August 3, 2018

Essential Doc Reads: Week of July 30

Essential Doc Reads is a weekly feature in which the IDA staff recommends recent pieces about the documentary form and its processes. Here we feature think pieces and important news items from around the Internet, and articles from the Documentary magazine archive. We hope you enjoy!

The staff at Current, headed by Karen Everhart, Mike Janssen and Steve Behrens, have created a timeline documenting the history of public broadcasting in the US.

Public broadcasting in the US has grown from local and regional roots at schools and universities into a nationally known source of news and entertainment for millions of listeners and viewers. Our timeline of public broadcasting’s history traces its growth from the earliest radio broadcasts to its days as the home of Big Bird, Frontline and Terry Gross. We hit the landmark events, like the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act, and include lesser-known milestones as well — like the airplane circling over Indiana that broadcast educational TV shows to six states.

From IndieWire, Chris O'Fait offers a case study into the recent demise of MoviePass.

In the final analysis, it may turn out that the company's assumption that card usage would level out over time, with off months balancing out heavy seasonal use, was wrong. Maybe restrictions, like those now being applied to new releases and seeing popular movies more than once, were necessary. Maybe putting caps on usage, and more expensive plans for those living in cities (as happens with subscription services in London), was required.

IndieWire's Anne Thompson talks to filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer about his films Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood and Studio 54 and his transition from journalism to docmaking.

After growing up in Los Angeles with a father who wrote for Columbo, Tyrnauer became a writer at Spy and editor at Vanity Fair at age 23, putting his film career on hold for 25 years of observational journalism. "I was seriously influenced by the Maysles brothers' Grey Gardens," he said. "I let characters tell their own stories and use different perspectives to weave together the narrative. There's a real relationship between a deep-dive 10,000-word magazine story and cinema vérité documentaries. The impact you can have with a small film is exponentially greater than even the flashiest big magazine story."

The Los Angeles Times' Stephen Battaglio talks to CNN Executive Vice President Amy Entelis about the network's plans for the final season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and what they have in the pipeline this coming season.

"Each one will feel slightly different depending on what's gathered in the field," Entelis said. "They will have the full presence of Tony because you'll see him, you'll hear him, you’ll watch him. That layer of his narration will be missing, but it will be replaced by other voices of people who are in the episodes."

From Topic, Steve Macfarlane profiles documentary filmmaker Tony Buba, who has made a career out of chronicling the socioeconomic decline of his hometown, Braddock, Pennsylvania, a hardscrabble Pittsburgh suburb that is the subject of Topic's doc series Braddock, PA.

At confession for the first time in 20 years, Buba tells the priest he's a documentary filmmaker, and the priest consults a printed-out list of stock advice to be given to people of varying professions. "Documentary Filmmakers" is near the bottom, just above "Sex Therapists." He tells Tony: "Thou shalt go to Hollywood." Near the film's end, Buba shows us the closing of a nearby US Steel plant in Youngstown, Ohio; an unnamed executive is quoted on the nightly news as saying, "We are in the business to make money, not steel."

From the Archive, September-October 2006: "Changing the Lives of Viewers Like You: A Conversation with PBS' Paula Kerger"

"I have spent a lot of time thinking about and looking at the broadcast landscape and trying to assess where there are are gaps, where there is content that could be important to our country that is not being provided. When I talk to potential donors, the thing that I really emphasize is the fact that our principal orientation, our principal mission is profoundly different from anyone else's. It is to serve the public good. That is the aspect of our work that is the most appealing to donors. That is the thing that's dragged us all into this business--that feeling that we can actually make a difference."

 

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