In Memoriam: D.A. Pennebaker

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In Memoriam: D.A. Pennebaker

Our hearts are heavy with the news that D.A. Pennebaker, our friend and master filmmaker, has died. His passion to capture life on film, without artifice or interference, led him early in his career to three others who had similar visions: Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, and Albert Maysles. That team invented a new form of Read More

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Richard Brody: ‘The Unified Field of Cinematic Activity’

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JFK’s Wisconsin Primary

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Full Frame to Screen Two Drew Kennedy Films

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Criterion Live! to Feature Drew Kennedy Films

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Filmmaker Kim Longinotto To Receive 2015 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence

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Laura Poitras to Receive First-Ever Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence

(from October 31, 2014 DOC NYC press release) Laura Poitras (CITIZENFOUR) will receive DOC NYC’s first annual Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence, a $5000 prize to celebrate the work of a mid-career documentary maker upholding the traditions of observational cinema. The award will be formally presented at the DOC NYC Visionaries Tribute at Read More

Robert Drew, Pioneering Documentary Filmmaker, Dies at 90

Documentary filmmaker Robert L. Drew, a father of American cinéma vérité, died today at his home in Sharon, Connecticut. He was 90 years old. Drew and his associates pioneered a new kind of reality filmmaking in the early 1960s that is now a staple of the documentary form. Drew made more than 100 films over Read More

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filmmaker, News - August 4, 2019

Our hearts are heavy with the news that D.A. Pennebaker, our friend and master filmmaker, has died. His passion to capture life on film, without artifice or interference, led him early in his career to three others who had similar visions: Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, and Albert Maysles. That team invented a new form of storytelling that lives on as a staple of today’s documentary form, called American cinema verité.

These pioneers had to literally invent the equipment that could allow stories to be told the way they envisioned. And the on-the-ground problem-solving required both genius and grunt work. For example, for the groundbreaking film “Primary,” about the 1960 Kennedy-Humphrey primary election in Wisconsin, Pennebaker used his engineering training to set up special equipment for the team to collaborate in editing the unique footage. The team was trying out a custom-built, cut-down camera linked to a portable tape recorder so they could record visuals and synchronized audio while moving with the characters they were filming – which had never been done before. But they discovered that nothing was in sync. The magic cable apparently had broken. The filmmakers had to spend weeks working around the clock with a “resolver” – with Penny turning a crank that could either speed up or slow down the film to match up with the audio.

This new form of cinema required both vision and practical skills. It took people like Penny who knew how stuff worked, who could help fashion new equipment and fix it when it broke, to capture and deliver on the dream. Of course, Pennebaker’s talents as a young filmmaker went far beyond the technical. In films like “David” and “Jane,”  his long camera holds and penetrating closeups made for deep viewer bonding with the films’ characters. That distinctive style is part of the art in “Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment.” Pennebaker and Greg Shuker, one of the film’s co-producers who also took sound, are the only two independent filmmakers to ever candidly film a president inside the Oval Office making real decisions.

Pennebaker’s legendary films – Dont Look Back, Monterey Pop, The War Room (which he made with his wife and filmmaking partner extraordinaire Chris Hegedus), and so many others—are treasures of the form. He was a giant of filmmaking and he will be sorely missed.

Go here for a filmography and description of Penny’s work at Drew Associates. For the full arc of Pennebaker’s career, go to Pennebaker Hegedus Films.

To watch “Primary,” go here

To watch “Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment,” go here

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