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Movie Lovers We Love: Jason Spingarn-Koff Brings Docs to the New York Times

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire May 11, 2012 at 10:14AM

Documentary filmmaker Jason Spingarn-Koff ("Life 2.0") has a pretty sweet deal. He gets to work with documentary filmmakers to help them make short videos for one the world's most respected media outlets, The New York Times.
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When President Nasheed of the Maldives was overthrown and sent in a letter to the Op-Ed section, Spingarn-Koff worked with "The Island President" filmmaker John Shenk to make a video to run with the letter.  Spingarn-Koff explained what made this video so special:  "[Shenk] put in some video that was only a few hours old.  It had real news value, but it also had a lot of artistic integrity and sophistication.  This was the voice of a doc filmmaker drawing upon his years of work on a subject."

Spingarn-Koff contacted Errol Morris early on, and Morris told him he was working on a film about a witness to the JFK assassination.  The video, “Umbrella Man,” was released on the anniversary of the assassination, and the video and accompanying director’s statement soon topped the most viewed lists at nytimes.com.  Spingarn-Koff told us, "Twitter was going wild spreading and commenting on the video.  It appealed on one level to the conspiracy people, but also to people who just love Errol Morris. But it also was a film about broad philosophical questions, about the nature of historical inquiry, the problem of looking at any fact under the microscope.  And people were engaging with that too."

See "The Umbrella Man" with Morris' commentary (video is not embeddable).

One of the more issue-based films in the collection is "Good Night, Ryan" about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Spingarn-Koff cited this film when he talked about the Times' audience:  "One of the great values that I'm appreciating [working at the Times] is our audience.  They can appreciate these pieces that are working on many levels. People write paragraphs in the comments section.  They're teasing apart the work we're putting out.  With 'Good Night, Ryan,' veterans are talking about the failings of the VA system and losing family members."

This article is related to: Movie Lovers We Love





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