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Celebrating the Stories of Our Community: Yelena Makhnin

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, May 17th, 2012

This month, our Community Stories campaign highlights Russian American, Yelena Makhnin. Here, Makhnin discusses emigrating from Russia to the U.S. and the value of public television in making the arts accessible to all New Yorkers.

Learn more about the campaign and view previous videos here.

(View full post to see video)

Check out related stories on THIRTEEN’s local news and culture site, MetroFocus.

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Dispatch from the Downton Abbey Diaspora #1

By Deborah Gilbert
Monday, May 14th, 2012

Dispatch from the Downton Abbey Diaspora is written for Inside THIRTEEN by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper. Check back for updates.

It’s been a couple of months since Matthew finally popped the question to Lady Mary and the television screen, and our world as we knew it, went dark – so I thought it was time to check back in with all you Downtonians out there. These Crawleyless days have been rather grey, and some Downton Abbey fans have become desperate looking for their fix. So desperate that it’s only the odd bits of Edwardian civilization, added into their modern lives, that has helped many to maintain their sanity. People are naming both sons and dogs Carson; older suburban women, who ordinarily run around dressed in track suits, like Paulie Walnuts, now dress for dinner; silly hats are making a comeback; and chauffers report that they are now getting hit on as much as firefighters. Downton Abbey is more than just a show: It has become phenomenon.

In March, when the White House held a State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister David Cameron, all the press reports said that Lord and Lady Grantham were in attendance. Not Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern – but Lord and Lady Grantham. Call me kooky but I’d say this was a missed opportunity: If there’s any Grantham who should have come to Washington, it is the Dowager Countess. Who wouldn’t want to see her address a joint session of Congress and give those knuckleheads a dose of what-for, Dowager Countess-style?

Downton Abbey is the hottest show of the season: Everyone and their brother is touting connections to it, and just about every network has some new show that their publicity departments claim as being The New Downton Abbey. Ovation described their new mini-series, Cloud Street, as ‘The Australian Downton Abbey’. Silly me, I thought The Thorn Birds was the Australian Downton Abbey. But despite that, I watched Cloud Street just to see how like Downton it really is, and I can report that it is nothing like Downton Abbey at all. Try Twin Peaks meets Lost meets Babe. There’s a vaguely haunted house, squirrely neighbors, and a talking pig. I can’t recall any of Mrs. Patmore’s roasts giving their opinion, can you? And actually, if any animal at Downton were to talk, I’d want it to be Isis. A talking Isis would really have some tales to tell. Of course, the first words out of her mouth would be, ‘what is with these crazy, fercoct people?’

Fortunately, PBS understands this beast that they have created (and it’s not like they’re running test patterns in the interim). To help ease Downton withdrawal symptoms for us tea-sipping Anglophiles, THIRTEEN has offered up some fabulous, original British programming. Already, in the Downtonless wilderness, a new star has risen: A tossel-haired and dishy Sherlock Holmes, also known as Benedict Cumberbatch, (distant cousin of Englebert Humperdink?). In the short time we have known him, we have learned two things about him: He doesn’t like people shaking Emmy statues at him (understandable since one of those pointy wings could take someone’s eye out), and he uses words like ‘begone’ (as in ‘begone woman!’). And I have it on good authority that at a recent live PBS appearance in NYC, he turned grown women into a quivering mass of Beliebers.

And talk about burying the lede: Season 2 of Downton Abbey re-airs on THIRTEEN Thursdays at 9pm starting May 17, and it will be LOTS of fun to watch again. Personally, I always love to watch something great another time or two. Knowing how it all turns out, you always end up seeing all kinds of little details and throwaway lines you missed the first time around. And on two of those Thursday nights, THIRTEEN will have pledge breaks during Downton Abbey. If Downtonians go to the phones, THIRTEEN will be quids in for sure!

