Producing for Public Television

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
- July 15, 2015

The Drews found a friend in public television — Lewis Freedman, head of the program fund of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Freedman was interested in many of the same topics that intrigued the Drews, and he liked candid reporting. Soon, the Drews were busy with several films: Fire Season, a 90-minute drama on a Los Angeles gang member who joins the California Conservation Corps to fight fires in the mountains while his home boys fight each other in the streets back home.

Back at CPB, Ron Hull took over for Freedman. Hull also assigned films to Drew Associates. They cover gang attacks on a grocer in the Watts section of Los Angeles in “Warning from Gangland” and “Shootout on Imperial Highway” and also a high school that is turning itself around in a tough neighborhood in Chicago in “Marshall High Fights Back.” These all air on the public broadcasting series, Frontline.

Next up is a film that wins Drew the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia award for best documentary of the year  — “For Auction: an American Hero.” The film is true to Drew’s verite roots. Viewers step into the shoes of the Kolbo family, whose family farm must be auctioned to pay their debts. Leo Wolf, the auctioneer, also becomes more than an executioner, especially as he reflects on how his father had to sell out his farm when Wolf was a boy.

The Drews continued to combine their personal passions with their filmmaking. Later in life, when Drew reflected on his career, he talked about why he then decided to do films on wild birds. “The whole thing — war, flying, story-telling in still pictures, making the pictures move and speak, reaching for more human realities — had been a personal obsession,” he wrote. “But the bird films, “River of Hawks” for National Geographic, and “Messages From The Birds” for Audobon, are personal indulgences. I love birds, particularly hawks that fly formation with me when I glide along Pennsylvania ridges.”

Drew said he was thrilled to fly and photograph hawks and came to realize that nature photography in the wild is candid photography.

One of Anne’s passions was women in power. She had tried for years to sell a film series on powerful women, including India’s Indira Gandhi, Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Drew had produced a film on Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962. Twenty years later, he introduced Anne Drew to Nehru’s daughter, Indira. Drew and Gandhi bonded and soon Anne spent time with Gandhi’s family and travelled with the Indian Prime Minister as she campaigned for her son, Rajiv, to win an election to Parliament. Anne Drew’s film, “Herself, Indira Gandhi,” was well-received. When Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, Anne Drew returned to India with Drew Associates’ cinematographer Coulter Watt to cover Rajiv’s election campaign. The resulting film, co-produced with the BBC, “Life and Death of A Dynasty,” aired on PBS on May 21,1991, two days after an assassin’s bomb killed Rajiv.

One of their last films, “L.A. Champions,” about two high school basketball team captains in South Central Los Angeles, had all the features of the candid drama that Drew prized. “This place is a bomb and I want to get out before it goes off,” Maurice Robinson, captain of the Crenshaw team, says in the film. For Rickey Brown, captain of the Fremont team, things look different. “I might he shot,” me says, “but I don’t want to get away. There are things that can be done here. It’s how you look at it, what you see. It’s what you see.”

For Drew, Brown’s last quote summed up a career in filmmaking.

As he got older, Drew kept working toward making an autobiographical film about his experiences in WWII, when he was a 19-year-old fighter-bomber pilot in active combat. On his 31st mission, Drew was shot down by German forces in Italy, and he survived behind enemy lines for three and a half months, eluding capture the entire time before walking through the front lines to return to his unit. Anne Drew finally produced that film in 2004. It was a different, more personal film. It used recreated scenes and lots of narration. It also highlighted a connection Drew made during the war that charted the course of his life: his time with war correspondent Ernie Pyle.

This is what Drew wrote about the film he and Anne made, called “From Two Men and a War”:

“I am 19, flying fighters against German Panzers in Italy, 1943-44. My father ferries bombers. Bunking with me is war correspondent Ernie Pyle, whose prose gives readers a unique sense of “what it is like to be there.”

Army photographers document my squadron in combat — moving pictures that, combined with stills and my recollections, compose this film.

I am shot down, then return after evading capture for three months. My father is killed in a crash. Pyle dies from a sniper’s bullet.

Pyle’s “what is is like to be there” stays with me. I develop it in stills at Life Magazine and in film with “Primary,” the first American film in which the camera moves freely with characters through a story. I produce 60 verite documentaries, a number recognized at Venice, Cannes, London and New York.

I like to think that if Ernie Pyle were looking on today, he would recognize in these films a drive to communicate “what it is like to be there.”


Sort Films
By Alphabet
By Year
Filter by
See A Film You Like?

Films currently available for consumer purchase can be found here:

To request rights for public screenings or clip licensing of Drew Associates films, email

All of our original film prints are on deposit at the Archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Not all films currently exist in digital form. If you are interested in a digital copy of a film, email

Learn more

© Drew Associates 2016

Designed by Visually Dynamic