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New Yorker Films Update

June 27, 2013


Bert Stern

Bert Stern, our great friend for so many years, passed away yesterday. He was 83. Forever part of the New Yorker family, he will be missed...

Stern only made one film during his career, but it was a doozy. Jazz on a Summer's Day lives on today as one of the greatest documentaries ever produced.

In 1958, a twenty-eight year old Bert Stern had built for himself a reputation as one the worlds leading fashion and advertising photographers. With his imaginative ads for Smirnoff Vodka, De Beers Diamonds, I. Miller Shoes and other blue chip accounts, Stern was on his way to becoming one of the greatest photographers of the second half of the 20th century.

Although he had ambitions to turn his talent to motion pictures, the opportunity did not present itself until Elaine Lorillard, the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, invited him to take some pictures of the summer musical event during the weekend of July 4, 1958. Lorillard’s request that Stern “take some pictures” of the festival would evolve into a full-fledged motion picture production presenting some of the most remarkable scenes of live jazz ever brought to the screen.

With principle emphasis on the performances of such legendary artists such as Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, Mahalia Jackson and Thelonious Monk, the film also offers unusual shots of audience reactions by individuals whose social, economic and age differences cover the entire scale from Brooklyn teen-ager to Newport dowager. While Stern’s camera fills the screen with a birds eye view of the America’s Cup races or with a tour of Newport’s picturesque streets and beaches, it also focuses on wasted teen-agers, pipe-sucking critics and the socialites whose ancestors built Newport’s famed mansions.

Except for Mahalia Jackson’s gospel singing and Chuck Berry’s rock and roll, the music filling the soundtrack is pure jazz. Old favorites such as “Lazy River” and “Tiger Rag”, as performed by Louis Armstrong, and Anita O’Day’s interpretation of “Sweet Georgia Brown” are interspersed with the innovative manners of such artists as Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan and Chico Hamilton. At such events in the past each artist was recorded by his or her respective record label; however, Stern preferred the idea of a compilation soundtrack for his film. George Avakian, the then head of Columbia records, helped Stern produce a soundtrack carrying nearly fifty of the best instrumentalists and vocalists in Jazz History.

During the four day shoot, Stern broke many movie camera taboos including shooting directly into lights, holding for close-ups lasting three or four minutes, and shooting and recording all of the music sessions live to achieve a sense of immediacy and informality (magnetic sound recording was used). Although the movie only took four days to shoot, it took editor Aram Avakian nearly six-months just to sync up the nearly 80,000 feet of film, shot with five different cameras, to the soundtrack. After nearly a year in the editing room, Stern approved Avakian’s final cut running some 8,000 feet or approximately one hour and a half on the screen.

Bert Stern on the making of Jazz on a Summer's Day:

I had known a wonderful girl named Jean Stein whose father owned MCA at the time. Jean was friends with a woman named Elaine Lorillard, who was the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival. One afternoon visiting her, just listening, I put together that they were putting on a jazz festival in Newport. It amused me, at first, when I heard that there was going to be a jazz festival in Newport… where all the rich people lived. I was intrigued with the combination of Jazz and Newport, kind of…rich and poor. It just struck me that it would make a wonderful little short… I thought it would be engrossing and kind of unusual.

So, we tried to devise a story. It was a love story involving a boy who lived in Newport. I hired a writer, who was also an actor, to help me flesh out this story. Much of which was intended to be improvised. I was dating a girl, who was very beautiful, and I thought she and the writer/actor could be the subjects of this love story, with the festival providing the backdrop or setting.

I made the mistake of rehearsing. The rehearsal went great, but immediately after that the passion that they had for each other was gone. When we set up the cameras there was nothing left to shoot. Not having a script, I realized I wasn't equipped to produce this story — if you're going to make a movie, it helps to have a script, or something happening. In this case, we had an event and didn't need a script. I stuck to the festival and to the music, and interpreted that with my camera. The event went on and we just shot what we could.