One of the fun side-effects of a great drama is, it fires our imaginations, and the finely crafted characters it creates keep on living there. Because of that, The End isn’t really the end – you always wonder what happened to the characters after that. So I know that what all you Downtonians will be doing, while watching the Season 2 encore; the same thing we’ve been doing since Season 2 ended: Thinking about what’s going to happen in Season 3. The only hint we have of Season 3 is from Begone Woman, who told the press that ‘Someone is born and someone dies.’ Hmmm… That’s not really a giveaway. It sounds like the story line of any soap season. So let’s break it down and think about what that could mean. And by the way, none of what I’m saying here is a spoiler: It can’t be because I don’t have the slightest idea what happens in season 3. I’m just speculating for fun – so join me!

‘Someone is born and someone dies’: At the end of season two Sybil was pregnant, so it’s not a stretch for it to be her who gives birth. Then again, that’s way too easy. So what if it’s Lady Grantham who falls pregnant again, and what if this time O’Brien keeps her hands off the soap, and Cora gives birth and then dies? Talk about a twofer! And of course, using the British term ‘fall pregnant’ sounds like… well never mind what it sounds like. But if anyone were to fall accidentally anything, it would have to be Edith, wouldn’t it? And when last seen, Edith was dancing with Thomas. But he wouldn’t… would he?

Online there have been message board rumors (for what those are worth) that Dowager Grantham is going to be killed off, but I can’t believe that Lord Fellowes would do anything so dumb as to yank Violet out of the garden show in Season 3 when he’s already said he expects there to be a Season 4. Who would he replace her with, Cousin Oliver? If they ever did kill off the ever-popular Dowager, Downtonians from far and wide would certainly descend upon his house with pitchforks and torches. But say for just a second that it were true, how would she go? What would be an appropriate exit for our Violet? Might she come to a Pamuk-style end? When Lord Hepworth visited, there were hints that, in her youth, she had a wild streak. Who’s to say she doesn’t want another highland fling? But who would be in the role of Lady Mary in this Pamukian scenario? Mosley? (I can just see your faces at that thought!) Then again, given the Dowager’s battles with modernity she could just as easily meet her maker by getting caught in a revolving door.

So many others to speculate about… Will Matthew and Mary get to the alter? Will there be more repercussions over Mrs. Bates’ death? Have we seen the last of Sir Rupert? Will Mr. Bates get out of prison? Will Anna change her name to Tammy Wynette? Come to think of it, is she the one who gives birth? And what kind of hell is going to break loose when Aurora Greenway (AKA Shirley MacLaine) turns up at Downton? So many questions.

It’s elementary my dear Downtonians: The countdown to Season 3 begins! Keep checking back here, Downtonians, as we periodically survey the latest news from Downton Abbey and beyond.


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Meet Lidia Bastianich at Fairway in Red Hook, Brooklyn

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Lidia Bastianich

Join us on Saturday, May 12 from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. as Fairway Market in Red Hook, Brooklyn teams up with PBS host and renowned chef Lidia Bastianich to support WNET. Lidia will be on hand to sign copies of her bestselling cookbook, Lidia’s Italy in America (Knopf), and share samples of mouthwatering pastas and sauces.

While you’re enjoying the fun, you can show us your support — Fairway Market Red Hook will donate 10% of all sales from noon to 2 p.m. to WNET. And don’t miss your chance to win a prize pack, including Lidia’s new book, Lidia’s Italy in America, a gift card from Fairway, and a THIRTEEN/WLIW21 tote bag! Enter online now or text “LIDIA” to 30644.

Lidia’s new series, based on the book of the same title, Lidia’s Italy in America, airs on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN, Mondays at 8 p.m. on WLIW21 and Saturdays at 3 p.m. on NJTV.

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Intelligence Squared Debate: Ban College Football

By Michelle Michalos
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Tonight at 6:45 p.m., Intelligence Squared will host Ban College Football, a live debate moderated by ABC News Nightline correspondent, John Donvan, featuring panelists Buzz Bissinger and Malcolm Gladwell (for) along with Tim Green and Jason Whitlock (against). Watch the full debate below.

About the debate:
Corruption and a growing concern for head injury have put college football in the spotlight. Are football programs’ millions in profits exploitation? Or are they still a celebration of amateur sport? Does football’s inherent danger and violence have any place in institutions of higher learning? Or does it provide young men with educational opportunities they would not otherwise have?


