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Documentary

Ken Burns: My First Big Break

When you hear a letter written by Thomas Jefferson being read by actor Sam Waterston or see a photograph showing the intensity in the eyes of a Civil War soldier, you know you’re watching a Ken Burns documentary.

In this episode of My First Big Break, the iconic filmmaker tells the MediabistroTV crew how he channeled his feelings of humiliation into his first masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and reveals how his mother’s death sparked his need to bring the dead back to life, shaping the style we know today as the “Ken Burns Effect.”

For more videos, check out our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter: @mediabistroTV

Ken Burns is Coming to MediabistroTV

Watching a Ken Burns film is like watching the past come alive through the expert use of narration and still photographs. So how did he develop his signature style? The iconic filmmaker sits down with MediabistroTV in, “Ken Burns: My First Big Break.”

>UPDATE: Watch “Ken Burns: My First Big Break” in three weeks on MediabistroTV, Thursday, December 6.

And if superstorms on the East Coast and unseasonably warm weather on the West Coast wasn’t enough to satisfy your craving for major weather events, PBS presents an Extreme Weather Night of TV this Sunday (11/18), beginning at 7pm ET.

NOVA gets the party started with the premiere of Inside the Megastorm an original one-hour documentary taking viewers moment by moment through Hurricane Sandy. Then Burns gives us reason to give thanks when he presents The Dust Bowl. Burns tells the story of the worst man-made environmental disaster in American history in a two-part, four hour documentary detailing how the convergence of a terrible drought and the scramble for the American Dream nearly changed the southern plains forever.

You can view our other MediabistroTV productions on our YouTube Channel.

West of Memphis Plays AFI Fest on Eve of Death Penalty Vote

West of Memphis, Amy Berg‘s comprehensive documentary about the wrongly accused West Memphis Three, made its  debut at AFI Fest yesterday. There weren’t a whole lot of dry eyes in the audience. With today’s vote on Proposition 34 to end the death penalty in California, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  If you didn’t make the screening, do yourself a favor and at least watch the trailer above before you vote today.

Hearst Documentary Screens in San Francisco

Following a splashy private screening at Hearst headquarters in New York City and a public world premiere earlier this month at the Hamptons International Film Festival, feature documentary Citizen Hearst has come home to roost. Commissioned by Hearst and narrated by actor William H. Macy, the film will debut in San Francisco tonight at a Legion of Honor event sponsored by the Chronicle.

The movie was co-produced and directed by Leslie Iwerks, who previously took a look at another west coast media giant in The Pixar Story. The parade of on-screen interviews includes Oprah Winfrey, Dan Rather, Mark Burnett, Walt Disney Company chairman Bob Iger and a number of William Randolph Hearst descendants.

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Ray Bradbury Documentary to Premiere in Ventura

Seven years ago, Ventura artist and filmmaker Michael O’Kelly met the late Ray Bradbury at the author’s Los Angeles home. The two became fast friends and worked together to coordinate book signings, theater events and film festival appearances.

Later this fall, O’Kelly will unveil a feature length documentary titled Live Forever – The Ray Bradbury Odyssey. He plans to also submit the movie to film festivals and have a qualifying run for Best Documentary Feature Oscar consideration. But first, there will be a November 11 screening in Ventura to benefit the San Buenaventura Friends of the Library and Ventura Film Society. From this weekend’s report in the Ventura Star:

”It’s Michael’s first film and we’re supporting him in that,” said Lorenzo DeStefano, director of the Ventura Film Society. “I saw a play that he did called Live Forever, and this has evolved from that. He’s been working on this for some time. It’s very personal too. He’s got some great actors and fans. Ray was one of the century’s most amazing guys.”

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Peter Arnett Talks About His Chinese Journalism Students

When he’s not residing in LA, Pulitzer Prizer winner, Osama bin Laden interviewer and one-time CNN war correspondent Peter Arnett is teaching journalism students at Shantou University in southern China. He tells Fairfax NZ News reporter Alex Fensom that his charges are exceedingly industrious:

“I’ve got 60 to 80 students each semester … They are better educated than I ever was. There’s no smoking, no drinking, no fighting.”

Intriguingly, Arnett says he senses that the Chinese government realizes its days of being able to control the flow of inbound and outbound news information are gradually coming to an end. Which would leave the country’s unlikeliest ally North Korea as a Asia’s only remaining hidebound nation.

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The Invisible War Blows Away the LAFF

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering‘s brilliant documentary on the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military The Invisible War had a free screening this weekend at the LA Film Festival–and blew the room away. This Fishie attended no less than seven films over the last four days of the festival and The Invisible War was unquestionably the strongest. From what we’ve seen, the film is easily the front runner for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars. But more importantly, without even being released yet, the film is having a real world impact. Producer Amy Ziering was in attendance for Saturday’s LAFF audience Q&A (the most and perhaps only intelligent audience Q&A we have ever attended by the way) and informed the crowd that the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Mary Kay Hertog–among the more incompetent military officials interviewed in the film–had been forced to resign. This came on the heels of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta screening the film and immediately authorizing major changes to the way military rape allegations are handled.

Truly a wonderful piece of journalism.

The film opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.

LA Film Festival Announces 2012 Jurors

With the 2102 LA Film Festival gearing up to start next week, Film Independent announced the jurors in its narrative, documentary and shorts competitions. Actress Rachael Harris, actor, writer, producer and director Robert Townsend and film critic Sheri Linden will be in charge of the narrative films. Frozen River producer Heather Rae, Karin Chien and 2010 LA Film Fest Audience Award-winning director Mark Landsman will handle the documentaries. Art and film critic Ernest Hardy, cinematographer Nancy Schreiber and 2010 Sundance Audience Award winner Javier Fuentes León have the shorts covered.

FishbowlLA will be at LAFF for the second year in a row and we’re pretty excited about it. Keep an eye out for our event coverage starting exactly one week from today.

Journalists Making a Film About Journalism

The trailer above is from a rough cut of the film Fit to Print–produced by a team of journalists that includes former New York Times staffer Adam Chadwick, former Baltimore Sun reporter Al Foreman, former Detroit Free-Press photo journalist Daymon Hartley and Murray Waas of Reuters.

“We’re hoping to give voice to the thousands of newsroom employees laid-off over the past several years,” Chadwick tells us, “while also examining the light at the end of the tunnel for the industry.”

Chadwick says he’s got plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of the LA Times. His team is currently searching for completion funds to finish the film.

LA Journos Defend Latest Roman Polanski Doc

Should a documentary conversation between filmmaker Roman Polanski and one of his closest friends and associates have essentially skirted the topic of the 1977 sexual assault above Mulholland Drive? That’s one of the first questions being addressed by local reporters covering this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

At Hollywood Elsewhere, Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir reviewer Jeffrey Wells suggests that “Polanski pitch-forkers will dismiss” the movie. He and colleague Sasha Stone are themselves quick to dismiss in the comments user Abbey_Normal, who innocently asks and then follows up about the topic of whether or not the episode is covered:

Dude, I’m not a pitch-forker, I’m just curious how they addressed it. Did they not even mention it? Wouldn’t most people watching a documentary on Polanski expect them to say SOMETHING about an incident that has haunted him for decades, effectively exiled him from a number of countries, and left him reviled, fairly or not, by massive swaths of people?

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