The Live Documentary: Sam Green’s Unique, Surprisingly Sustainable Theatrical Experience

IndieWire | 4/24/2019 | Staff
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It’s a movie-going experience that’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t previously seen one of nonfiction filmmaker Sam Green’s live documentaries. In his latest piece, a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet entitled “A Thousand Thoughts,” the big screen plays home to interviews and archival images that audiences would expect to see in a traditional documentary. On stage, the Kronos Quartet appear live to perform the film’s score, while Green himself narrates the film.

Green has made traditional documentaries before, like “Weather Underground,” but his live projects have been entirely conceived of and executed as purely as live events. Not only will “A Thousand Thoughts” never be available on Netflix (or anywhere else), it’s the nonfiction streaming boom that inspired Green to create these unique theatrical events.

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“I’m thrilled that these days you can see so many documentaries and so many great documentaries,” Green said in an interview with IndieWire. “You could watch a great documentary film 24 hours a day for weeks, if you wanted to. It’s all accessible now, and that is great, but at the same time, I think that there’s something about that that lessens the value of the experience, the significance of the experience. It’s like going to an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet.”

Of course, the tradeoff to being so much less accessible than traditional films is that far fewer people will be able to see Green’s live films. Even a tremendous run of 50 sold-out performances in 1,000-seat venues puts the ceiling at an audience of 50,000. And yet the economics of live documentaries have turned out to be surprisingly sustainable for Green.

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“Doing live events is a completely different economy than making traditional films,” said Green. “There are some documentary films where the filmmaker makes a good amount of money, but it’s not super-common. But with music and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: IndieWire
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