This week, Vine Talk visits one of the world’s most popular wine regions, Tuscany, to sample Chiantis — the red Italian wines the region is known for. Joining host Stanley Tucci on the tasting panel are Stephen J. Dubner, Tommy Tune, and Gail Simmons.
New week, new wine! This week’s Vine Talk features Chardonnays from California’s Sonoma Coast. Joining host Stanley Tucci on the celebrity tasting panel are Zachary Quinto, restaurateur Danny Meyer, and Beth Shak.
Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Ray Isle, Beth Shak, Stephanie Caraway, and Danny Meyer (Photo credit: Eduardo Patino Photography)
Join host Jon Meacham to explore one of the late Richard Holbrooke’s greatest accomplishments, The American Academy In Berlin. Holbrooke’s Inspiration: The American Academy In Berlin takes an in-depth look at this unique forum, where American and German scholars and policymakers come together to exchange ideas.
Caterina Murino and Rufus Sewell (photo credit: BBC for Masterpiece)
This Sunday, Masterpiece Mystery returns to THIRTEEN with Zen, based on the Aurelio Zen mysteries by Michael Dibdin. The series follows Zen, an honest cop who brings justice to modern-day Italy, even when his bosses are on the side of the lawbreakers.
Zen stars Rufus Sewell (Aurelio Zen), Caterina Murino (Tania Moretti), and Ed Stoppard (Vincenzo Fabri). The series premieres this Sunday at 9 p.m. with “Vendetta,” followed by “Cabal” (July 24) and “Ratking” (July 31).
Inside Thirteen recently spoke with John Servidio, General Manager of WLIW, and producer Sally Garner to discuss the making of Treasures of New York: Lincoln Center with Patti LuPone. The show goes behind the curtain of the city’s most prominent arts venue to reveal it’s rich and unique history and architecture, as well as its transformation over the years.
Inside Thirteen: What do you think differentiates Lincoln Center from other cultural institutions and performance spaces in New York City?
John Servidio: Well, it’s recognized as an arts icon around the world, not just in New York City. It has numerous houses showing multiple events throughout the year, all of the highest quality.
Sally Garner: It’s one stop shopping for the best of everything. But the most surprising difference is what you find there for free or almost free. Check out the calendar for any day at www.lincolncenter.org and you’ll see what I mean.
IT: Lincoln Center granted the production team access to archival footage rarely seen in public. Is there anything that you were surprised to learn from this film, particularly about Lincoln Center’s history or transformation?
JS: There’s one segment in the film where they were checking the acoustics of Alice Tully Hall when they were building it, and no one knew that they brought in the co-artistic director of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, David Finckel, to play the cello and test the hall at two or three o’clock in the morning. It was a big secret thing, and they finished the hall after that test.
SG: When I first watched fifty-year-old films of Leonard Bernstein and opera star Risë Stevens explaining why New York needed to build Lincoln Center, I knew we’d be able to tell a story many New Yorkers have never heard. Lincoln Center wasn’t just new construction, it was actually a whole new idea called a performing arts center. The films are a glimpse of a very different time in New York’s history.
Patti LuPone (Photo credit: Ethan Hill)
IT: How did Patti LuPone come to be involved with the project?
SG: Publicist Barbara Carroll, at Lincoln Center Theater, gave me a copy of Patti’s new book, “Patti LuPone, A Memoir” and pointed out that Patti was not only a graduate of The Juilliard School’s first drama division class but that she had also performed on most of Lincoln Center’s stages. It seemed like a perfect fit and at the same time, a bit of a long shot. But as a journalist, I learned a long time ago that you won’t get an interview or an answer unless you ask. In this case, I got an almost instant yes thanks to Patti’s love of Lincoln Center and her publicist, Philip Rinaldi, who loved the idea for the program.
IT: Can you tell us what’s next on Treasures of New York?
JS:Treasures of New York is a series that’s going to deal with the well known, and some of the not well known pieces of New York City, and their history. It could go any where from Lincoln Center to Pratt to NYU, to the Empire State Building, to the Highline, or even areas of the city like Soho or Wall Street. What it does is bring out a lot of the things we don’t know about the city that we walk around and see every day. Treasures of New York shows how these are truly treasures, because we go to places that we take for granted, but all over the world they’re considered treasures.
IT: What do you hope audiences will take from this program?
