Developing a Journalism that is Fundamentally Art

Latest entries

“The Children Were Watching” Joins The Criterion Channel

The latest Drew Associates classic film to join the lineup at The Criterion Channel is The Children Were Watching. This 26-minute documentary, filmed by Richard Leacock, lets you feel what it was like to be there in 1960 when Ruby Bridges, Tessie Prevost, and other young African-American children bravely integrated the William Frantz Elementary School Read More

2019 Drew Award Winners Announced

Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, the dynamic filmmaking team behind this year’s American Factory, shared the 2019 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence. American Factory went on to win the Oscar for Feature Documentary, the third time the filmmakers who won this award went on to capture the year’s Academy Award. The Robert and Anne Read More

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

2018 Drew Award Winners Announced

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the filmmaking team behind Meru and this year’s Free Solo, are the winners of the 2018 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence, which recognizes a mid-career filmmaker distinguished for observational cinema. They will share a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Drew Associates. The award will be presented Read More

2017 Drew Award Winners Announced

Filmmaking partners Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are the winners of the 2017 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence, which recognizes a mid-career filmmaker distinguished for observational cinema. They will share a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Drew Associates. The award will be presented at the Visionaries Tribute Award Luncheon at the DOC NYC Read More

2016 Drew Award Winner Announced

Dawn Porter, director of “Trapped,” is the winner of the 2016 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence, which recognizes a mid-career filmmaker distinguished for observational cinema. She will receive a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Drew Associates. The award will be presented at the Visionaries Tribute Award Luncheon at the DOC NYC Festival Read More

Richard Brody: ‘The Unified Field of Cinematic Activity’

In his inimitable way, Richard Brody of The New Yorker probes the connecting points between filmmakers and their art of observational cinema in his most recent review of Albert and David Maysles’ work (with a nod to Robert Drew), screening now at a beautiful retrospective at The Film Forum. Read Brody’s full essay here.

Disc Review: Boston Globe on Drew’s Kennedy Films

Watching the inter-cut scenes of Hubert Humphrey shaking hands with farmers, then John F. Kennedy stirring young women into a “pre-Beatlemania frenzy,” Boston Globe reviewer Peter Keough had this to say about the films in The Criterion Collection’s re-mastered disc release of The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates: “…the point is clear: The Read More

JFK’s Wisconsin Primary

Since 1960 every Democratic Presidential nominee has won the Wisconsin primary. Learn more about the 1960 Wisconsin primary where JFK solidified his position as one of the most important figures in American Politics at The Criterion Collection. Criterion provides insight about this historic election with clips from Primary, the revolutionary documentary providing never before seen insight Read More

Full Frame to Screen Two Drew Kennedy Films

The 19th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will feature two Drew Associates films as part of this year’s thematic program, “Perfect and Otherwise: Documenting American Politics.” Curated by filmmaker R.J. Cutler, the films will focus on the inherent drama of the American electoral system. The two films, “Primary” and “Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment,” Read More

Criterion Live! to Feature Drew Kennedy Films

On April 6, The Criterion Collection will host its first-ever “Criterion Collection Live!” event at The Metrograph in Manhattan. Designed to give ticketholders a peek into Criterion’s discriminating process for picking films to add to its collection, and its process of remastering them for optimal visual and audio quality, the night will also feature discussions Read More

Kennedy Films Join The Criterion Collection

Remastered for unparalleled visual and audio quality, the four Kennedy films produced by Robert Drew and his Associates, will be released on disc by The Criterion Collection on April 26. These are the classic films that form the bedrock of what President John F. Kennedy understood would be a new form of history. Drew and Read More

Rare Drew Films Streaming on SundanceNow

These are rarely seen, cutting-edge films that form the bedrock of early American cinéma vérité. Robert Drew’s vision went far beyond his breakthrough film, PRIMARY, when he and Richard Leacock trained the world’s first sync-sound camera rig on John F. Kennedy campaigning for president. Drew set out to prove that there was a superior way Read More

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

(from the Oct. 13, 2015 DOC NYC press release)  The Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence goes to a mid-career filmmaker distinguished for observational cinema. This year’s recipient is Kim Longinotto, who will receive a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Drew Associates. For more than thirty years, Longinotto has made acclaimed documentaries that Read More

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

News and Events by Category
- June 1, 2015

(Robert Drew wrote this description of making films after the severing of Drew Associates’ connection to Time, Inc.)

“Go make a film on the funeral.”

“What kind of film?”

“Your kind of film.”

That was the assignment from Elmer Lower, president of ABC News, as if we were talking about some event outside ourselves. But it was inside. Everyone was trying to control inner feelings.

And that was the kind of film I made — photographed mainly by Jim Lipscomb — the onlookers and participants in Washington, DC that day, staring at the flag-draped casket of John F. Kennedy, watching the mournful parade, struggling to hide personal feelings that were so painfully revealed in their faces, the faces of November.

I also edited it my way, to the length it seemed to demand. That was 12 minutes, a non-television length. And with no narration. Juries at the Venice Film Festival gave it two first prizes. ABC could not cope with its odd length. It was not broadcast on American television until decades later.


Although it asked for a film that it never aired, ABC nevertheless contracted Drew Associates for a new series of candid documentaries.

Drew was thrilled. This was the kind of assignment he had been seeking: a regular prime-time opportunity to air candid dramas. He believed that if viewers could get used to the kinds of films he made, they would prefer them not only to traditional documentaries, but also to fiction programs on entertainment television. He was seeking big audiences and felt personally invested in the mission to bring quality programming into every living room.

Drew still believed in the vision he honed back in 1954 when he was at Harvard on a Nieman fellowship. He knew there was a way to film real-life happenings and render them into art — the art of simplicity, the art of reality, which would be far more glorious than anything from the imagination.

He and his remaining Associates scoured the news looking for human dramas that would make good stories. Some subjects: a huge, young heavyweight boxer in Madison Square Garden, the Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians music competition, Phil Hill at Le Mans, a mission by two Peace Corps nurses in Malaysia. The series, called The Daring Americans, climaxed with the first major candid combat film, “Letters from Vietnam.”

While most of the films got good reviews and broad audiences, Drew’s fervent wish to change television as he knew it remained elusive. His films were still on the outer edges, not in the center of what was driving news or features on TV.

As it had begun, so it ended. The final film Drew Associates made for ABC was not broadcast by the network. “Storm Signal,” a film about drug addiction seen from inside a marriage, was not seen on television until Xerox Corp. itself syndicated the program by directly purchasing an hour of air time on syndicated stations across the country.

This time the falling-out came because ABC wanted more control over news-related programming. Lower offered Drew jobs for himself and his entire outfit, but they had to come into the ABC News fold proper. Drew declined. He was adamant that he would not join the network, which he sensed would have meant the death of his kind of filmmaking. So the two parted ways.

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