Building a Team to Make Multiple Reality Films

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
- April 1, 2015

(In his booklet, this is how Robert Drew described building his team at Drew Associates.)

ABC News President John Daly resigned, protesting that his management had not consulted him on Yanki No!

The sponsor, Bell and Howell, wanted more programs. ABC wanted more. Time, Inc. looked to me. I wanted to get organized.

I had been a lone producer with help from talented freelancers. I had researched the stories, outlined shooting, hired crews, field produced, taken sound and managed the editing. My business department had been the extension number on my telephone – 333 – which I gave out as a purchase order number when I needed to buy equipment.

This had seemed justified in the midst of a war, a one-time all-out emergency effort, which I considered making the candid breakthrough to be. But each film seemed to require a new breakthrough of some kind and together they suggested a need for continuous breaking through. Even if I were up for that, it would require organization and additions of very considerable talent.

The stakes were high enough. We had tapped into something television among the media could do uniquely and best. So, let the print magazines describe, analyze, and render pictures on Life Magazine-sized pages. Let the nightly TV news program summarize in words with picture illustrations. For ourselves, to engage the big television audiences during prime evening hours, let us develop television’s absolutely unique ability to transmit strong experience of the real world.

To begin to deal with these potentials, we would have to produce in volume – maybe 52 hours a year. Talent would be the name of the game. I formed Drew Associates. Early talents and associates included documentary cameramen Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker; correspondents Gregory Shuker, James Lipscomb, Lee Hall, John MacDonald, James Goode; still photographers Abbot Mills, Bill Ray, Howard Sochurek; journalists Hope Ryden and Tom Johnson. Later talents included Mike Jackson, Tom Bywaters, Sidney Reichman, Anne Drew, Coulter Watt and Marc Curtis.

At an ABC pitch meeting, a producer had just completed an exhaustive report on sewage treatment. “And what have you got, Bob?,” came the question. I laid out some topics.

They were assigned and I produced a documentary series: “X-Pilot” – testing the X-15 jet airplane; “Adventures on the New Frontier” – inside JFK’s White House, “Kenya” – two half hours on its independence fight; “The Children Were Watching”  – a mother and daughter who refuse to boycott an integrated school in New Orleans and are hounded by white parents with babes in arms.

For the next eight hours, I decided to produce candid dramas on real people. Hope Ryden came up with “Jane,” for Jane Fonda’s star turn on Broadway in a play that critic Walter Kerr rated one of the five worst he had ever seen.

Next came “The Chair,” which started when Greg Shuker was shouting from a phone booth in Chicago: “The condemned man asked his best friend, warden Jack Johnson, to throw the switch on the electric chair!” Paul Crump was going to be electrocuted for murders he committed 19 years before, unless a parole board hearing panel recommended a last-minute reprieve. Lawyers Louis Nizer and Donald Moore pleaded for Crump and won commutation on the grounds of rehabilitation, a first in U.S. law. Paul went back to his cell for 30 years. At Cannes, “The Chair” was awarded a Grand Prix.

Then came “Nehru.” I told the Prime Minister of India that I would like the camera to live with him for three weeks. The look he returned was disapproving. Then he viewed some of my film on JFK, and smiled.

Greg Shuker and Ricky Leacock returned to shoot a portrait of a great leader losing out to the greater inertia of India, but only the beginning of a family saga I would continue recording over 30 years.

In “Mooney vs. Fowle,” two football coaches clash in the Orange Bowl for the Florida state high school championship. Jim Lipscomb went back to his alma mater to record coaches making and destroying teams before our eyes. It won “Best Foreign Film of the Year” at the London Film Festival.


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