Thursday, May 1, 2008

Guest of Cindy Sherman

Here is a little something about a Rhinebeck / Red Hook native whose documentary GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN is one my favorites at Tribeca this year.

I had the chance to catch the film at a press screening in Tribeca and was taken by the high energy of the NY art scene and the authenticity and charm of Cindy Sherman, one of American's most infamous, provocative photographers. Soon after I talked with Tom Donahue, co-director, about his film. Tom has edited documentaries for HBO about the photographer Spencer Tunick whose film NAKED STATES was shown at a Woodstock Film Festival special screening a few years back. Spencer was the one to alert Donahue about Paul H- O, of the NYC Public Access program GALLERY BEAT and Cindy Sherman's life partner at the time, who was looking for a filmmaker to help him turn his hundreds hours of one of a kind footage into a film. Soon after the journey creating a fun and unique travelogue through the New York art world has begun.

"The project evolved over time but never really strayed from its central storyline - That of the changing art world and of a man's psychological crisis in dating a more powerful woman", says Donaue. "In the first two years we made the film, we conducted over 70 interviews, shot lots of verite and gathered large amounts of archival footage. After our money ran out, we made a broadcast deal with the Sundance Channel and that gave us the money to start editing in 2006. The editing started just after Paul and Cindy broke up so the third act of the film was continually in flux. We realized as we got further into the process that we needed to be honest about one of the reasons for their breakup - The film itself. That wasn't easy for me because I'm generally opposed to that kind of self-conscious filmmaking. Nonetheless, this was a very personal story and the movie became a very significant factor in their relationship so it really couldn't be avoided. The real structural trick of this film was the balancing act of telling Paul's story, Cindy's story and the story of the art world in a way that didn't bog the film down in exposition or turn it into another boilerplate artist documentary. Our goal was always to tell a good, entertaining story first and foremost and to lend insight into Cindy's work in a way that is unique and entertaining".

Donahue has two new works in progress right now. One is a documentary about the pioneering Hollywood Casting Director, Marion Dougherty, who, according to some, single-handedly changed Hollywood over the last half century. The other is his narrative feature debut which he is planning on shooting this summer. We wish him luck.

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