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Independent Lens Filmmaker Q&A: Aaron Schock on Circo

By Michelle Michalos
Friday, May 4th, 2012

Ringmaster Tino Ponce with 'Circo' director Aaron Schock

Aaron Schock wanted to make a documentary about Mexico that wasn’t about immigration, for a change. While scouting for subjects in the rural communities off the beaten path, he happened upon a traveling circus. The intimate, pastoral, and lyrical Circo tells the story of a circus family desperately trying to carry on a centuries-old tradition against difficult odds.

Circo premieres Sunday, May 6 on THIRTEEN.

Interview courtesy of Independent Lens. For more interviews and other Independent Lens film content, visit their blog.

What led you to make Circo?

The inspiration for Circo was a desire to reverse the direction of the documentary lens that has typically looked at Mexico only from the border up and singularly through the subject of immigration. Instead, I wanted to go deep into the Mexican countryside and find a story that could communicate both the richness and the complexities of a vast culture and social order unfamiliar to most Americans.

My original plan was to make a film about corn farmers. But one night while I was in a small village doing field research, a traveling circus came to town. That night I went to the circus. The plan changed.

What impact do you hope this film will have?

I want the audience to walk away with a heightened awareness of the difficult choices faced by rural Mexicans, for whom a way of life that has sustained them for generations in increasingly unviable, and alternatives are few.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

Probably my biggest challenge was also one of my greatest assets. During production I worked completely alone, enabling me to achieve the intimacy that I want with my subjects, and combining direction with cinematography to achieve the visual filmmaking I aspire to. But this approach does not come without certain difficulties and liabilities. When you are lost in not knowing what you should film next, or when you need someone to look over your shoulder and offer advice, or when you just need some reassurance you are doing something of value, it can be a challenge when in the field.

(View full post to see video)

How did you gain the trust of the Ponce family?

I believe that from the start, the Ponces were honored to have someone take so much interest in their life and tradition. Of course, when I started, neither the Ponces nor I knew the story would center on a family conflict and a marital crisis. This only emerged later, but at that point the trust and mutual respect had been established, and we made the decision together that this material would make it into the film.

What would you have liked to include in your film that didn’t make the cut?

We had a scene with the circus’ patriarch Don Gilberto negotiating with an official of a small town over the amount that they would charge the circus to set up. While surely adept at shaking people down, the official was no match for Don Gil, and the scene is both telling about small town corruption in Mexico and the adept skills of individuals to circumvent them. It’s also full of Beckett-like humor.

Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.

There is a scene in the film when the Ponce family children take a break from the circus and wander around an empty tourist site, eventually finding their way into an uncompleted mansion. Their poignant response to the experience, witnessing their discovery of Mexico’s keen social inequality in such a naturalistic way, and the sheer surrealistic Last Year in Marienbad-like setting makes it perhaps my favorite.

What has the audience response been so far? Have the Ponces seen it, and if so, what did they think?

Circo has been both a critical and commercial success, finding distribution in several countries and a robust theatrical release here in the U.S. But the most meaningful screening for me was in Mexico at the Morelia International Film Festival, with the Ponce family in attendance. I wanted the family to experience what I had experienced from audiences in other screenings: love and respect for their tradition and their struggle. We did a outdoor screening of the film in Morelia’s central plaza before about 800 people, and it was so beautiful — they were so warmly embraced by an audience of their compatriots. For all of us, it was a very emotional night.

(View full post to see video)

The independent film business is tough. What keeps you motivated?

For me, first of all it is about being behind the camera while in the field. That immediate moment is where it all begins, capturing a moment that has both aesthetic and symbolic meaning — and the conviction that it is worth all the bother it takes to bring it to the screen.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

For its large and engaged audiences, public television is hands-down the best venue for showcasing independent documentary on television.

What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?

Ten other films I would have loved to make.

What are your three favorite films?

In documentary, San Soleil (1983) for its ideas, The Gleaners and I (2000) for its heart, and Rain (1929) for its pure visual storytelling.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

Your most precious and important commodity is your passion for your subject and your ideas.

There are no craft services on an indie doc set — what sustains you?

Mexican taquitos: like documentaries, best made with local ingredients, must be spicy, and always messy.

