CHRIS HEGEDUS – Director, Producer, Cinematographer
Chris Hegedus has been working as a director, cinematographer and editor for 40 years. In 2001 she received the prestigious DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for Startup.com. With her long-time collaborator D A Pennebaker, she directed The War Room, a behind-the-scenes look at Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. The film received an Academy Award® nomination and won the National Board of Review’s D.W. Griffith Award for Best Documentary. Hegedus has received the Golden Eagle CINE award and lifetime achievement awards from several organizations, including the International Documentary Association.
Hegedus first collaborated with Pennebaker as editor of Town Bloody Hall, filmed at the infamous 1971 women’s liberation debate moderated by Norman Mailer. Their other early films include the three-part PBS special, The Energy War, which followed the unprecedented congressional fight and filibuster over President Carter’s Energy Bill; DeLorean, featuring auto entrepreneur John DeLorean; Rockaby, written by Samuel Beckett specially for their project starring his muse Billie Whitelaw; and the acclaimed 1998 feature Moon Over Broadway, which chronicled Carol Burnett’s tumultuous return to Broadway theater.
Other feature releases include the HBO special, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, which won a 2004 Primetime Emmy™ Award; Al Franken: God Spoke and recently Kings of Pastry which was broadcast around the world. Depeche Mode 101; Down From the Mountain, a companion concert film to the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?; and the soul musical tribute Only The Strong Survive are some of Hegedus and Pennebaker’s music films.
In addition to making films Hegedus has conducted film seminars at numerous universities and taught documentary filmmaking at Yale for 8 years.
D A PENNEBAKER – Director
D A (Donn Alan) Pennebaker is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of cinéma vérité filmmaking. In the early sixties, Pennebaker and his colleague Richard Leacock developed one of the first fully portable 16mm synchronized camera and sound recording systems, which revolutionized filmmaking and introduced the immediate style of shooting so popular today. Pennebaker’s many professional honors include the IFP’s Gotham Award and a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award.
Pennebaker first film was the 1953 expressionistic short Daybreak Express. In 1959, he joined Drew Associates, which produced for Time-Life the celebrated “Living Camera” series in the early 1960s. The subjects ranged from Jane Fonda’s Broadway debut, Jane, to Kennedy’s 1960 Wisconsin Democratic primary, Primary, to the desegregation of the University of Alabama, Crisis.
In 1967, Pennebaker released his seminal classic Don't Look Back, which followed Bob Dylan’s last acoustic concert tour in England. The film was one of the first feature-length documentaries to be released in theaters. He continued to capture the musical moment in subsequent films, including the influential Monterey Pop which launched the careers of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and Keep On Rockin’ with America’s fifties legends; Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Bo Diddle; Company – The Original Cast Album, about the recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical’s cast album featuring Elaine Stritch; and David Bowie’s last performance in Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
In 1976, Pennebaker began his collaboration with his partner and future wife, Chris Hegedus, co-directing such acclaimed films as 1998’s Moon Over Broadway and 1993’s The War Room, which received an Academy Award® nomination and won the National Board of Review’s D.W. Griffith Award for Best Documentary. The team’s early films include the three-part special The Energy War; Town Bloody Hall, and DeLorean, and Depeche Mode 101. Their last feature release, Kings of Pastry, played theatrically in the US and was broadcast around the world.
FRAZER PENNEBAKER – Executive Producer, Producer
Frazer Pennebaker, executive producer and producer, has produced all of Hegedus and Pennebaker’s films since 1980, including the Emmy award-winning Elaine Stritch At Liberty and the company’s current release Unlocking the Cage. Pennebaker also produced Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis At Monterey, featuring unused performance footage that his father shot at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. In 1989 he produced the feature length Depeche Mode 101, which went platinum upon its release. Teaming up with co-producers Wendy Ettinger and R.J. Cutler, Pennebaker’s 1993 film The War Room was nominated for an Academy Award. 1998 saw the release of Moon Over Broadway starring Carol Burnett, followed by Startup.com, Down from the Mountain in 2001, Only the Strong Survive in 2003, Al Franken: God Spoke in 2006, and Kings of Pastry in 2009. In addition to his role as producer, Frazer oversees film distribution and sales for Pennebaker Hegedus Films. Most recently, Frazer produced the newly restored Don't Look Back, a multiple DVD edition, released by Criterion Collection.
