Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Why Alex Gibney Is Taking On Capital Punishment With His New CNN Docuseries 'Death Row Stories'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire March 7, 2014 at 11:54AM

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney talks his new CNN series "Death Row Stories."
1
Edward Lee Elmore, subject of 'Death Row Stories' episode one
CNN Edward Lee Elmore, subject of 'Death Row Stories' episode one

Alex Gibney is astoundingly prolific. The Oscar-winning documentarian isn't just turning out films at a regular clip of two to three a year, he's also found time for television projects -- like the new CNN series "Death Row Stories," which he executive produced with Robert Redford.

The eight-part docuseries, one of two Redford is debuting on the news channel this week, premieres this Sunday, March 9th at 9pm and explores questions about the death penalty and the justice system, with each episode unraveling a different capital murder case. Susan Sarandon, who won an Oscar herself for her role as death row minister Sister Helen Prejean in "Dead Man Walking," will serve as narrator.

So, how does Gibney do it? Indiewire caught up with the filmmaker in January to ask him about "Death Row Stories."

Alex Gibney
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders Alex Gibney

What's your involvement in the new series?

I came to it because I'd been getting some really interesting stories that I was thinking about doing as feature docs, and they all seemed to be centering around the same issue. And I thought, wouldn't it be fantastic to do a series? That's what got me started, and then the thing was, "How can we come up with a series that has a certain look and a certain feel?" I got together with some very talented people, and my job is to set a kind of look and style and narrative approach, and then let these super-talented people execute it.

What's it going to look like?

A lot of these stories, in a way, are mystery stories. They focus on the death penalty and how justice is unfairly applied, and how the system doesn't know how to correct its own mistakes. They're also murder mysteries, in a way, so in style they're intended to be kind of like film noir, in the sense that each location has a certain character. The character of the place ends up being quite important to the story, particularly in terms of how we tell it in visual terms.

Do you see this as a series with an activist bent, about miscarriages of justice?

The first thing I can say about it is that it's a series of great crime stories, so that in and of itself is important. But I think themes emerge, and one is that the system itself is badly broken. That, I think, is something that we have to recognize, and in part, it's because it's not a particular story, but a series of stories, and they seem to have the same kind of pattern. That should teach us something. It has a point of view, let's put it that way.

'Death Row Stories'
CNN 'Death Row Stories'

How did you find all of these cases?

Some, like I said, came to me as feature docs initially. Then we went looking for other ones to see what would be interesting stories that might examine this idea. We found some really good ones -- ones that happened a long time ago, and one that's very contemporary, which relates to the election that's going to happen for governor in Colorado. It's all going to be a kind of referendum on whether we should kill people.

You've been reliably prolific over the years -- you just had a new doc, "Finding Fela!," at Sundance. How do you manage to balance so many projects?

It's hard, but one of the things that's been a great boon to us is that we got an investment from a company called Content Media, and that allowed me to expand my core group, to hire some people to help really run the show in a way that took a lot of the pressure off of me. I'm a director, but I'm also a producer, and I produce for a lot of people. One of the things I learned as a producer was that if you hire really talented people who are better than you are, then sometimes good things can happen, and you can do a lot more things than you would otherwise be able to imagine.

Does having a project at CNN shape your approach in a particular way?

We went to CNN and said, "This is what we want to do, are you interested?" We weren't trying to marry something to the CNN style. We went to them and said, "This is what we want to do, do you want to do it with us?" And they said yes, so that's always a good sign for me.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Alex Gibney, CNN, Death Row Stories






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More