Marina Zenovich is best known for her two recent documentaries on the controversial history of Roman Polanski, so it may not be surprising news that for her next film she is attempting yet another all-encompassing documentary portrait of a public figure: this time with comedian Richard Pryor. Throughout her film, Zenovich creates a portrait of not only the public and private life of Pryor, but the immense change caused in the public’s view of comedy, celebrity, and race throughout his career, providing a complete picture of the life and influence of one of the most famous comedians of all time.
What’s it about: A new look at the life of Richard Pryor, one of America’s greatest and
most gifted comedians. Pryor’s comedy — a one-off blend of brutal
honesty, dead-on observation and sheer surreality — grew from a life
which switched from comedy to tragedy on the turn of a dime. A master
truth teller, a man of huge gifts and extraordinary flaws, a lightning
quick artist who lived close to the edge, Richard Pryor used comedy to
transform the way Blacks and Whites saw each other, in a way which still
rings true today. By capturing the genius and the magic of his art, we
brings Richard Pryor back to life for a new generation.
Tell us about yourself: I’m originally from California but have lived in New York and
Europe. I have been making films since 1995. I live in Venice, CA with
my husband and son.
What else do you want audiences to know about your film: I love the interview process and — for good or bad –really kind of figure out the film as I am making it.
It was overwhelming to go through all the archive but my editor’s
favorite phrase was “Baby Steps.” Somehow this always comforted me.
The film was made with a lot of love and care by a small group of people I am forever grateful to.
What was your biggest challenge in developing this project: It is always hard in documentaries to get people to talk. It usually
takes a period of courting. (I’ve courted potential interviewees for
years) We did the film quite quickly so we didn’t have a lot of time to
Having said that, there were great people we interviewed who didn’t make
the cut (Willie Nelson, Arthur Hiller, Penelope Spheeris, who used to
be Richard’s assistant and editor on an early film he made) Although
their stories were amazing, they didn’t fit into the story we ended up
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with after seeing your film: I want audiences to be inspired by Richard and not only his genius, but his extraordinary commitment to telling the truth.
Did any specific films inspire you: From Richard’s films:
“Jo Jo Dancer” inspired me because of what Richard was trying to do —
examine his life by filming it. “Richard Pryor Live in Concert” — his
energy is just astounding and you never tire of watching him. Seeing
“Silver Streak” again and seeing how it holds up so well.
What do you have in the works: I have a few projects in development. I am also making a fiction film about Norman Mailer.
invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films,
including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re
doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.