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PBS KIDS GO! Web Series Oh Noah! Offers New Videos and Games

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Oh Noah!, the PBS KIDS GO! web series formerly known as Noah Comprende, is rolling out a line-up of new animated interactive videos and games that introduce kids to Spanish. Games embedded in the videos, together with other interactive challenges and adventures on the website, provide children ages six to eight with an engaging introduction to Spanish vocabulary and common phrases.

The videos star nine-year-old Noah, who is staying with his grandmother in a community where everyone speaks Spanish. A series of misunderstandings launch comic misadventures for Noah, as he tries to communicate with others who don’t speak English. In Noah’s new adventures, language misunderstandings take him to the Arctic in a madcap search for a mama polar bear, to a dude ranch, where he lands on the back of a bucking bronco, and to the circus, where he finds himself part of a daring trapeze act.  Somehow Noah always manages to solve the problems he’s created, learning Spanish in the process.

Releases of new interactive videos will begin on May 3. In each of the short episodes, kids have the opportunity to move their cursors over objects on the screen to hear the names in Spanish and play a series of arcade-style games that reinforce learning.  Additionally, the Oh Noah! website will feature two new character-driven games that encourage replay and retention.

The May 3 launch will feature “Curtain Up!,” an open-ended introduction to digital storytelling in which the player creates a whimsical stage narrative by choosing sets, props, actors, music, and a title. “Noah’s Adventure,” which uses board game conventions as a springboard for a journey to places Noah visits in the videos, will debut later in May, along with another new interactive video. Games and videos will continue rolling out in June and throughout fall 2012.  Online games featured already on the site will be refreshed with new sets of thematically linked vocabulary words associated with each new video.  “Match It,” “You Catch It,” and “Word Race,” incorporate leveling and racing against the clock to encourage replay and repeated vocabulary exposure. “How Do You Say…?” helps kids learn common expressions in Spanish by matching illustrations to the appropriate phrase.

Each new Oh Noah! installment will offer dynamic hands-on activities for parents/caregivers and lesson plans for teachers that further explore the vocabulary introduced in the videos and games, and extend the learning.  Printables connected to the activities will be downloadable on the website.

Oh Noah! is produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET, and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sandra Sheppard, director of THIRTEEN’S Children’s and Educational Media, and Jill Peters, director of creative development, serve as executive producers of Oh Noah!. Michelle Chen is producer, Marj Kleinman is senior web producer, and Corey Nascenzi is outreach manager.  David Matthew Feldman and Louise Gikow are the series writers. Mariana Swick is the educational advisor.  Renegade Animation produces the Oh Noah! animation and Bluemarker LLC is the website and game developer.

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Live from New York: Watch Tonight's Sherlock Season Two Q&A Panel

By Michelle Michalos
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Photo courtesy of BBC/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE

Tonight, PBS and WNET will host a special Sherlock: Season Two screening in New York City. Following the screening will be a Q&A panel with actor Benedict Cumberbatch, co-creator Steven Moffat, producer Sue Vertue and series executive producer Rebecca Eaton, with opening remarks by Stephen Segaller, WNET’s Vice President of Programming.

Season Two of Sherlock premieres May 6 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Watch the Q&A here, live at approximately 8:15 p.m. ET*:

Watch live streaming video from pbslivestreamchannel at livestream.com

*Schedule is subject to minor change, please stay tuned if the panel begins a few moments late.

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Independent Lens Filmmaker Q&A: Doug Hawes-Davis on Facing the Storm

By Michelle Michalos
Friday, April 27th, 2012

Montana filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis lives in a place where at one time, bison outnumbered people by more than two to one. Now the embattled animal — a common symbol of the American West — is clinging to its last vestiges of wildness, as cattle ranching, hunting, and habitat loss threaten once again to bring it to the brink of extinction. Hawes-Davis’s film Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison premieres Sunday, April 29 at midnight on THIRTEEN.

Interview courtesy of Independent Lens. For more interviews and other Independent Lens film content, visit their blog.

What impact do you hope your film will have?

The film deals with a part of American history that is not well known. I’d like that history to become more common knowledge. Understanding our past and current relationship with bison – the most iconic of all native North American wildlife – I hope will help us improve that relationship in the future.

What led you to make Facing the Storm?