PAX WASSERMANN – Editor
Pax Wassermann is a film editor and producer with twenty years in features, television and documentaries. In addition to Unlocking the Cage, his recent work includes the 2015 Sundance award winner Cartel Land, 2013 Jury Award winner Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, and Salero, which recently premiered at the IDFA. Other past documentaries includes Devil's Playground, Knuckleball!, the Sally Mann documentary What Remains, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, and Which Way Home, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009. His fiction work includes Peter Bogdanovich's She's Funny That Way and Noah Buschel's directorial debut Bringing Rain. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons.
ROSADEL VARELA – Producer
After growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rosadel moved to New York to pursue a career in television and film. Early in her career she worked at MTV Networks in the News/Documentary and Production divisions as a producer. Some of her credits include: Unfiltered, The State, House of Style, and many programs for the True Life documentary series. She then switched gears to fiction film and became a member of the highly selective Directors Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program. There, she worked on the directors' teams of such acclaimed filmmakers as Woody Allen, Penny Marshall, John Singleton, and Nicole Holofcener. Her work with the Director's Guild also included key roles on some of the most successful television series in history, including Law & Order and Sex & the City. In 2004, Rosadel partnered with award-winning director, Jehane Noujaim to produce the highly acclaimed documentary, Control Room, about Al Jazeera and the Iraq war. On a global scale, she worked with TED Conferences and Events for Change as a producer for Pangea Day – a four-hour live, multi platform event in the effort to unite the world through the power of film. Rosadel graduated with a self-designed, mass media and culture major, from Trinity College in Connecticut.
JULIA McINNIS – Associate Producer
Julia is a first-year MBA student at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. She’s passionate about media and entrepreneurship, is the host of the podcast “That Startup Moment with Chicago Booth,” and is a contributor for the Financial Times's Business Education blog. Before Booth, Julia worked as an associate producer for the award-winning filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker. Her films include the upcoming HBO release Unlocking the Cage. While working with Pennebaker Hegedus Films, she started a NYC-based international film festival and launched new ventures for two New York-based environmental groups. Julia holds a bachelor degree in International Studies and English Literature from Trinity College in Hartford, CT.
JAMES LAVINO – Composer
James Lavino's music for film and television includes scores for Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning HBO documentaries, songs for Disney and two collaborations with Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood. His music for the opening ceremony of the National 9/11 Museum in New York City was an integral part of President Obama’s museum-dedication speech.
Current film work includes Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, starring Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito and Ellen Burstyn, and Camille Thoman’s You Were Never Here, starring Mireille Enos & Sam Shepard).
Lavino’s choral music has been performed throughout Europe and the USA, and has been broadcast on NPR, the BBC and Classic FM. Commissions include pieces for the choirs of Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral (London) and Merton College, Oxford.
JOHN PAUL ‘Jojo’ PENNEBAKER – Co-Cinematographer
Jojo Pennebaker has worked as a cinematographer in both television and feature documentaries. Some of his credits include We have Arrived, After Innocence, Empathy, Our Brand is Crisis, My Secret Record, Youssou N’dour, and Meru. Pennebaker has directed and filmed nearly eight seasons of the PBS and A&E international series, Live From the Artists Den. He was the original director for Jerry Seinfeld’s online series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee as well as of several episodes of Live from Daryl’s House. Pennebaker has filmed some of the most celebrated musicians of the last twenty years telling their stories and recording their performances around the world. Pennebaker is the son of the director D A Pennebaker.
NATE PENNEBAKER – Assistant Producer
Nate Pennebaker graduated from Pitzer College in 2015 with a degree in Media Studies. During his time there he directed, shot, and edited his own short film projects as well as worked collaboratively on a documentary short Roll. He interned at Vh1 and MTV in 2014 working primarily on the new artist platform. Since joining Pennebaker Hegedus Films he has worked on publicity and promotion as well as legal clearances for Unlocking the Cage.