George Avakian, an authority on jazz and the head of Columbia Records became very important in the making of the movie. Columbia agreed to record all of the sound for the festival. During the festival, George was in the pit, you might say, and when an artist came on stage we didn’t exactly know what they were going to play, but George would give us a sign, “let's do this one,” and we would turn the cameras on. There was something about these performances… and getting them on film with sound - at that time - was very exciting.

We had five cameras rolling at the same time, using telephoto lenses. I adapted some of the long lenses that I used in my still photography. I had a 180-degree Sonar lens, which I used for a lot of still pictures and I adapted that to the Arriflex, which created a wonderful look… it gave this kind of living quality to the footage. It was magnificent… 35mm Kodak color negative that just jumped off the screen when we screened it. We had never seen anything like that before. We shot over 80,000 feet of film. Aram Avakaian, George's brother, and the most experienced filmmaker on the set was a wonderful editor. Aram spent a long time in the editing room just syncing all of the different cameras.

I started shooting the film with no financing and Aram was in the editing room for a long time. I used to pay his salary every week from the money I earned shooting still photos. In the end, I decided that making movies was a very painful and difficult process and I didn’t really want to give up my photography, which I would have had to do if I wanted to devote myself totally to movies. I considered it, but I didn’t pursue it. I decided to stick to photography. I was just…basically a photographer who wanted to make a movie before he was 30. This idea came along that I felt I could handle… it was a form of a documentary and it had a lot to do with photography. It wasn’t something that I had ever seen before and it just intrigued me.

Bert Stern obituary

Visit our Jazz on a Summer's Day page here.

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June 27, 2013

Now available on HULU!



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May 29, 2013

MY DOG TULIP now on Blu-ray!

My Dog Tulip Blu-ray

Loaded with extra features. Check out the Blu-ray Digipak artwork below and order
your copy today!



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My Dog Tulip Blu-ray

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Blu-ray Special Features: Making Tulip, a featurette about the production, Ebert Presents At The Movies: "Roger's Office" clip featuring Werner Herzog, Friday Arts (WHYY): "Animating My Dog Tulip and more...", Theatrical trailer, Film notes, MUTTS: Shelter Stories, Sneak peek at the filmmakers' latest project, Slocum at Sea with Himself

My Dog Tulip Blu-ray

Visit our My Dog Tulip page here.

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For over forty-five years, New Yorker Films has been America's leading source for the films on the cutting edge of world cinema. The company was founded in 1965 by Daniel Talbot as an outgrowth of his legendary movie house, the New Yorker Theater. Unable to obtain several crucial foreign titles, Talbot was obliged to import them himself. Early acquisitions such as Bertolucci's BEFORE THE REVOLUTION, Godard's LES CARABINIERS, and Sembene's BLACK GIRL established New Yorker's still vital tradition of presenting the world's most innovative, artistically significant, and politically engaged films.

Controversial and challenging works considered untouchable by other distributors have been regularly taken on by New Yorker (and often turned into surprise hits), including Jacques Rivette's self-reflexive masterpiece CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, Chantal Akerman's feminist landmark JEANNE DIELMAN..., and Claude Lanzmann's monumental Holocaust documentary SHOAH, to mention just a few. Always on the alert for fresh talent and new trends, New Yorker Films was the primary force in introducing this country to the pioneering postmodernist New German cinema, the politically embattled Latin American cinema, and the postcolonial African cinema. It discovered the early breakthrough works of such now-celebrated filmmakers as Agnieszka Holland, Juzo Itami, Errol Morris, Wayne Wang, and Zhang Yimou. More recent acquisitions have explored exciting new frontiers in the Iranian, Asian, and Eastern European cinemas.

In addition to its theatrical premieres, New Yorker's strength is its ability to service the nontheatrical market, catering to the specialized needs of festivals, film society and classroom venues that fall beneath the radar of larger, more monolithic companies. The heart of New Yorker Films is a library of unsurpassed quality and depth. The library's range extends from restored classics to recent causes célèbres, from Oscar winners to offbeat gems. The New Yorker library is a major source for trailblazing works by international women filmmakers such as Claire Denis, Lucrecia Martel, Lisa Cholodenko, Agnes Jaoui, Susanne Bier, Euzhan Palcy, and Margarethe von Trotta. It also features essential titles by leading lights of the American indie renaissance. A distinctive feature of the library is its devotion to accumulating works by important individual directors -- a policy especially suited to retrospectives and university courses. Here you will find an extensive collection of films by such seminal cinéastes as Alea, Almodóvar, Godard, Herzog, Sembene, Straub, Tanner, and Zhang Yimou.

