By Kathryn O’Kane
There is no doubt that the “true crime” documentary genre is thriving and that such film and television projects are enjoying unprecedented buzz. Studies show that women are their biggest audience, and broadcasters are taking notice. By the nature of their work, non-fiction storytellers are always considering how to present and represent their subjects through the creative process. But how is that further complicated in the “true crime” space, when the stakes might literally be life or death? Where do they draw the line between journalism and entertainment?
New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) is hosting a panel of filmmakers and network executives who will discuss the brass tacks of telling these stories and examine their ethical boundaries and sense of responsibility in developing relationships with individuals whose lives or livelihoods are on the line.
NYWIFT board member Kathryn O’Kane sat down with Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Bari Pearlman, who is also the Director/Producer of two forthcoming episodes of CNN Death Row Stories (Jigsaw/Sundance Productions), to talk about this phenomenon ahead of their upcoming panel: True Crime Stories: Relationships and Responsibilities on Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, at the Tribeca Film Center.
Kathryn O’Kane: Bari, you and I have known each other a long time, since our very first project together for Court TV, Shots in the Dark, a 90-minute special about crime scene photography directed by Derek Cianfrance. You’ve gone on to tell stories on a wide-variety of subject matter, from directing Daughters of Wisdom, a quiet and contemplative feature documentary about the first Buddhist nuns to live in a monastery in eastern Tibet to producing How to Dance in Ohio, a portrait of young adults with autism preparing for a spring formal dance. Is there a theme to the projects you chose?
Bari Pearlman: In the documentary films I have directed or produced, I’ve explored a range of seemingly unrelated subjects but if I had to point to something that unifies them it’s that they are all ways of exploring the idea of community, more specifically intentional community. I am fascinated by the question of what makes people choose who and what they identify with, what the implications are of having that identity, and how they navigate that choice. Thinking about the work that I’ve done recently on Death Row Stories, I’ve widened that idea to focus on the flipside of individual choice, where communities and society at large are operating within a judicial system that may not be serving its members fairly or humanely.
Welcome to the NYWIFT community, Grace-Mary Burega! Grace-Mary is a composer for film, TV, and video games as well as a woodwind multi-instrumentalist on saxophone, clarinet, and flute. Her compositions have been on TV PSAs and in short and feature films, and she has scored over 30 films to date. Grace Notes is her media composing company, specializing in custom music for a variety of projects such as documentary, horror, comedy, animation, and more. Grace-Mary is a recent Masters in Film Scoring graduate of Berklee Online. She is the Secretary of Women in Film and Video of New England and Secretary of the Female Composer Safety League. Grace-Mary spoke to us about her favorite projects, latest game obsessions, and how Women in Film organizations have shaped her career.READ MORE
When NYWIFT Board Member Kathryn O’Kane headed off to direct season two of The World According to Jeff Goldblum for Disney+ it was, in her words, “the worst of times” – the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, before vaccines were available and film production felt particularly dangerous and fraught. But the difficult work paid off, and has led to the best of times! Season two of the docuseries, which follows the beloved quirky actor as he pulls on the thread of a familiar topic to unravel a world of fascinating secrets, has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special.
We checked in with Kathryn to offer our congratulations, learn more about the filming process, and discuss what’s next for her.
The La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival is a community event bringing together collaborative global creative industry leaders to La Jolla, one of the most beautiful places in California. This location is surrounded by pristine coastline, seaside resorts, wildlife, and birds, adding to the ultimate experience. La Jolla welcomed guests to the 13th annual event this July with open arms, and the awards event sold out once again and received rave reviews by all! Jean Criss shares are the details.READ MORE
Let’s welcome Sheherzad Raza Preisler to NYWIFT! She is a native New Yorker who attended undergrad at Columbia University, where she majored in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies and followed the pre-medical track. After an identity crisis, Sheherzad fell in love with all things filmmaking and is now an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Much of Sheherzad’s work deals with growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America. She spoke to us about her unusual path from pre-med to science writing to filmmaking, how storytelling is innate to her culture, and her post-graduation plans.READ MORE