Wormwood

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Errol Morris & Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Errol Morris
Guests: 
Merrill Garbus

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Errol Morris on his new Netflix "hybrid" documentary series 'Wormwood'

Errol Morris is a legendary filmmaker with dozens of tv and film credits. In 2004, his film "The Fog of War" won an Oscar for best documentary film. Perhaps Morris is best known for his unique interview style, and his invention of the interrotron, which allows his subjects to see him while they are being filmed straight on. And of course, he is known for yelling questions off screen to his subjects.

Morris has a way of painting portraits of people in his films that's incredibly vulnerable. A perfect example of this is his first documentary "Gates of Heaven" released in 1978. It’s a film about pet cemeteries, and the connection people feel to their deceased pets. The documentary told through interviews of pet owners, and it's unnarrated. Some of his films, like "The Thin Blue Line" try to find objective truth. That film ultimately helped secure a innocent man's freedom from prison.

His films are nuanced, they're funny, they're tragic, and always fascinating. His latest project is a six-part miniseries for Netflix called "Wormwood." The series explores the CIA LSD experiments in the late 1950's, and the effects on a man named Frank Olson, a CIA employee and biochemist, who inexplicably jumped out a window to his death from a New York Hotel room in 1953. The story is mostly told through interviews of Frank’s son, Eric, who's worked for years to uncover the truth. The series is kind of a departure for Errol's signature style -- it blends dramatic reenactments and real life interviews.

Errol sits down with Jesse and they discuss the nature of truth, camera angles, and his new documentary, "Wormwood."

Listen to Errol's interview on YouTube!

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons:
Jason Perss

Song That Changed My Life: Merrill Garbus of the band Tune-Yards

Merrill Garbus of the band Tune-Yards on the song that changed her life -- "Moliva" by Johnny Clegg. Tune-Yards will be touring this Spring, and their new album "I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life" will be released on January 19. For more information visit their website.

Listen to this segment on YouTube!

The Outshot: The Commitments

Finally, for this week's Outshot: "The Commitments." Jesse tells us about a film his father and stepmother loved. Jesse never saw the film as a teenager. Few weeks ago, Jesse bought the VHS tape at a thrift store, and it turns out his dad and my stepmother had every right to love the 1991 film "The Commitments."

The Turnaround: Errol Morris

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Errol Morris

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 15th.

Jesse's guest this week is documentarian Errol Morris.

Errol Morris is a critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker who has dozens of film and tv credits to his name. He won an Oscar for his 2003 film, The Fog of War, and has taken home many other awards for his films.


Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Morris has a really unique interview style that becomes very apparent to anyone who has seen one of his films or television ads. He invented a machine called an interrotron to assist him when interviewing, which allows his subjects to see him to look into his eyes while being filmed straight on. He is also known for yelling questions off screen, and those moments making it into the final edit.

Errol's films often transcend the barrier of the theater screen and jump into reality. One of his most well known films Thin Blue Line, which was about a young man convicted of shooting a police officer and was maintaining his innocence, has been attributed to the man's release the from prison the next year.

Errol and Jesse talk about how he got into interviewing, and in particular his time spent interviewing mass murderers, before he was a documentary film maker. Errol tells Jesse about the impact Truman Capote had on his career. Finally, they discuss his other career, making television commercials, and about how he learned his greatest interviewing tip: to shut the fuck up.

Errol has a new Netflix program Wormwood debuting which is being called a "hybrid series" of real life interviews and dramatizations set to come out later this year. You should also check out one of Jesse's favorite projects from Errol's, a docuseries made in partnership with ESPN called It's Not Crazy, It's Sports.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

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