Monday, October 20, 2008

Interview with Director Brett Morgen: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Chicago 10

The New Season of Independent Lens Premieres with Chicago 10 on Wednesday, October 22 at 9 p.m. on WGVU HD and 10 p.m. on WGVU TV

Remember Chicago, 1968? Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters stormed the Democratic convention, setting off a chain of explosive and violent confrontations with the police. Well, now history has a new look.

In the season premiere of Independent Lens, Chicago 10, director Brett Morgen recreates the wild antics of the infamous Chicago Conspiracy Trial through original animation mixed with archival footage and a powerful soundtrack. The characters are the stuff of legend: Black Panther leader Bobby Seale; exasperated Judge Julius Hoffman; defense attorney William Kuntsler; defendant Tom Hayden; and Yippies Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Vividly bringing them to life are the vocal talents of Hank Azaria, Mark Ruffalo, James Urbaniak, Jeffrey Wright, Liev Schreiber, Nick Nolte and the late Roy Scheider, among others.

In a sit-down interview, Morgen discusses the film, the use of animation and why he’s excited about its broadcast on PBS.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the emergence of the animation? Obviously, a lot of independent filmmakers have been using this for some time. Did you know that was how you wanted to bring the transcripts to life?
BRETT MORGEN: Well, I wanted to make a film that captured the experience of Chicago and of the trial. I decided from the beginning that it wasn't going to be a film in which I would rely on interviews or talking heads of people reminiscing of what had happened. I really wanted to have a full-body experience. And that was one of the incentives to make the film, because there was such a wealth of archival material from that week in Chicago. During the course of our research, we pulled together 180 hours of film, 14,000 photographs and 500 hours of audio. So the question became, how do you deal with the trial? And animation seemed to really lend itself for a number of reasons. I could create drawings that look like the characters you were seeing in the archival components of the film so that there was, as strange as it sounds, a seamless transition from one arena to the next.

Q. It seems like more and more filmmakers are using animation in their work. What do you think is the reason for this resurgence?
MORGEN: The reason you are seeing a lot more animation in nonfiction these days is that lot of us are trying to create films that don't just tell you what happened, but try to, in a subjective way, capture the experience of what happened. And if you don't have footage for an event that took place, then there are really only a limited number of ways you can do it. But I think animation has become a lot cheaper and it's being utilized in wonderful ways by nonfiction filmmakers today.

Q. The film uses the vocal talents of Hank Azaria, Mark Ruffalo, James Urbaniak, Jeffrey Wright, Liev Schreiber, Nick Nolte and the late Roy Scheider, among others. How did you get the actors to give their voices to this project?
MORGEN: We basically just called them. We had no money, which, I think, helped. If I had something like $5,000 to offer them, then it would have become this elongated negotiation. But it was simply, ‘We have absolutely no money. We are trying to tell this story. We are trying to reintroduce this really important story to generations of young Americans who may not know it. Would you be willing to participate? We can probably get it done in three to four hours.’ So that was pretty much it. And we, for the most part, got just about everyone we reached out to.

Q. How do you make this relevant to the youth of today, especially when there's a backlash against things that are perceived as booming nostalgia?
MORGEN: Well, that was why we chose many of the contemporary styles and feels of the film. It's not scored by music of today, but it's certainly more contemporary than '68. I experienced the events in '68 prenatally and I thought of Paul Krassner, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin as anarchists and punks, and that if they were around today, they wouldn't be listening to Norah Jones. They would be listening to Rage Against the Machine. And there was something completely contemporary that I saw in their words and so when we screened this film for young audiences, the best comment I heard repeatedly was ‘Now I feel like I can understand my parents,’ or ‘It seems so real like it might have happened last week.’ I think that's what happened by only showing these subjects at that particular time, as 20-year-olds or early 30-year-olds.

Q. Many film critics have drawn parallels between your film and what’s happening today. Was this something you intended when creating the script?
MORGEN: As I was writing the film in 2003 and 2004, I really thought I was making a film about what I was seeing in our culture or what was happening with the war today – obviously protests aside. Some of the lines like from [Defendant Allen Ginsberg] in which he's talking about how the media has hypnotized the nation into believing that the war that really didn't exist, completely resonated within the context of Colin Powell's testimony.

Q. Why did you decide to have your film air on PBS’ Independent Lens?
MORGEN: Independent Lens is one of the vehicles on PBS that tends to have a younger-skewing audience and it has a great outreach program that reaches a broad audience. I don't mean to say that this film only works with people who are in their 20s or 30s. Fifty million people watched the events unfold that week in Chicago. But having viewed every single minute of network broadcast, I could tell you they didn't see it the way that the audience will experience the events in this film.

* The Emmy award-winning series Independent Lens airs weekly from October to June on PBS, showcasing some of the best documentary and dramas on television.

Visit PBS Engage to have your question answered by Brett Morgen on the Engage Blog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Download PBS and PBS KIds Favorites for Free!

Visit the TV Show area of itunes for free downloads of your favorite PBS Kids Shows, including the series premiere of Martha Speaks! You can also download full episodes of American Experience's "The Presidents" series, featuring biographies of FDR, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and LBJ. Just click on iTunes U and look for them among the top downloads.

