The whole idea behind American Masters, the biographical series produced at New York’s WNET, was to build a library of America’s cultural history. To meet that goal, Executive Producer Susan Lacy had to mount high-quality productions in sufficient quantity to make an impression on TV viewers and potential subjects.
The author of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey died in January 2010 after living for more than 50 years as a recluse in Cornish, N.H. Shortly after news of his death emerged, Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno announced he had been covertly working on Salinger, an independent documentary probing the author’s sheltered existence. Susan Lacy, American Masters executive producer, learned of Salerno’s film while attempting to procure the rights to an unrelated Salinger biography for the program. Salerno — whose screenplay credits include Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and Oliver Stone’s Savages — agreed to produce his film for American Masters after Lacy contacted him. Salerno is a fan of American Masters and says he taught himself the craft of documentary filmmaking by watching the biography series.
The Peabody-winning segment aired on NPR’s Morning Edition and featured interviews that had been adapted as animated shorts for PBS’s POV. The award, one of nine presented for pubcasting programs this year, recognized the oral history project’s treatment of interviews with the relatives of 9/11 victims in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. NPR received two additional trophies for its radio reporting. Judges cited “Arab Spring from Egypt to Libya” by foreign correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro for “exemplary coverage throughout the Middle East,” and “Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families,” a three-part NPR News Investigation by Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters. POV received another Peabody for “My Perestroika,”a doc following five young Russians over several years after the collapse of communism.
Producers for public broadcasting — and developers for its websites — received 14 Peabody Awards, announced March 31, 2010
Regarding websites, the judges honored two in public media:
Sesame Street’s (“prodigious adaptability . . . delightfully educational, interactive,” the Peabody announcement said) website
NPR’s (“one of the great one-stop websites. And there’s music you can dance to”) website
Peabodys went to six PBS programs — double the number won by any other organization:
“Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About,” about the great New York choreographer, from WNET/American Masters, produced and directed by Judy Kinberg, with Susan Lacy, e.p. — website
“The Madoff Affair” from RAINmedia and WGBH/Frontline, written and produced by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith, edited by Jordan Montminy, with Chris Durrance, co-producer — website, watch online
two films on Independent Lens—
“The Order of Myths,” about the black and white Mardi Gras traditions of Mobile, Ala., by Margaret Brown, with Folly River Inc., Netpoint Productions, Lucky Hat Entertainment and ITVS (“highly original, moving and insightful”) — website
“Between the Folds” from Green Fuse Films and ITVS about the art of paper-folding (“makes you gasp at the possibilities — of paper and of human creativity”) — website
“Endgame,” a dramatization of secret talks that helped end apartheid in South Africa, from Daybreak/Channel 4/Target Entertainment, presented on WGBH’s Masterpiece Contemporary — website
“Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times,” from KCET, Los Angeles (“drama enough for several feature films”), written, directed and produced by Peter Jones, with Brian Tessier, supervising producer, and exec in charge, Bohdan Zachary — website
KCET also scored with with its regional broadcast SoCal Connected—specifically two reports on the medical-marijuana conflict (“lively, eye-opening coverage”)—“Up in Smoke” by correspondent Judy Muller, producer Karen Foshay and editor Alberto Arce, and “Cannabis Cowboys” by reporter John Larson, producer Rick Wilkinson, editor Michael Bloecher, and associate producer Alexandria Gales.
The series title means something, says arts documentarian Peter Rosen. If your film runs under the American Masters umbrella, it’s about an artist worth honoring.His film, “Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes,” aired in the series last week [July 1, 2009]. But Rosen would have given Garrison Keillor an admiring portrait anyway. “I’ve always thought we have a Mark Twain among us,” he says. With good access to Keillor, Rosen delivers a more detailed picture of Prairie Home Companion’s workings and the star’s personality than did the late Robert Altman’s earlier movie, which contrived to shoehorn a very successful real-life radio show into a plot about an unsuccessful one. Variety critic Dennis Harvey commented: “Portrait captures the charm of A Prairie Home Companion and its creator considerably more than Robert Altman’s star-heavy 2006 feature of the same name.”