Wise wants to break through the legal wall that separates animals and humans. His lawsuit, the first of its kind, will demand the most basic of personhood rights – those of bodily integrity and liberty – for an animal of a species that has been proven to have advanced cognitive capabilities, transforming the status of the animal from that of a mere “thing” to a “person” possessing rights that protect him from abuse and captivity.
On August 2nd, Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker contributed an exhibit of their work to The Sag Harbor Whaling museum in support of its on-going summer fundraiser. The exhibit is part of the museum’s new show, “Life As It Is — Unscripted,” and it features Pennebaker Hegedus’ collection of original film posters and cameras as well as a series of clips from their films.
The Sag Harbor Express wrote a lovely article on the exhibit, including an interview with Hegedus and Pennebaker:
“No place has the ability to capitalize on this unique identity quite like the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum. Traditionally devoted to the history of Sag Harbor, this summer the regal old building has been host to some of the greatest living artists of our time, many of whom call Sag Harbor home. Pennebaker and Hegedus, who live on Garden Street, just a few doors down from the Whaling Museum, are two such artists. From front row documentation of legendary performers like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in their concert film “Monterey Pop” to probing looks at American presidencies in their documentaries “The War Room” and “The Energy War,” the two have captured their America on film, and what they’ve found will be on display as part of “Life As It Is — Unscripted,” a new show opening at the Whaling Museum this Friday.”
“I made my first film, aged 14, in 1935 and I have been at it ever since, striving to give my viewers a sense of ‘being there.’
“There have been years of frustration on one level and the joys of achievement on another.
“Writing about film has much in common with writing about wine: you can’t taste the wine by reading. Well, I think you have a similar problem when you write about films: you can’t see the movies on the printed page. So it occurred to me that if I embed excerpts, and often entire films, within the book, then you, the reader, could actually experience what I am talking about.” (excerpt from Introduction)
The Feeling of Being There is a riveting autobiographical epic spanning almost the entire history of cinema as seen through the eyes of one of its leading players.
From Canary Bananas, his first movie in 1935, to a musical production in post Soviet Siberia, Richard Leacock’s memoir follows history through the eyes of a man who was present at so many key moments of the 20th century, among them, the battle for Burma, the Japanese surrender at Nanking, John F. Kennedy’s primary campaign, the Kenyan leap towards independence, and the enrollment of the first African American students at the University of Alabama.
The Feeling of Being There will be both a bound paper book and a Digital Video Book (or DVB) viewable on computer. In the limited special edition, or “Collector’s box,” the numbered and signed hardcover book comes with an embedded video player containing close to 100 film clips which intertwine richly with the gripping storyline.
Leacock has worked in documentary since its inception. This book, with its many original photos and films, is a cornerstone in the legacy of cinema.
Dessert Professional magazine, the nation’s leading publication of the pastry, ice cream and chocolate industries, named the top toques of tuile, cocoa and sugar at a ceremony on Monday, June 6 at The Institute for Culinary Education in New York, and Jacquy Pfeiffer was this year’s Hall Of Fame honoree. Congratulations, Jacquy!
“Seminal. Not only cemented the musician’s status as an icon of sixties cool; it’s also a crash course in the breathtaking immediacy of vérité filmmaking.” – New York magazine
“If the art of being cool could be learned from a film, then the only one you’d ever need to study would be Dont Look Back.” – Angela Ashman, The Village Voice
“Evokes the 60s like few other documents; Dylan’s relentless heaping of scorn on the mainstream press, before the coercive tentacles of ‘creative management’ made such things virtually impossible, is especially telling… Memorable for its goofy, syncopated opening sequence alone.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“An unforgettable all-access pass behind the scenes of Bob Dylan’s ’65 British tour, D.A. Pennebaker’s landmark 1967 rock doc all but invented the form while presaging the music video… The concert footage of the young Dylan in his punky prime is electrifying, but the most fun comes from the privileged glimpses of his sadistic wit.” – Jim Ridley, The Village Voice
Startup.com follows the adventures of two friends as they create an award winning website that facilitates interaction between local government, citizens and businesses.
They wrestle with growing pains, tackle technical difficulties and charter the unpredictable venture capital waters, but none of these challenges prepare these young entrepreneurs for their own conflict over the management of their company, a conflict that will not only endanger their careers but irrevocably endanger their friendship. Sound familiar?
“Remarkable…Startup.com may be to our time what Wall Street was to the ‘80s. Grade A”
– Entertainment Weekly
“As an inside view of the bursting of the internet bubble, Startup.com is definitive.”
– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“One of the most involving pieces of eavesdropping you’re likely to experience.”
– The New York Times
As we prepare to welcome in 2009, our thoughts and wishes go out to our good friend AL FRANKEN, who has pulled ahead of Norm Coleman in the vote recount for the Minnesota Senate seat. We’re with you, Al!
The Return of The War Room will be screening at the 92nd Street Y – Tribeca on Fri, Oct 24, 2008, at 7:30pm. Click HERE to purchase tickets, for more information about the screening, or to learn about the 92nd Street Y’s new downtown location.
