by Mark Rabinowitz
"Moon Over Broadway," the latest film from documentarians D.A.
Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus opens today at Film Forum in New York, with
dates in L.A. (March 6), San Francisco (April 10), Boston (late April)
and other national playdates to follow. indieWIRE spoke to producers
Frazer Pennebaker and Wendy Ettinger by phone on Tuesday, getting some
of their thoughts on the distribution of their film and on distribution
Ettinger recalls, "We screened for distributors during the summer (1997)
and then went to Toronto where we got a great response from the press,"
and "a few bites" from distributors. One of those nibbles turned out to
be from eventual buyer, Artistic License. Pennebaker pointed out that
"major distributors are less and less willing to take a chance on docs,"
and that the heading "Documentaries" is a "large umbrella to put so many
different films under. Our films are as unlike Ken Burns' films as
Burns' films are unlike (Kirby Dick's) 'Sick.'"
The pair both agreed that docs are often ghettoized by distributors,
festivals and the general public, caused largely by the perception that
documentaries are somehow more "high brow" entertainment than feature
films. On Sundance, Ettinger pointed out that they made a conscious
choice not to try and attend, as the preparation for a release would
hamper their efforts to have a fruitful Sundance.
The pair is happy to have landed with Sande Zeig at Artistic License,
saying that she "is great...a bit of a maverick," which should suit
director D.A. Pennebaker whose films in the 60's and 70's included the
groundbreaking "Don't Look Back," "Monterey Pop," and "Ziggy Stardust
and the Spiders From Mars."