Kids can also watch full episodes and clips of PBS Kids GO! shows like Arthur, Cyberchase, WordGirl and Fetch with Ruff Ruffman here!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Frontline presents The Choice 2008

This election season, PBS's flagship documentary series Frontline offers voters more options than ever to view its quadrennial award-winning election special The Choice 2008, premiering Tuesday, October 14, from 9 to 11 p.m. on WGVU TV & WGVU HD, with encore broadcasts Sunday, October 26 10 p.m. and Monday, November 3 at 10 p.m.

WGVU will also offer a free community screening of The Choice 2008 at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts on Monday, October 20 at 7 p.m. Click here for details.

For the first time, Frontline viewers will also be able to watch the complete two-hour dual biography of John McCain and Barack Obama on YouTube ( and download it free from iTunes beginning October 15 through the month of November. The Choice 2008 will also stream in the high-quality News & Public Affairs Player at, where visitors can select from a rich archive of more than 45 full-length Frontline reports, as always with no commercials.

For 20 years, through five presidential elections, Frontline's The Choice has presented rich personal and political biographies of the candidates through in-depth interviews with the advisers, friends and those closest to them. Hailed by critics as "the best single TV opportunity that voters have to examine the two men who would be president," The Choice has become a much-anticipated election favorite.

"Now more than ever, new media plays an important role in how Americans learn and share information about the election," says Frontline executive producer David Fanning. "It's important that we continue to fulfill the mission of public broadcasting by extending free viewership of The Choice 2008 to as wide an audience as possible and by reaching out to voters across these digital platforms."

Digital Cable television viewers will also be able to access The Choice 2008 via Elections '08 On Demand, a voter-education VOD channel that is being offered across the country on America's leading cable operators, including Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable among many others. Please check with your cable provider to find The Choice 2008 and Elections '08 On Demand.

Visit The Choice 2008 on to watch previews, check local listings, and bookmark the page for streaming video of the complete documentary coming October 14.

Watch and share The Choice 2008 with friends on YouTube beginning October 15.

Download The Choice 2008 free from iTunes beginning October 15 through the month of November.

Monday, September 29, 2008

P.O.V. presents Critical Condition

"What brings me to the subject [of health care] again and again is that the problems keep getting worse. When I first reported on this problem in the 1980s, there were some twenty million Americans without health insurance. Now, there are 47 million Americans without health insurance." - Roger Weisberg

Critical Condition by filmmaker Roger Weisberg (Waging a Living) paints a disturbing and gripping portrait of what happens when you’re sick and uninsured in America. The unforgettable subjects of this cinema verite documentary discover that being uncovered can cost them their jobs, health, homes, savings, and even their lives.

See a trailer and behind-the-scenes features here.

This film airs Tuesday, September 3o at 9 p.m. on WGVU TV & WGVU HD. Stay tuned following the program for Rx for Change, outlining the presidential candidates' stands on health care reform and featuring a discussion with two non-partisan experts who will evaluate the plans.

"I wanted to put a human face on the problem of not having access to health care if you're uninsured, but I was also careful not to presume to prescribe a cure or a political solution. I felt that that wasn't the mission of a cinema verité film." - Roger Weisberg

Read the rest of his interview here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vote '08: A Presidential Forum

Special Broadcast: Thursday, September 11 at 8 p.m. on WGVU TV & WGVU HD

This special presents live coverage of the first joint appearance of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama since accepting their respective parties' nominations.

Held at Columbia University in New York City, the Service Nation Presidential Candidates Forum gives each candidate an opportunity to discuss, in-depth, their personal experience with service and their views on national service and civic engagement in the post-September 11, post-Katrina world.

The audience, welcomed by New York Governor David Paterson, will be comprised of family members of 9/11 victims, military veterans, opinion leaders and Columbia University students.

Moderators Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent and political editor fromThe NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and TIME's managing editor Rick Stengel, will question the presidential candidates separately in back-to-back interviews lasting roughly 45 minutes each. The candidates are expected to call for the designation of September 11 as a national day of service. The candidates also will address additional questions submitted via the forum organizer's Web site,

Service Nation is a coalition of 110 organizations dedicated to strengthening American democracy and solving problems through civic engagement and service. The presidential candidates forum will kickoff the bipartisan, Sept. 11-12 Service Nation Summit and Service Nation's national campaign to expand voluntary community and national service opportunities for all Americans.

This special will repeat on Sunday, September 14 at 6 a.m. on WGVU TV & WGVU HD.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Morning Edition and All Things Considered Team Up for Collaboration on Race

On Thursday, September 11, All Things Considered host Michele Norris and Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep talk with a cross-section of residents of York, Pennsylvania, about race - both in politics and in their everyday lives. Located in rural Central Pennsylvania, York is typical of many places in the U.S. It's a mix of urban, suburban and agricultural; blue and white collar; racially and economically diverse. York gave the world York Peppermint Patties and still makes Harley-Davidson motorcycles. And while the town has a history of racial struggles, residents say things are improving.

Catch the story on both shows on Thursday, September 11 on WGVU AM & FM. Morning Edition airs 5 - 9 a.m. and All Things Considered airs 4 - 6:30 p.m.