DID YOU READ

David Carr And Andrew Rossi Make Headlines With “Page One: Inside The New York Times”

David Carr And Andrew Rossi Make Headlines With “Page One: Inside The New York Times” (photo)

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In the two weeks since I conducted this interview, The New York Times‘ executive editor Bill Keller announced that he would be stepping down from his position to become a full-time writer once more, paving the way for managing editor Jill Abramson to make history as the first woman to lead the venerable news organization in their 160-year history. In some ways, the fact that the news came after the Times‘ media columnist David Carr and director Andrew Rossi did press for the documentary “Page One: Inside The New York Times,” but before the film was released in theaters, felt like a cruel cosmic joke, the ultimate indictment of holding onto any bit of information in an era where speed is everything.

But as much as Rossi himself would’ve surely liked to have included a scene to capture that milestone in his film (he was able to attach it in a newly added postscript), “Page One” is a celebration of taking the time to get the facts right and comprehensive investigative reporting, even as the transition to the digital age means an even faster race against the clock for once-dominant news gatherers such as the Times. Centering on the paper’s media desk as they cover events with direct implications on their own future including the rise of WikiLeaks and Twitter, the bankruptcy of the Tribune Company, and the merger of megaconglomerate NBC-Comcast, the film traces the evolution of each story from the initial cold calls being made to its publication.

Grace under pressure might not be what immediately comes to mind when watching Carr and Brian Stelter pound at their keyboards as if they were playing Rachmaninoff concerto, but it’s only the emerging music that Rossi captures, proving in the process that the parchment isn’t the only tangible thing left from the glory days of newspapers, but also the evergreen importance of shoe leather journalism. Though I spoke to Carr and Rossi separately, we touched on many of the same points, so I’ve decided to join their answers for this talk about how “Page One” got unprecedented access to the Times‘ headquarters, the strangeness of being reported on as a reporter, and why quality journalism won’t be going away any time soon.

Andrew, during your early conversations with Times‘ management, did your approach to the film change, not necessarily based on the access you would be allowed, but as you got a feel for the place?

Andrew Rossi: They didn’t have any influence on the way that I was thinking about telling the story or what I was going to focus on. It was mainly about explaining that what I do is observational documentary filming. I’m not going in with a satirical kind of approach like “The Daily Show.” I’m not going in with an agenda. It’s not a gotcha documentary. It’s really supposed to be something in the vérité tradition. That’s what Bill Keller, the executive editor, told me was I’m proud of my journalists, I’d like the world to see it.

David, did you feel it was the right time to raise the curtain?

David Carr: I’ve always believed in transparency. I’ve been transparent about my own past. I believe that the institution is a miraculous thing and that the more people see of it, the more they will like it. The more I find out about it, the more I like it. [But] Andrew ended up precisely at the wrong time in that he came right after “The Daily Show” and I was one of the people who said, “Let ‘The Daily Show’ in. What could go wrong?” They made us look like total buffoons. But [Andrew]’s able to fight his way through that and it’s at a time when the Times, through the use of Twitter, blogging, Bill [Keller]’s column, you can see into the guts of the place.

DavidCarrBruceHeadlamPageOne_06122011.jpgThe original idea for the film was to concentrate on David, but at what point did you decide it might be better to concentrate on the whole media desk?

AR: When I would shoot and go in and see [the Times‘ Media and Marketing editor] Bruce Headlam, I would say, “What are the stories you’re working on today?” [And he would respond] “Oh, Brian [Stelter]’s working on this, Richard Pérez-Peña’s working on this, Tim [Arango]’s doing this, David’s doing this, and suddenly, I was like, this is awesome because now I have access to all these different types of stories, which give us perspective on all these different aspects of the media landscape and each one of these different people writing those stories has a backstory that’s fascinating and they contribute to this cinematic experience, so pretty quickly I realized it was sort of a stroke of genius. Not my own genius, but… [laughs]

DC: I didn’t think it would be successful just in the broader sense. I thought the idea of making a movie about a newspaper or newspaper men was not really a great idea. It sounded boring. And as you saw, [Andrew] really got a movie out of it, so I was surprised by that. Do I like everything in the movie? No, I don’t. Do I think he told a true story? Yeah, I think he did. Andrew’s a storyteller in the same way I am, but he’s also a journalist and I knew we had values in common. I knew he wouldn’t screw us, but I didn’t know how he could possibly make us interesting. And he did.

