January 19th, 2014

Directors from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on CNN’s Reliable Sources

CNN’s Reliable Sources hosted by Brian Stelter aired LIVE today from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Stelter interviewed the following directors of some of the most highly anticipated films at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival: Nadav Schirman, director of “The Green Prince” (2014), Greg Whiteley, director of “Mitt” (2014),  and Todd Douglas Miller, director of “Dinosaur 13” (2014).

A  transcript and videos from the interviews are available after the jump.

For a full transcript of the show, click here


WEB EXCLUSIVE: Nadav Schirman

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Meet the director of ‘Mitt’

WEB EXLUSIVE: Todd Douglas Miller


STELTER:  Welcome back to Park City. For the past few days, I’ve been talking with directors of some of the big documentaries here at Sundance. I get the sense from them that there’s never been a better time to be making documentaries, but also never a more complicated time.

Filmmakers love knowing that their work could be seen on television and on demand, as we were just talking about with our panel. But many of them still yearn for a theatrical release, and they say there’s something special about the communal experience of the movie theater.

You know, documentary’s a unique format. It mixes elements of capital “J” journalism and storytelling, and that’s something that I discussed with the director of “Dinosaur 13,” Todd Douglas Miller.


STELTER:  So “Dinosaur 13” is mostly through the eyes of the people that found the dinosaur and tried to hold onto her, her name being Sue. Do you feel it’s an act of journalism to make a film like this or is it something different?

TODD DOUGLAS MILLER, DIRECTOR:  It’s a little bit of both, you know. It’s, kind of, a hybrid, I guess, you know. I mean, the film follows mainly the four original discovers and their, you know, 10-year saga after the initial discovery.

STELTER:  Right.

MILLER:  So, yeah, I think…

STELTER:  I mean, is it an act of journalism to be interviewing them?

Because you don’t hear a lot from the other side.

MILLER:  Yeah. I mean, we made a — you know, a conscious decision to have everybody’s — you know, there’s no narration in the film. We wanted everybody’s, you know, first-person narrative.

So, yeah, I mean, we — the one thing I will say, usually journalism is a lot quicker. You know, I wanted people in a chair for sometimes two, three days. So our interviews were very long, so we could — these guys were used to being on camera. So I didn’t want, like, quick sound bites that you’re going to get within, like, 10 minutes.

So, you know, hour three, hour four of an interview, then you start, kind of, breaking that barrier where they’re really getting into what they really thought about something.

STELTER:  Maybe day two or day three, it sounds like.

MILLER:  Yeah, if they hadn’t passed out by then.



STELTER:  Nadav Schirman’s film, “The Green Prince,” also involved days of interviews. He had two main characters, a Palestinian, who’s the son of a Hamas leader who becomes an Israeli spy, and his Israeli handler. He explained to me why docs are different.


STETLER:  The subject of your film was covered in the news years ago.  And you went back and interviewed them.  Were you acting as a journalist or as something else?

NADAV SCHIRMAN, FILMMAKER:  Not at all.  I was acting as a filmmaker, as a…

STETLER:  So, you didn’t see as a journalistic obligation, for example, to factcheck what they were saying?

SCHIRMAN:  Well, we — but that’s the preliminary research that I do.  So, I come very well prepared.  But my goal is to (inaudible) emotion.  So, when I interview somebody, I’m not after the facts or the story itself, because I already know the story, this is this is my preparation work.  When I interview them, I’m trying to get their emotional connection to the story, I’m trying to generate emotion, because this is what will create the connection with the audience afterwards.

STETLER:  So it’s not news, but it’s story telling?

SCHIRMAN:  It’s pure story telling.  I think it’s the same way as a director you would work with actors to make them feel comfortable, to create the circumstances in which they could best express their emotions.  It’s the same thing.

I mean, Mosab (Ph) was interviewed largely on CNN, they were exclusive with Christiane Amanpour, amazing interviews about the facts, not about this emotional

relation to the facts.

And, you know, he wrote a book which became a best seller.  So, he was a media sensation.

So, there were a lot of interviews.  You will not find anything in the green print, in the film which is similar to his interviews because it’s all about the emotion.

STETLER:  For so many of these films, access is essential.  And access is exactly what Greg Whiteley had for Mitt, that’s a documentary about Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 2008 and 2012.  And that’s why Mitt Romney was here yesterday in Park City.

Whiteley spent years with Romney.  So when he came by the CNN lounge yesterday, I asked him about his reflections.

The Mitt Romney in your film is not the Romney a lot of people seem to see in the press day-to-day.  Does your film suggest that, you know, the press should be given more access to candidates and that candidates would be better off if they showed more of themselves to the world?

GREG WHITELEY, FILMMAKER:  I don’t quite understand that.  Obviously, this is something that was new to me.  But I noticed this very adversarial relationship that existed between the press and the campaign and I think the candidate, Mitt Romney, was sometimes caught in between the two of those.

For whatever reason, and I take it as a compliment that people see the film and say, wow, I didn’t realize that side of Mitt Romney existed.  I wonder if that’s true of other candidates.  I tend to think that it is.  I think that there is a side to all of us, that when we’re more vulnerable and we’re willing to show some of our weaknesses, we also become more likable.

I’m not sure that you could  parlay that into a campaign strategy.  It’s just — but I with they would.  I’m waiting for the next candidate to call me and give me access.

STETLER:  In your documentary, it’s premiering on Netflix in just a few days, what’s that like as a filmmaker to know it’s going to be out to the public so soon?

WHITELEY:  For us, the apex of your buzz happens during Sundance.

STETLER:  But so many of these films have to wait months before they come out in theaters or on TV?

WHITELEY:  Yeah, and what happens is all those people that original wrote about your film and were excited about your film, they don’t want to write about it again.  So, teaming up with Netflix, and just talking with them about how this film ought to be rolled out — because they have this — they’re somewhat nimble in how they can roll the film out.  They don’t have to go through the same machinations or use the same apparatus as a traditional distribution method.

STETLER:  We’ll be putting these full interviews up on our blog at So check them out.