The years 2020 and 2021 have delivered several nonfiction projects about fraught social issues and cultural figures that people had already been discussing for decades, from pop stars lampooned by the media to abuse allegations throughout Hollywood, and many more. At Variety‘s Virtual TV Fest: The Nominees (Documentary/Non Fiction Series), Emmy-nominated filmmakers divulged their methods of presenting such talked-about topics in new ways.
“In looking at past coverage of her, there’s very few women who were making the narrative,” producer and director Samantha Stark said of Britney Spears, who was her subject in the “Framing Britney Spears” installment of “The New York Times Presents” for FX.
Stark wanted to shift perspective to allow for a new conversation.
“We decided, ‘Why don’t we interview women about her?’ ‘Cause it was mostly always men that were talking about her. Why don’t we have women who are making the decisions about the film? And it felt odd, but it was almost like all we had to do is say, ‘Why don’t we look at her as a person with agency?’” she explained.
When it came to HBO’s “Allen v. Farrow,” executive producer, co-writer and co-director Kirby Dick admitted that, at first, he thought “most of the story” of the allegations Dylan Farrow made against her father Woody Allen had already been told. Getting to actually sit down with Farrow was what made the difference.
“We started to realize that there was much more to the story than had been told,” he said. “It showed how Woody Allen had completely controlled the media.”
“The Social Dilemma” director Jeff Orlowski; “City So Real” producer, director, cinematographer and editor Steve James; “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” producer and director Frank Marshall; “Boys State” producer and director Amanda McBaine; and “Tina” director T.J. Martin shared similar sentiments — they had to zoom into unexpected angles to make their projects worthwhile.
Martin said that he learned how much Tina Turner had left to tell the world after sitting down with her to discuss the PTSD she was still processing from her relationship with Ike Turner.
“She’d become this figure and this symbol of strength and resilience, to the point where actually, the public de-humanized her. They actually forgot that she, too, is making a conscious decision to be a survivor every day,” he said.
Watch the full conversation above.