Robert Drew

Active - 1960 - 2008  |   Born - Feb 15, 1924 in Toledo, OH  |   Died - Jul 30, 2014 in Sharon, CT  |   Genres - Culture & Society [nf], Music [nf]

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Documentary filmmaker and producer Robert Drew was a key figure in the development of American cinéma vérité, an approach they originally called "living cinema." Before entering the film industry, Drew was a WWII-era fighter pilot and then spent many years as a correspondent, photographer, and editor at Life magazine. As a photographer, he was especially noted for his candid pictorial essays that captured the essence of his subjects' daily lives and situations. His fascination with using the motion picture camera to capture candid moments began while he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. Drew organized a band of like-minded journalists and filmmakers, including Leacock, Don Alan Pennebaker, James Lipscomb, Gregory Shuker, and Hope Ryden, and with them engineered special lightweight photographic and sound recording equipment. They then found new ways to edit film stock in such a way as to allow their subjects' lives to tell coherent, meaningful stories. The new camera, known as a sync-sound motion picture camera, allowed the filmmakers to move freely in a variety of situations. Drew arranged for its first real test during John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign in Wisconsin. The result was the multiple-award-winning Documentary Primary. In 1990, the film was inducted into the U.S. National Film Registry. Its success led Drew to form Drew Associates, a production company specializing in cinema verite films. Some of his better-known films include The Chair which won first prize at Cannes, and Faces of November which took first prize at the Venice Film Festival. In addition to making feature-length documentaries, Drew also produced some 58 films for network, public, and syndicated television. Some of his best-known TV documentaries include the Emmy-winning Man Who Dances: Edward Villella and For Auction: An American Hero. In 1997, Drew made The Militia Man. He died in 2014 at age 90.

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