Andrew, you were actually an editor and producer on “Control Room,” which also dealt with a newsroom. Did that shape how and what you wanted to cover with this film?

AR: Definitely the experience of having been an additional editor and an associate producer on “Control Room” was very influential because of a couple of reasons. One is Jehane Noujaim, who made that movie, worked with D.A. Pennebaker and I got to see the raw footage and as a fellow documentary filmmaker, it’s always fascinating to see another director’s work. She’s also somebody who shoots her own footage and it was taking place at a really pivotal moment in the world from the perspective of a newsroom, Al Jazeera. One of my biggest takeaways from it was just sitting down with or following really smart, interesting people at a moment of really high stakes in a newsroom can sometimes be almost close to enough [for the viewer to have a cinematic experience]. There doesn’t need to be explosions and car chases or the equivalent in a documentary.

PageOneInsidetheNYTimes_06122011.jpgThe other thing that was interesting about “Control Room” was that it came out at a moment when people really didn’t know what to think about the war in Iraq. Everyone thought Al Jazeera was located in the basement of Saddam Hussein’s palace or something like that – it was just so revelatory. I worked with Jehane for like a two-week period really intensely to come up with the cut that was at Sundance and there was something about the timeliness of making sure it got into the bloodstream of the culture and became part of the conversation that also informed the creation of “Page One” because you’re doing a movie about the New York Times, you really want to get it right. We started shooting in November of 2009 and then we found out that we were in Sundance in November of 2010. That’s a year. We were shooting and editing simultaneously. There was this sense of urgency to the production, which was another takeaway from having worked on “Control Room.”

David, when you’re a part of something like this film or your book “Night of the Gun,” do you find it to be a different experience when there seems to be a greater intention of permanence than when you’re done with one of your weekly columns in the paper?

DC: That’s an interesting thought. When I did a book, people said to me, everything we do – this interview that we’re doing, my last Monday column about Nancy Grace, page one — it goes wooshing by. Woosh, woosh. And the Internet keeps track of everything, it remembers nothing. People told me doing a book, regardless of how a book does, you’ll take comfort in the fact that it’s sitting somewhere on your shelf and that is so true. The other thing is I’m working on a story that involved [speaking] to former Vice President Al Gore yesterday. We were talking about Participant Media, which did “An Inconvenient Truth” and it’s doing [“Page One”] too. I said, “I’ve got to tell you, I feel weird doing all this press. The microphone’s pointed the wrong way and I’d rather ask questions than answer them.” And he said, “Well, how many times in your life is somebody going to make a movie about what you do? I think you should pay attention to it and pay proper heed to it.” That makes sense to me. Although I don’t know exactly what I’m doing here.

It must seem like a strange experience to be at a junket where everything is packaged and yet we’re talking about a film that celebrates the rare organization that actually goes out and digs up a story still.

DC: It looks exciting. At certain points in the film, I look like a Marvel comic or an action figure and you and I know that reporting isn’t like that. But it doesn’t lose its truth by its compression. I’m in the movie as a former crackhead and media columnist. I’ve done a couple other things — I’ve raised children, run papers, mentored young people, done a bunch of other things, so is it me? No, it’s not me exactly. Is it the truth of me? Yeah, it is.

PageOneInsidetheNYTimes2_06122011.jpgAndrew, carrying a film around with the Times in the title, have you felt the weight of being associated with such a legendary institution?

AR: My answer would be no, I haven’t really, but there’s been such a whirlwind of stuff to do that I haven’t really had a lot of meditative moments. Also, I feel like we’ve had a real emphasis on the idea that the movie is about journalism in general and it could’ve been done at the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or AP or Reuters and so the New York Times is like this big avatar for quality journalism institutions.

David, has your experience of being on the road with this movie changed the meaning for you of what you do? I know it all started with a standing ovation at Sundance.

DC: I like walked out [of that screening] and you know, I didn’t make this movie, so what are they applauding, really? They’re applauding what I do. They’re not really applauding me. That was not a performance. I didn’t make the movie. They believe in what I do. I think you’ve got to show a proper regard for that. It’s cool. We’re going to show it to university kids tonight – they freaking love this movie. And it’s about a newspaper! I’ve written a lot of stories about newspapers and my own kids won’t even pay attention to them, so I feel like there’s a lesson in storytelling there that may be in a way that people care more about newspapers than they know. Maybe that’s what “Page One” does.

“Page One: Inside The New York Times opens in New York on June 17th before expanding into limited release on July 1st.

Will you want to see “Page One: Inside The New York Times”? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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