JS: A realization that they live in a city with a rich cultural history, and that they are watching a station that brings that rich cultural history into their home.
Today, WNET launched the MetroFocus website, marking the first phase of the multiplatform initiative to bring local news and culture coverage to the tri-state region.
In addition to analysis and opinion, the MetroFocus site features MetroLife, a multimedia section of voices from diverse communities and constituencies that explore our identity as New Yorkers, and a Toolbox for tips and resources to help New Yorkers cope with life in the nation’s biggest metropolis.
The site also includes (among other features) reporting from the investigative journalism nonprofit City Limits about poverty in New York on the 15-year anniversary of welfare reform; and a slide show of post-9/11 photography and an audio interview with the editor of the new book, “New York: A Photographer’s City.”
“MetroFocus will examine the diverse ways in which we each live our lives here and our identity as New Yorkers,” said Editor-in-Chief and Executive Producer Laura van Straaten.
In late 2011, MetroFocus will evolve into a mobile application and a half-hour local television broadcast on both THIRTEEN and WLIW21 to be produced at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City.
MetroFocus is a production of the Interactive Engagement Group in association with WNET New York Public Media, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations.
Alan and Susan Raymond filming 'An American Family' (Photo credit: WNET)
Inside Thirteen recently had the opportunity to speak with Alan and Susan Raymond, filmmakers of the original series, An American Family, public television’s groundbreaking reality series from 1973 documenting the lives of the Loud family in Santa Barbara, California.
Nearly 40 years later, the Raymonds have produced and edited down the show’s twelve hours of footage into a two-hour program, An American Family: Anniversary Edition, capturing the most compelling moments from the series and introducing a new generation of viewers to the show.
Here, the Raymonds discuss memories from the show, filmmaking, and the experience of consulting on HBO’s recent film, Cinema Verite.
Inside Thirteen: How did you get involved with An American Family and what first interested you in working on the show?
Susan Raymond: We had a working relationship with WNET and the producer, Craig Gilbert. We had previously worked with him on the The Triumph of Christie Brown, which was nominated for an Emmy, and this was his next program. He wanted us to start immediately filming the family, as soon as he found them. We jumped at the chance, and knew it was going to be exciting. Alan and I were the ones who decided to use the cinema vérité filming approach.
IT: Why was public television a good venue for the show? Was PBS at all hesitant to take on such a risky show?
Alan Raymond: I think we should understand first the early days of public television. The initial incarnation I think at the time was that WNET was National Educational Television. As I understand it, they were looking to do something in the way of some signature programming that would be high profile. As a result of Craig Gilbert proposing this series, they decided this might be the kind of program that would call attention to itself. I don’t think anybody understood how momentous the show ultimately would become. The two executives at the time who were involved in green lighting it were Jim Day and Curt Davis – Jim Day was head of the station, and Curt Davis was head of Cultural Programming. So, it was kind of a risky venture. I think the biggest risk obviously was to see if anything would develop in the way of a storyline, which I guess is always the reservation about any kind of cinema vérité project.
SR: It was extremely risky for the executives to sign over twelve hours of airtime to one program – it’s pretty unheard of, actually. I don’t think you could go and find another that followed it, either, with twelve hours in a series.
IT: Did any ethical issues arise during the making of the show, particularly with regard to the Loud family’s privacy?
SR: Alan and I had our own code of ethics on what boundaries we were going to cross, and I thought that we kept a balance in letting the family have some private time every day. In Santa Barbara, there were six people, so we would follow one or the other for whatever activity – work, or if the boys were practicing, the girls were dancing – whatever, and that would give the other person a breather and privacy to do what they were doing.
AR: I think there were barriers of intimacy in this series that were crossed for the first time on television, and that was one of the things that was so unsettling for many people – how could the Louds allow filmmakers to record this intimate material? As the storyline began to develop during the first months of filming, there was tension in the marriage that ultimately led to a divorce between Bill and Pat Loud. We did have many reservations about how much to force the storyline or to get Bill and Pat to appear in scenes in which these issues were discussed. But, that’s also part of the strength of the series, so it’s kind of a Catch-22. There are and always remain moral and ethical issues with filmmakers who use real people as subjects of their documentaries. On the other hand, if you don’t break certain barriers of intimacy, I think especially in a family documentary, you’re not really telling the whole truth.