Bison are the most iconic of all native North American wildlife. In many ways, the image of bison represents the wild and the American wilderness. Yet, they are the only animal that is not allowed to be wild essentially anywhere in our country. That root of that irony is of great interest to me.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

It’s a big subject to fit into a one-hour TV documentary, so it was challenging to figure out which stories to tell. No matter what approach I took, there were going to be great stories about the human relationship with bison that would be left out.

(View full post to see video)

How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film?

If a filmmaker has a genuine interest in the stories people have to tell, in most cases they will be willing to tell them. So, expressing sincere interest in everyone’s perspective that we would present in the film was the simplest path to gain their trust and getting our subjects to participate.

What would you have liked to include in Facing the Storm that didn’t make the cut?

There are literally dozens of great stories we could not include. A few come to mind. The creation of the National Bison Range in Montana and how Salish people in Montana were instrumental in bringing wild bison to the national refuge is a great story. Northern Mexico is home to a herd of truly wild bison and they are highly regarded on the Mexican side of the border, but considered a nuisance to some degree when they cross into the U.S. That would have been a good story to include or investigate further. On a fairly regular basis the Inter-Tribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) is successful at helping establish a new herd of bison in Indian Country. We would really have liked to film the creation of one of these new herds, but the timing was never right.

Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.

I think one of my favorite scenes is the William T. Hornaday story, in large part because Dan Flores is such a great storyteller himself. Between Flores, Montana historian David Parchen, the music of Ivan Rosenberg and Mike Grigoni, and Andy Smetanka’s animation, the scene really takes you to the place in time when the great wildlife conservationists of the day were faced with the likelihood that bison would be completely wiped off the face of the earth.

What has the audience response been so far?

The response has been great at every screening I’ve been to. People from all over the U.S. seem to connect with the film and the struggle of bison to be themselves.

The independent film business is tough. What keeps you motivated?

I’ve been making documentaries since 1992. Despite the difficulties, I have never really considered anything else as a primary occupation. It’s just so empowering to share these stories that I find important and interesting.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

Frankly, PBS is one of only a couple outlets on U.S. television where independent filmmakers can be true to their artistic vision and tell stories like the one that is central in Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison.

What are your three favorite films?

It’s pretty hard to narrow this to three, but they would definitely all be docs, and these three come to mind immediately – American Movie, Hoop Dreams, and Vernon, Florida (all the films of Errol Morris, really). A couple of others – Bones of the Forest, In the Reign of Twilight, A Perfect Candidate, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, End of an Old Song, Crumb, and Year of the Horse.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

Stick with it. It’s not necessarily an easy endeavor, but it will get easier and while it may not be financially rewarding, it will always be rewarding nonetheless. I can pretty much guarantee that.

What do you recommend for sustenance while making an independent film?

Coffee and beer. Alternate in approximately 12-hour intervals.

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Celebrating the Stories of Our Community: Wellington Z. Chen

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, April 26th, 2012

This month, our Community Stories campaign highlights Chinese American, Wellington Z. Chen. Here, Chen discusses how he started studying architecture and the diversity of New York City.

Learn more about the campaign and view previous videos here.

(View full post to see video)
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Independent Lens Filmmaker Q&A: Chris Paine on Revenge of the Electric Car

By Michelle Michalos
Friday, April 20th, 2012

Chris Paine’s 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car was, he thought, an elegy for an idea that wasn’t so much ahead of its time, but rather ahead of Detroit’s willingness to break free from the fossil fuel interests to which it had willingly enslaved itself. Independent Lens spoke with him about the unexpected opportunity to make a hopeful sequel to that film, and his hopes for the future of electric vehicles in a world still heavily addicted to oil.

Revenge of the Electric Car airs Sunday, April 22 at 11:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Interview courtesy of Independent Lens. For more interviews and other Independent Lens film content, visit their blog.

What impact do you hope this film will have?

I hope viewers will feel energized to persevere in their own passions no matter how difficult. The film offers a unique personal view of entrepreneurship in America today  in terms of one of the biggest industries in the world, the automobile. Within that microcosm you can see how the system works and as usual – individual leadership is a big part of it.