SCREENING @ THE SHEFFIELD DOC/FEST (SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND)
The Return of The War Room will have TWO screenings at the Sheffield Film Fest in “England’s Greenest City” in November. The screenings will be held on Nov. 7 at 7:50PM, and Nov. 9 at 3:50PM.
Go HERE to find out about ticket purchasing options.
Filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker will also be on hand to give a Masterclass, hosted by Nick Fraser, on Sunday, Nov. 9 at 1:45PM. Read more about that HERE.
EXCLUSIVE SUNDANCE CHANNEL WEBISODES
Can’t get enough of James, George, Paul, or Dee Dee? Then you’ve gotta check out Sundance Channel’s EXCLUSIVEThe Return of The War RoomWebisodes! There are 5 in all. Check ’em out HERE.
And, lastly, if you can’t make it to the 92nd Street Y or Sheffield Doc/Fest screenings, you can still catch The Return of The War Room on The Sundance Channel. Check out their website for some exclusive Return of the War Room Webisodes, too (link above).
Go HERE to see when The Return of The War Room will air next and have Sundance email you a reminder so you don’t miss the film.
The RETURN of THE WAR ROOM will also be airing on the Sundance Channel on Monday, October 13th, at 9PM EST.
16 years after making THE WAR ROOM, Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker’s 1992 Oscar-nominated documentary following Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, the filmmakers reunite with James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Mary Matalin, Paul Begala, Bob Boorstin, Dee Dee Myers, and others to reflect on the changes in American politics and political campaigns over the last 16 years, and to look back on the election that launched them all into the national political spotlight. The RETURN of THE WAR ROOM is a highly entertaining and in-depth look at the evolution of American politics, including commentary and insight on the current presidential campaigns.
Last week, Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker presented their new film, THE RETURN OF THE WAR ROOM to students at Flashpoint Academy in Chicago. 16 years after they made THE WAR ROOM, Hegedus and Pennebaker’s 1992 Oscar-nominated documentary following Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, the filmmakers reunited with James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Mary Matalin, Paul Begala, Bob Boorstin, Dee Dee Myers, and others to reflect on the changes in American politics and political campaigns over the last 16 years.
Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker presenting THE RETURN OF THE WAR ROOM
THE RETURN OF THE WAR ROOM will premiere on Sundance Channel on October 13th at 9PM, followed by THE WAR ROOM.
Read more about THE RETURN OF THE WAR ROOMhere and here.
Hard to believe that today marks the 20th anniversary of Depeche Mode’s concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. That show was the culmination of not one, but two wild bus tour across America – one convoy with the band, and one with a group of teenagers who’d won a dance contest to see their favorite band play their final show on the US tour. It was an amazing journey for everyone, and one of the greatest music experiences we’ve ever had both as fans and as filmmakers.
Watch some concert footage from the June 18, 1988 Pasadena show:
Like all of you, we were very sad to receive news of Bo Diddley‘s passing on Monday. Bo continually took the concept of being a “self-made man” one step further – as the New York Times put it, he “invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself.”
In 1969, D A Pennebaker went to Toronto to film the Sweet Toronto Peace Festival, which featured the ‘fearsome four’ of rock’n’roll: Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard – and a surprise performance by John Lennon’s brand-new Plastic Ono Band. The resulting film became known as Sweet Toronto (Keep On Rockin’). Bo’s electrified performance at the start of the film, getting the crowd moving and shaking. Getting them rocking. To us, that’s what Bo was all about: spreading the pure joy of rock’n’roll.
Go here to read the full NY Times obituary for Bo Diddley.
If you’re in the Boston area this week, the Harvard Film Archive will screen two films made by D A Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, and Jean-Luc Godard: 1 PM and 2 AMERICAN AUDIENCES. These rare films capture a unique view of New York in 1968, a highly politicized time. We hope you’ll take advantage of this great opportunity to see them at the Harvard Film Archive’s new series, “Godard, Gorin, Garrel and the Grin Without a Cat.”
We would like to respond to some erroneous statements made today about our film, THE WAR ROOM. These statements alleged certain remarks to Mickey Kantor that simply are not true. The transcript of the scene in question confirms this. -Chris Hegedus & D A Pennebaker
We’re very sad to announce the passing of our close friend and collaborator, Nina Schulman, last week to metastatic breast cancer. An Emmy-award winning film editor, Nina was our editor on MONTEREY POP. Here is her obituary in the New York Times.
On April 9th, we joined celebrities, close friends, family members and fans for a tribute to Norman Mailer‘s life and work. The memorial was held at Carnegie Hall and it was a beautiful and moving celebration of one of America’s liveliest, most intelligent, and fascinating personalities. Norman was a great friend and a rare talent. You can read more about the touching tribute here.
In happier news, we’d like to congratulate Bob Dylan on winning a Pulitzer! Dylan received a Special Citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” He is the first rock’n’roll musician to be honored with a Pulitzer. For more information on this award, please visit the Pulitzer Board or Forbes Magazine.