IT: Do you have a favorite episode or scene from the show?
Alan and Susan Raymond filming Michele and Patricia Loud (Photo credit: WNET)
SR: Show two with Lance in New York was the most fun. It was the first day of shooting, we didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know what the family was like, and they didn’t know what we were like. We just walked into the hotel room that Lance was staying in and started shooting. We started shooting Pat as she got out of the cab. It was exciting, and it literally unfolded. Lance and his friends kept making plans for what to do with Pat during the visit, and each thing they came up with was even more fun than the last, so it was a great introduction to the family, to the filming, and to Lance.
AR: It’s one of the few episodes to have a self-contained story within the one hour. It’s also a kind of classic theme, the older child separating from the family and the parent coming to visit them in the big city. The fact that Lance was openly gay I think gave it a kind of resonance that, certainly for 1973 viewers, was quite unsettling and maybe to many viewers, surprising. Now in hindsight, I guess not so much – you have to remember the time. I’d have to agree though; episode two is my favorite.
IT: What was the experience like of consulting for HBO’s Cinema Verite?
AR: That was a dramatization of the events in the making of the series in Santa Barbara. So, you have to deal with dramatic license – some scenes were condensed, some scenes were totally made up that never actually existed. In general, we worked with everyone on the production – we started with the scriptwriter over a period, and then we worked with the various actors and we were on the set in Los Angeles. We spent a lot of time with Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins, who played us in the movie, mainly to give them a sense of how to make the filming scenes look realistic.
Overall, we felt the storyline was accurate. We know for a fact some of the material in the film was created for the drama, and some scenes we had some problems with, but overall I think we tried to make the film as realistic as possible.
SR: It was actually a learning curve, and when we started we told them everything that happened, and then it became apparent that they were going to pick and choose which parts they found interesting. Whereas, of course, we found it all interesting! At one point, we just realized, it’s their movie, and it was a fictionalized account, and they were going to make it. At that point you just have to let go and realize that it was going to be a version of what happened. And it was pretty good! We just accepted it for what it was, which is basically, an incredible life experience for someone to decide that you, a documentary filmmaker, should have your life reenacted. The thing that I’ll always be thankful for is that the HBO people allowed us to be included in the process, so as filmmakers it was an up close and personal way to see how they make a movie – to see how many times it changes when every hand comes into it.
IT: How do you feel the role of documentary filmmakers has changed since An American Family?
AR: One of the issues that has emerged from the legacy of the American Family series is the shadow of reality television and how in some ways there was something of a template created in the original PBS series for using real people to tell stories in a weekly format that would captivate an audience like a dramatic movie would. I think that is where you get on to the real slippery slope. We don’t consider those [modern reality series] a genuine form of documentary – they’re sort of a hybrid form of entertainment documentaries. Obviously, those don’t (I don’t think) follow the same ethical rules that professional journalists who produce serious documentaries, like HBO documentary films or FRONTLINE or something like that, have to basically adhere to. So, you have a bifurcated group of filmmakers, half of whom are chasing a kind of entertainment goal where they are using real people but maybe giving them lots of suggestions or scripted lines to say or planting situations very artificially, whereas the real documentary filmmaker has to work within the confines of traditional broadcast journalism.
The problem is when one or the other, primarily the documentary filmmaker, begins to appropriate some of the techniques of reality television. It’s become a more complicated universe to produce long form documentaries for sure, and it’s something that will always be evolving.
SR: It is an uncomfortable thing to watch because we like to adhere to the idea that nonfiction is the strongest story – truth is stronger than fiction. It’s the best part of the story, so when people take all these shortcuts because they haven’t got time to wait for the character’s story to unfold – it’s very irksome and it confuses an audience to the point where I think they accept everything as true; it’s sort of like playing tricks and games on your audience. I think that’s why An American Family stands after 40 years as the legendary television iconic movie that it is, because the Louds lived their lives on camera, and we lived their lives as they unfolded.
AR: ForAn American Family: Anniversary Edition, we faced the challenge of condensing the twelve hours down to a two-hour feature-length version. We tried not to change the general pacing of the show; the individual scenes are still pretty much in tact. I hope that this two-hour version will be a user-friendly lens into the original series.
IT: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in the making of An American Family?