In terms of the electric car revolution, I hope it inspires peoples to test drive or buy the new generation plug-in cars.  Change is so difficult and it takes a lot of early adopters to make the leap.  They’ll be really glad they did.  This is a leap worth taking, I can say wholeheartedly.  If the film inspires that, I’ll be happy.

(View full post to see video)

What led you to make this film?

Last time, we made a film about how vested interests can disrupt or destroy innovation and why we need to fight to change the system from the outside.  This time we wanted to make a film about how very different kinds of personalities worked within the system to bring innovation to market even with huge obstacles.  The electric car of course is the subject to both stories.

The electric car is a symbol of innovation. So when everyone started coming back to the table after the 1990s debacle, we already had the experience and connections that might allow us to tell a very different kind of story then the first one – and to inspire hope instead of anger. Both of these emotions are important in activating change. That would be a nice bookend, especially since our film plays not just in the mainstream, but in schools and a lot of places where you are influencing people about what society is capable of.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film, after you skewered many of its subject in your first film?

At the end of 2008 markets collapsed and all the characters we were following hit the wall.  We had to rethink our film, find its center again, and keep moving. For awhile the film’s title in our editing room was Curse of the Electric Car.

How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film? It’s a competitive industry in a race to dominate a potentially extremely lucrative market. That’s a lot of intellectual property.

One step at a time.  It’s a process.  We were completely independently financed and it took time for them to understand what we wanted to document and for us to film enough to get behind the corporate veil and find our story.  We had very strict agreements not to share content with other car companies or with anyone for that matter.  Consider, two companies went public during our three years, and one went bankrupt.

What would you have liked to include in your film that didn’t make the cut?

We decided not to make an issue movie, because we had done that in the prior film.  To do it well again, we would have to make a miniseries rather then a 90 minute documentary.  However, there are many issues that we would have liked to address on behalf of the electric car. For example, one of the biggest users of electricity in the world is the oil industry — simply to refine gasoline from crude oil. We could save so many resources by simply putting that electricity directly into our cars and bypassing the middle man.

When Gadget uncovers a small operating part from an electric car in the vast ruins of his garage and says he can build a new car from this part. That symbolizes the perseverance all our characters shared in terms of dealing with setbacks.

What has the audience response been so far?

Audiences are shocked by our level of access given the confrontational position we took with the first film, and surprised by our tone.  I see the two films as kind of inverse mirrors of each other – both talking about the perils of getting anything truly revolutionary done.

The independent film business is rough.  What keeps you motivated?

It comes down to passion for your subject and the challenge of telling good stories with a team.  I’m on the board of a group called Impro Theater. They do long-form unscripted theater and I see documentary making as somewhat like that. You never know quite where you are headed and that’s part of the fun for the filmmakers and the audience.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

We wanted to reach the largest amount of people possible and PBS really responded positively to the film. We know the film will be celebrated here.

What are your characters like in real life?

Probably our most-asked question from audiences is that:  What are Bob, Elon, Carlos, and Gadget like in “real life.” I have to say, almost exactly like they are in the film.  They are bigger-than-life characters because they live so deeply in their passions and ambitions.

What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?

At least another two hours of storytelling. Keeping things to 90 minutes or less is always a challenge but asking your audiences to stay longer isn’t fair.

What are your three favorite films?

The answer really depends on the day, the year, the venue, and the quality of the popcorn.  I don’t like films with guns in them except maybe the Guns of Navarone, Naked Gun, and Naked Gun 2 ½.  I really liked Sleeper and Shine when they came out.  Who Framed Roger Rabbit? inspired the name Who Killed the Electric Car? and the topic wasn’t too far off either, if you recall.  This is Spinal Tap is my favorite mockumentary about the decline of a rockband in the 1970s.  A great double feature for that film is the 2009 doc Anvil, about the travails of a Canadian metal band. Other terrific documentaries include Gasland; Inside Job; Waste Land; Why We Fight; Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; Brother’s Keeper; Truck Farm; Genghis Blues, and classics like Hearts and Minds, which made me rethink everything I thought I knew about military power.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

Get a great team together to work with. Filmmaking to me is a community experience, from financing to filming, from the music to the editing, from the press to the distribution.  At every level, find amazing people, build trust, then let them tell their stories without interrupting. Ask hard questions, listen.

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