And last but certainly not least, our longtime friend, collaborator and partner Richard Leacock will be honored at the 2008 Hot Docs Festival. Hot Docs will be honoring Leacock with an Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective. The Festival, now in its 15th year, is held in Toronto and is North America’s largest documentary film festival. For more info on the 2008 festival, an online schedule, and online ticket sales, please visit the official 2008 Hot Docs Festival website.
Flora Lazar, Chris Hegedus & D A Pennebaker in front of the Palais de l’Elysee
In January, Chris Hegedus, D A Pennebaker and Flora Lazar filmed French President Nicolas Sarkozy present the awards for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, a competition held every four years to determine the best chefs in France. Last fall the trio followed various chefs as they trained and competed for the MOF. The film is currently in post-production. Check back for more information on the MOF film over the next few months.
In the meantime, you can learn more about the MOF Competition and MOF chef Sebastien Cannone, who is featured in the new film, by listening to this Chicago Public Radio Podcast.
The first time I met Norman Mailer – really met and talked with him – was in the mid-60s in a bar just across from the Theater de Lys, where a dramatized version of his DEER PARK was in rehearsals. With him at the bar were two fierce-looking fellows; one had a familiar sort of face, and the other looked like a bodyguard. The three of them were inventing or rehearsing some kind of a dramatic exchange which I thought might be part of Norman’s book-turned-play. But, having read the book, I quickly realized it was not that. The three were yelling and threatening one another like hoodlums in a street brawl, with only myself and a deserted morning bar for an audience.
I had gotten a call to meet Mailer here, but had not been told why. My partner, Ricky Leacock, had been a classmate of Norman’s at Harvard and we’d run into Mailer at film showings but I don’t think I’d ever been introduced before. Why Norman would call me was a mystery; I didn’t think he even knew my name. And the fracas taking place at the bar before me was even more of a mystery. Was he casting something?
Suddenly, Mailer stopped shouting and turned to look at me. I waited for him to speak, since I was a little confused and not exactly sure what I was doing here.
“You’re Pennebaker,” Mailer said in a completely matter-of-fact voice.
He introduced me to his two companions, Mickey Knox (an actor) and Buzz Farber, who was almost always at Mailer’s side.
Then Norman asked if I wanted a drink. It was still early, but I said, “Yeah. A beer.”
Well, Norman, Mickey and Buzz all appeared to be completely normal, with no hint of the wild tumult I’d walked in on just moments before. So I was handed a beer and Norman lounged back on his stool and spoke.
“We’ve been doing this thing you just saw a lot recently. We go into bars and do fights or wild conversations and let whatever happens, happen. You can see it’s brutal but when we get it right it’s going someplace. We’re the Gallo Brothers now. We’ve been hiding out.”
The real Gallo Brothers had been in the news a lot recently. I recalled them being involved in the Colombo crime family struggles. The thing that was strange about Norman, Buzz, and Mickey’s rendition was that they had not been talking in any particular accent or style. They didn’t try to sound like members of an Italian crime family. They weren’t enacting characters,they were just putting themselves into a made-up fantasy situation and running with it.
Norman leaned towards me.
“What I want to do is film it. I want to make a movie about it and I don’t need a script, just a mic to catch what we say and a camera to see what happens. But there’s no director, just a camera. And me.” He paused. “I hear you and Ricky make films like that, about things that happen. You have cameras and tape recorders and you just film things. Is that right?”
We had, and I said we did.
“I hear one of your films is playing in a theater, yes?”
I nodded but didn’t mention that it was playing in a porn house in San Francisco.
“Well, what do you think?” He got off his stool and began moving around, like a prizefighter walking around a ring. “We’re going to be these three guys hiding out in Brooklyn and what we do all day is ride each other and maybe drink some. I don’t know about drinking; we’ll have to figure that out. But we need some kind of room, or maybe a loft, to do it in. Can you get that?”
This was actually an idea Ricky and I had been thinking about for awhile. A narrative (fiction) film but shot the way we were shooting documentaries: no tripods, no lights, just handheld cameras, and no directors – or at least, no one directing the camera except the cameraman, and he would be filming whatever interested him, not necessarily sure how the action was going or the story was playing out.
So I said I could, and we did.
That was how the whole film thing with Norman began. Three guys playing they were the Gallo Brothers in one of our empty office on 45th Street, with Bobby Neuwirth taking sound (which, in that echoey, empty room, was not too hot) and me watching Norman and his two friends for hours while they played at being ex-members of the Colombo family – who, had they known what was going on might easily have either joined in the party or maybe blown us out of the water. Who knew or cared about the Colombo crime family? We were inventing movies.
When exhaustion determined the film’s ending, Norman came over to the camera and did something which I will never forget, something that bonded us as long as we knew each other. It remains my most vivid memory o f him. He faced up to the front of the camera and began turning around so that to keep him in the finder I had to go around with him. And as he turned he began reciting a poem, not a poem I knew but a poem he was making up as he went ’round, a poem made up like the movie we’d just shot. It was the first time I had ever filmed someone making up a poem in front of me. It was an amazing place to be with a camera and it’s how I will always remember Norman.