AR: In retrospect, seven months was too brutal for everyone, the Louds and for us. The first ten hours of the twelve came from the first six weeks of filming. So the additional five months we stayed all the way until New Years really didn’t yield much in the way of great material. For them at least, it was something that must have at some point been kind of painful, after the family broke up and Bill moved out of the house. There was a deflated feeling within the house, which was kind of depressing. I think at that point we should’ve just packed up our equipment and left and gone back to New York. Instead, Craig Gilbert, the producer, wanted us to stay for many more months. I question the financial and logistical rationale behind that because it didn’t actually result in any new twists in the story.
I think in general we were happy with our work, we’ve always been very proud of the fact that we really were there in the middle of all these very dramatic scenes and assimilated ourselves into the family lifestyle. That’s a hard thing to do for any cinema vérité filmmaker, and I think part of the success of the series hinges on that – the relationships we formed with them. These relationships continued for many, many years – we produced two more follow up documentaries: in 1983, An American Family: Revisited, which let the family talk about the experience. Then, in 2003, we produced Lance Loud: A Death in An American Family — when Lance became ill, he contacted us and asked if we would make one more film.
SR: That phone call and request was far more emotional than having HBO do a cinema vérité movie on us.
In Our Summer in Tehran, Jewish filmmaker Justine Shapiro and her six-year-old son Mateo experience the daily life of three middle class families from very different backgrounds in Tehran, Iran. Here, Shapiro discusses the hurdles she encountered in making the film, as well as the decision to bring her son along for the journey.
Interview by Abigail Licad,courtesy of ITVS. For more ITVSfilm content, visit their site.
Why did you decide to visit Iran with your son Mateo?
The film begins with these lines in voice over: “I want to meet Iranian mothers in their homes before our sons meet on the battlefield.” I was in pre-production for this film in 2006 and the shoot was in 2007, at a time when there was a great deal of media coverage around the possibility that Iran would be the next country in line for war. So I felt some urgency about going there and showing a human side of Iran, before a war began.
This film is very much about the relationships between families. I didn’t want to go to Iran as a journalist or as a single woman or as a travel host. I wanted the Iranian families to regard me as one of them: just another tired mom who, like them, strives to balance motherhood with work. Mateo’s sweet and curious nature opened doors and hearts. I was so glad that he and I had this experience together.
Can you describe the most surprising experience you had while in Tehran?
SURPRISE NUMBER 1: That my shoot came to a halt just 7 weeks into it. The Intelligence Ministry gave us 48 hours to leave Iran. And then, at the airport, the Intelligence Ministry confiscated ALL my material (75 hours of tapes)! Once I returned home I spent 4 months calling the various Ministries trying to convince them to release the tapes.
Finally, Iran relented — with huge caveats: I could get back the footage but I’d have to come to Iran, and edit the film there. So I flew to Iran three times in 2008 to edit Our Summer in Tehran, leaving Mateo behind. Each time I met with an official of the Intelligence Ministry. Finally at the end of the third trip this official gave me permission to bring home all my tapes and hard drives. And the edit began again!
SURPRISE NUMBER 2: The closest friendship I formed was with a devout Muslim — a family’s matriarch, Marjan Torabi, whose husband worked for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. I didn’t reveal my Jewish heritage to her until the two of us had formed a bond. Marjan wanted to take me inside the most holy shrine in Iran and I wasn’t sure if Jews could enter. I felt that she should know that I was Jewish before taking me inside. So I told her, on-camera, while she was buying a chador for me. You have to wear a chador to enter this shrine. I was nervous. But she was, and is, very accepting. She said to me ‘We are both people of the book.’ We email each other every few weeks.
What insight from your trip do you most hope your son will take away and carry into adulthood?
At the end of the film I tell Mateo “I hope that you will continue to move through this world, as you did in Iran, in wonder rather than in fear.”
“Wonder” is being able to imagine possibilities. I think it’s helpful for young people to have experiences that inspire curiosity and wonder, and where they can get, at some level, that they are part of a much bigger world.
We have maps all over our house – even our tablemats are maps. Mateo’s Dad lives in Mexico City and we’ve spent a lot of time there. I think that in part his sense of wonder is also an appreciation of the differences, and a sense that the world is not fair. Why do some people live in houses and others live in cardboard boxes? So “wonder” is not necessarily all smiles and joy, it can also awe at the mystery of injustice. We are all on this planet together, and yet we are leading our lives amidst wildly divergent circumstances.