In 1989, New Yorker Films extended its tradition of quality into the video market.  An average of twenty new titles per year are released on DVD/Blu-ray, representing a broad selection of the best in classic, foreign, and independent cinema.

One of the more exciting recent developments at New Yorker Films is the creation of a new division called Metro Releasing, a genre division with the same discerning sensibilities of New Yorker past/present, that will also appeal to niche audiences.

In a time when the term "independent" has been loosely applied to subsidiaries of giant conglomerates, New Yorker stands as one of the most durable, important, and truly independent film distributors. In its fourth decade, New Yorker Films still represents the vanguard of film distribution in the United States.


For over forty-five years, New Yorker Films has been America's leading source
for the films that matter on the cutting edge of world cinema.

The company was founded in 1965 by Daniel Talbot as an outgrowth of
his legendary movie house, the New Yorker Theater. Unable to obtain
several crucial foreign titles, Talbot was obliged to import them himself. Early
acquisitions such as Bertolucci's BEFORE THE REVOLUTION, Godard's LES
CARABINIERS, and Sembene's BLACK GIRL established New Yorker's still vital
tradition of presenting the world's most innovative, artistically significant, and
politically engaged films.

Controversial and challenging works considered untouchable by other
distributors have been regularly taken on by New Yorker (and often turned into
surprise hits), including Jacques Rivette's self-reflexive masterpiece CELINE
AND JULIE GO BOATING, Chantal Akerman's feminist landmark JEANNE
DIELMAN..., and Claude Lanzmann's monumental Holocaust documentary
SHOAH, to mention just a few. Always on the alert for fresh talent and new
trends, New Yorker Films was the primary force in introducing this country to the
pioneering postmodernist New German cinema, the politically embattled Latin
American cinema, and the postcolonial African cinema. It discovered the early
breakthrough works of such now-celebrated filmmakers as Agnieszka Holland,
Juzo Itami, Errol Morris, Wayne Wang, and Zhang Yimou. More recent
acquisitions have explored exciting new frontiers in the Iranian, Asian, and
Eastern European cinemas.

In addition to its theatrical premieres, New Yorker's strength is its ability to
service the nontheatrical market, catering to the specialized needs of festivals,
film society and classroom venues that fall beneath the radar of larger, more
monolithic companies. The heart of New Yorker Films is a library of unsurpassed
quality and depth. The library's range extends from restored classics to recent
causes célèbres, from Oscar winners to offbeat gems. The New Yorker library
is a major source for trailblazing works by international women filmmakers such
as Claire Denis, Lucrecia Martel, Lisa Cholodenko, Agnes Jaoui, Susanne Bier,
Euzhan Palcy, and Margarethe von Trotta. It also features essential titles by
leading lights of the American indie renaissance. A distinctive feature of the
library is its devotion to accumulating works by important individual directors -
- a policy especially suited to retrospectives and university courses. Here you
will find an extensive collection of films by such seminal cinéastes as Alea,
Almodóvar, Godard, Herzog, Sembene, Straub, Tanner, and Zhang Yimou.

In 1989, New Yorker Films extended its tradition of quality into the video
market. An average of twenty new titles per year are released on DVD/
Blu-ray, representing a broad selection of the best in classic, foreign, and
independent cinema.

One of the more exciting recent developments at New Yorker Films is the

creation of a new division called Metro Releasing, a genre division with the same
discerning sensibilities of New Yorker past/present, that will also appeal to niche
audiences.

In a time when the term "independent" has been loosely applied to subsidiaries
of giant conglomerates, New Yorker stands as one of the most durable,
important, and truly independent film distributors. In its fourth decade, New
Yorker Films still represents the vanguard of film distribution in the United States.

4
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