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One in this series of seminars conducted by The Museum of Television & Radio. This seminar, held in New York and moderated by Museum television curator Ron Simon, features a discussion with the following documentarians: Bob Drew, Donn Pennebaker, Jon Alpert, Brett Morgen, and Rory Kennedy. (Panelist biographies immediately follow this summary.) Clips from the documentaries "Primary" and "The War Game" are shown, and Pennebaker and Drew elaborate on the screened material. A clip from one of Alpert's films is shown, featuring women garment manufacturers in a factory in Chinatown, and Alpert discusses the development of his work and its place in the genre. Another clip is shown from a film Alpert made about the conditions in Iraq following the Gulf War. Next, Morgen introduces a clip from his film "On the Ropes." Afterward, Kennedy discusses her film "American Hollow," elaborating on her intentions when starting the film and its actual trajectory. A clip is shown. Drew talks about cinema verite work today and different styles within the genre, explaining that the core idea is to make films that tell their own story. Alpert and Kennedy talk about the use of narration and cards in their films; Pennebaker points out that it's important not to be hung up on a set of rules for a genre as every filmmaker's work is going to be different. Kennedy outlines her work with advocacy films and discusses her entry into each project. Drew then discusses the choice of subjects for films, and Alpert talks about the importance of a filmmaker's commitment to his or her subject. The seminar is opened to questions from students at colleges and universities across the country, and the following topics are discussed, among others: how the filmmakers get individuals in the films to act as naturally as possible; how material is chosen for the final cut; the work of Erol Morris; the response of people in the films to the final product; Rory Kennedy's reaction to "Crisis"; the accessibility of politicians for use as subjects; and the experience having the door closed in one's face when trying to film something important. In an additional question-and-answer session, the panelists also discuss reality television; the possibility of showing outtakes on the DVD release of a film; the actual shooting of their films; the need to be prepared to shoot on a moment's notice; and the effect of cinema verite on the television audience.

Biographies. Jon Alpert is an award-winning journalist whose work has challenged conventional ideas about television journalism for over twenty-five years. He was the first reporter to venture into some of the world's most dangerous hot spots: the first to enter Cambodia after the Vietnam War and document Pol Pot's atrocities, the first to produce a documentary inside Cuba in ten years, and the only journalist to remain in Nicaragua after the Sandinistas took over. Alpert also pioneered the concept of the one-person ENG (electronic news gathering) crew, the first telecast of color ENG, and the first use of Betacam, among other innovations. He began his career as a cofounder with his wife Keiko Tsuno of the Downtown Community Television Center, one of this country's first local media organizations. His recent documentaries for HBO include "One Year in a Life of Crime," "Lock-up: The Prisoners of Rikers Island," and "A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back."

Robert Drew is the founder of Drew Associates, an independent production company that presented the first cinema verite documentaries on American television. A former editor at Life magazine, Drew wanted to bring the practice of candid photography to motion pictures and worked on the engineering of lightweight equipment so that cameramen could move freely while following their subjects. With his team of filmmakers and journalists -- including Richard Leacock, Gregory Shuker, D.A. Pennebaker, and James Lipscomb -- Drew produced a series of films that signaled a new direction for documentaries: "Primary"; "Yanki No!"; "Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment"; "The Chair"; and others. Drew extended his brand of candid documentaries into the arts with "On the Road with Duke Ellington" and "Man Who Dances: Edward Villella," as well as into the sciences with "Men Encounter Mars" and "Who's Out There?" In 1993 the International Documentary Association awarded Drew its Career Achievement Award.

Rory Kennedy is an award-winning documentary producer, director, and writer. Her 1999 film about a tight-knit Appalachian family, "American Hollow," received the Best Documentary prize from the American Film Institute and the Golden Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. Kennedy is the founder and president of Moxie Films, Inc., an independent documentary production company that later merged with Liz Garbus's Firecracker Films. The first joint venture from the new company, Moxie Firecracker, Inc., was "Different Moms," a one-hour documentary about mentally retarded parents raising normally developing children. Future projects include a four-part series on teenage girls for the Oxygen Network and a film about alternative families for Lifetime Television.

Brett Morgen and his directing/producing partner Nanette Burstein are the founders of Highway Films, a New York-based production company. Their first collaboration, "On the Ropes," received numerous awards, including the 1999 DGA Award and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association for best feature-length documentary, and in 2000 an Academy-Award nomination for best documentary feature. Morgen has produced and directed other acclaimed documentaries, including "Blessings of Liberty," a film about small town America, and "Ollie's Army," which examined Oliver North's 1994 Virginia Senate campaign. He is currently in post-production on "The Kid Stays in the Picture," a nonfiction adaptation of legendary producer Robert Evans's memoirs. Morgen is also working with Quincy Jones on "Say It Loud," a five-hour history of black music in America.

D.A. (Donn Alan) Pennebaker has been creating innovative documentaries for over forty years. In 1959 he joined Robert Drew and his team of filmmakers, with whom he worked on a series of groundbreaking documentaries and also helped design a portable camera that could be used for filming anywhere. In 1964 Pennebaker and Drew alumnus Richard Leacock formed their own company and produced two of the most successful documentaries of all time: "Don't Look Back," which captured Bob Dylan's tour of England, and "Monterey Pop," a record of the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival featuring Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Since 1977 Pennebaker has been collaborating with his wife, Chris Hegedus; their full-length film, "The War Room," a behind-the-scenes view of the Clinton presidential campaign, was nominated for an Academy Award. Upcoming documentaries include "," which follows a group of young entrepreneurs as they develop an internet company, and "Down from the Mountain," a celebration of bluegrass music.


  • NETWORK: Paley
  • DATE: April 10, 2001 Tuesday 7:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:46:21
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:64094
  • GENRE: Seminars


  • Ron Simon … Moderator
  • Jon Alpert … Guest
  • Robert Drew … Guest
  • Rory Kennedy … Guest
  • Brett Morgen … Guest
  • Pennebaker, D.A. (Donn Alan) … Guest
  • Erol Morris
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