This article was corrected on December 3, 1992. Former Fox Entertainment News reporter Bryn Freedman’s name was misspelled yesterday in a story about Phil Alden Robinson appearing on ABC’s “Nightline” in a seg produced by Robinson.
Filmmaker Phil Alden Robinson will co-host a segment of ABC’s “Nightline” with Ted Koppel tonight, as he shows footage shot while on a mission to war- and famine-ravaged Somalia.
Barring a late-breaking cataclysm that might bump the story off the schedule, Robinson, creator of “In The Mood,””Field of Dreams” and “Sneakers,” will also narrate the 18-minute package of video footage for tonight’s live broadcast.
Robinson was part of a team of Hollywood writers invited by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to spend a week in Somalia and a week in Bosnia, surveying the twin disasters and taking their impressions back to those at home. Others on the team, including actor Mike Farrell, Writers Guild of America West president Del Reisman and writer Jonathan Estrin, will appear at a press conference at the WGA at 10 a.m. today.
At the urging of friends, including former Fox news anchorwoman Brin Freedman , Robinson took an ultralight Sony High-8 camera with him and, before leaving, had preliminary conversations with ABC exex about an airing.
Upon his return nine days ago, the former newspaper reporter and documentary filmmaker sent the raw footage to “Nightline.”
Freedman, who is producing the segment, said Koppel called Robinson yesterday to compliment him, saying, “I can’t direct feature films as well as you can, but you can report stories as well as I can.”
The footage is no how-I-spent-my-summer-vacation slide show. Per Robinson and sources at “Nightline” who have seen his footage, it will be very tough TV.
“There are some really terribly painful pictures here that tell the story,” Robinson said from an ABC edit bay yesterday afternoon. “I think this distills the experience in a package that doesn’t tax people’s ability to watch, because this isn’t easy to watch.”
The U.N. High Commission on Refugees is hoping the Hollywood creative community will see past the carnage, to the deeper human story, and help turn the world’s attention to the tragedy.
Robinson and Freedman, who calls the package “very much a first-person journal … that juxtaposes what is working and what is not,” note that it represents a departure for Robinson and for “Nightline.”
“This is not objective reporting, but my subjective response to these two situations (in Somalia and Bosnia),” Robinson said. “Ifind them both shocking, and horrifying, because they could both be stopped tomorrow. They are both about madmen unleashing a senseless war that is victimizing the innocent. It isn’t about famine or drought or the cycles of nature. It is about madmen waging war.”
Acknowledging that the Somalia piece is a departure for “Nightline”–and that Robinson’s footage from Bosnia will likely air some time next week–the show’s exec producer, Tom Bettag, said, “Robinson shows that he is beyond being a terrific filmmaker. He is also a terrific news reporter. He is terrific at understatement, which you don’t expect from Hollywood. This is one man’s journal of what he saw and … an enormously sensitive piece of work.”
Robinson is, coincidentally, at work on a film about the early black civil rights movement in the American South, a project he has been researching and writing for the past two years. Asked if the Somalia-Bosnia experience could also become a feature film, Robinson said, “It will all come out in the work later on, somehow. It will inform the work in some way.”