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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, July 2003

By Tom White

Dear Readers:

We profile three cable companies in this issue. Two are relative newcomers—Discovery Times and TRIO Channel-while the third, MTV, is both the elder statesman of the group and the channel with the youngest demographic—the 18-24 slot.

Discovery Times is a union of two institutions-Discovery Civilization, a division of Discovery Communications, and New York Times Television, a division of The New York Times. The channel was launched last spring to weld the journalistic reputation of The Times (recent events notwithstanding) to the programmatic direction that Discovery seems to be taking-it hired Vivian Schiller away from CNN's documentary division to head Discovery Times. Barbara Rick talks to Schiller and The Times' assistant managing editor, Michael Oreskes, about the potential of this union.

TRIO Channel, a division of Vivendi Universal, has this year ramped up its documentary programming, under the leadership of TRIO President Lauren Zalaznick and Vice President of Acquisitions and Scheduling Kris Slava, with an emphasis on popular American culture. Slava shares his thoughts with Kathleen Fairweather about what defines a TRIO doc and how the channel works with filmmakers.

Rounding out the cable troika, Patricia Troy profiles Lauren Lazin, head of MTV's News and Documentary Department  over the past ten years, about the many programs and series she has overseen as executive producer—and her first film as director: Tupac: Resurrected, about the late rap artist Tupac Shakur. 

Cable television has been part of the American home entertainment landscape since the mid-'70s, about the time when home movies went talkie, as it were, courtesy of video cameras. Like most American families, the Friedman family preserved their highlights—bar mitzvahs, family outings, graduations—on camera. Then one day, when the police came and charged two family members with child molestation, darkness descended. And the Friedmans kept shooting—but this time to try make sense of what was happening to them as they imploded.

Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki happened upon this maelstrom a decade or so later—he was making a documentary about birthday clowns, and David Friedman was one of his subjects. Through interviews with the Friedmans, the police, attorneys and neighbors; media footage from the investigation; and most crucially, home videos furnished by the Friedmans themselves, Jarecki has constructed a complex, troubling tale of truth, memory and the complicated interplay between what the mind recalls and what the camera captures. The result, Capturing The Friedmans, is analyzed by Kathleen Fairweather in a conversation with Jarecki.

Finally, the documentary community includes many artists who have demonstrated equal prowess and passion behind the camera as in a seemingly different context—the theater. Tamara Krinsky investigates this intriguing subculture, talking to such filmmakers as Frederick Wiseman and Eric Simonson and such actors as LisaGay Hamilton and Eve Ensler about where these two art forms intersect.


Yours in actually,

Thomas White