Documentary Panel: David France, Bryan Fogel, James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham, Hao Wu
The real-life stories explored by Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht (“Crip Camp”), Bryan Fogel (“The Dissident”), Hao Wu (“76 Days”) and David France (“Welcome to Chechnya”) are immensely powerful and are sure to be remembered for a long time to come. It’s probable that these docs could serve as a springboard for some of their viewers to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking. Thinking about that possibility does beg the question, what documentaries inspired these filmmakers to take that chance in the first place? We asked the directors from Netflix, Briarcliff, MTV and HBO that and more during our recent “Meet the Experts” panel, which you can watch right now. Click on each person’s name above to be taken to their individual interview.
For Newnham, it was the Oscar-winning doc, “The Times of Harvey Milk” (Best Documentary Feature, 1984), that forever changed her. Not only did it change the way that she saw the world but “it also made me want to move to San Francisco and get involved with the documentary filmmaking community there.” Lebrecht, her co-director on “Crip Camp,” found that it was actually two documentaries that he worked on as a sound engineer that made him eager to pursue working further in non-fiction films: “Daughter from Danang” and “The Cockettes.” He explains that “For me both were just like, ‘I’m hooked!’ I loved these films. I thought they were powerful but the process of working with these great filmmakers fed me and it was glorious for me.”
For Wu, it was Michael Apted’s “Up” series because of the way that it showed their humanity, which is something he still keeps in mind when he’s making documentaries. “I’m always asking myself, ‘Am I telling a story that helps other people understand humanity in addition to telling what’s interesting about this group of people?’” France singled out another Oscar winner, “Harlan County U.S.A.” (Best Documentary, 1976), for showing ordinary people changing the course of history that we might not otherwise know about and specifically doing it “with this sense of hope and possibility.” Fogel chose the 2008 Oscar winner, “Man on Wire,” as his selection because “It showed what a documentary can be, which is a cinematic thriller. It’s crafted as a narrative feature film.” Fogel has used that approach with his own Oscar-winning work in “Icarus” and his current film as well.