A new documentary film by Jane Weiner on the legendary documentary film pioneer, Ricky Leacock.
RICKY on LEACOCK by Jane Weiner
"The most difficult discipline is to film what is there and not what is supposed to be there." Ricky Leacock, 14 February 1974
In 1972, Ricky put a Super 8 synch-sound camera in my hand and said, “If you want to become a filmmaker, you have to shoot.” Turning my lens on him, I was suddenly transported into another universe: What began as a filmic conversation developed into a filmic adventure that traces the roots of Leacock’s cinematic quest and his role in documentary-making over the last century.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
RICKY on LEACOCK is a 38-year journey that I began as a novice filmmaker, shooting off and on during the intervening years, filming various encounters with Ricky and his contemporaries. Mixing my own footage with film clips and never-before-seen images from Ricky’s personal film archives, this film pays homage to my friend and mentor and, most importantly, allows him to tell his story in his own words.
Presented as an intimate, on-going cinematic conversation with me and other filmmakers, Leacock recounts the periods of his career spent with Robert Flaherty, Robert Drew, DA Pennebaker and others, during which he discusses the roots of his lifelong quest to capture “the feeling of being there.”
Ricky Leacock helped lay the foundation not only for today's filmmakers, but for amateur filmmakers all over the world who use portable equipment and new technologies. His pioneering role in the development of hand-held, observational documentary films can be traced through several important eras in film history to the explosion of the small-format ‘being there’ filmmaking of our YouTube generation.
COMPLETING THE FILM WITH YOUR HELP
Since Ricky’s recent death, people from all over the world have been asking when I’ll finish this film. With small grants (LEF and NEA), private donations from friends, and lots of good will, I’ve managed to piece together some work-in-progress screenings for tributes to Ricky.
Finally, with the generosity of the post-production facility AS’Image in Paris we’ve made a high-resolution digital transfer of my 15 hours of Super 8 Synch Sound footage using the Kinetta Archival Scanner. I’m now ready to go back into the edit room and finish the film, but we need your help.
By choosing one of our Pledge options, you will receive the corresponding item/experience as a token of our gratitude, but most importantly, you will help honor Leacock’s legacy and will have contributed to bringing this great work to the world.
HOW YOUR MONEY WILL BE USED
We’re asking for your help in raising the funds to complete the film. Our goal for this campaign is $25,000. That’s less than the $130,000 we need to completely finish the film, but it’s enough to get the film ready for submissions to the many film festivals that have asked to see it. If we are able to raise more, it will help us with the next tasks - licensing, distribution and outreach. Here’s a breakdown of how we plan to use the funds we raise:
For $25,000 we can pay our editor to finish the film and prepare a high quality file (digibeta) for festival submissions. This will allow us to get the film seen and will help us to raise the rest of our funding.
If we raise more than $25,000 we can accomplish the following:
- Color correction and titles;
- Sound Design and Mix;
- Digital Master;
- Secure Licensing Fees for Film Clips;
- Secure Music Rights;
OTHER WAYS TO HELP
The best way that you can help is to spread awareness of our campaign. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your co-workers, tell everyone. Make a blog post, send a tweet, use email, let people know on Facebook, or use simple word-of-mouth.
I, along with our whole team, truly appreciate any support you can give.
MORE ON RICKY’S INFLUENCE AND LEGACY
Technically gifted and constantly innovating, Ricky Leacock was always one step ahead of the crowd. Working with DA Pennebaker, Robert Drew, Terry Macartney-Filgate and Albert Maysles, in the late ‘50s, he was a key member of the team that created technical and aesthetic breakthroughs that launched the Cinema vérité documentary movement.
Then, in the late ‘80s, Leacock was one of the first to start experimenting with small-format video – a move that, at the time, many die-hards scoffed at -- complaining that, when compared to film, the image quality of video was pretty bad – but this was a decision he never regretted, cheerfully calling it, “totally liberating!”
As protégé of the director-cameraman of NANOOK OF THE NORTH and LOUISIANA STORY, Ricky credits his mentor, Robert Flaherty with teaching him how “not just to look, but how to really see.”
Many associate Ricky with the Leacock-Pennebaker 1968 classic concert film MONTEREY POP, one of the first chronicles of the pop music festivals, and with PRIMARY, widely-recognized as America’s first ‘Cinema vérité’ documentary – featuring its behind-the-scenes access to John F. Kennedy-Hubert Humphrey race in the 1960 Wisconsin primaries. As co-founder of the ‘Film Section’ at MIT, Leacock’s approach was adopted by hundreds of young documentary enthusiasts. But his lasting legacy is as one of the pioneers of the Direct Cinema style of documentary filmmaking.
Never relying on special effects or tricks of camera or editing, Ricky filmed things as they were. Observing rather than confronting, even in the most challenging and contentious circumstances – such as, filming on both sides the Civil Rights Movement – he always relied on real dialogue, real surroundings, and real situations to allow the people themselves show their strengths, foibles, curiosities, and ironies.
Ultimately, it’s “the feeling of being there” that filmmaker Richard Leacock brings to audiences with his documentaries.
When Ricky Leacock died March of 2011, a flood of articles around the world noted his passing, but in America, Slant Magazine summed it up this way:
“In all the hullabaloo over the death of Elizabeth Taylor last week, you may have missed that Richard Leacock died the day after she did. Leacock was a towering figure in the history of documentary, and he may have had more influence than Taylor on film, both documentary and fiction, and on America itself.”
Today, the ‘Direct cinema’ style is used in every genre of film and television today, but few people outside the industry are aware that Ricky Leacock was one of its key architects.
RICKY on LEACOCK is a production of JDB Films, Inc., New York and Striana, Paris
Filmmaker: Jane Weiner
Editors: Jane Weiner and Sebastiàn Eyherabide
Executive Producers: Diane Markrow and Antoine Disle
Learn more about Richard Leacock.
For those of you wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact us by clicking on the contact button on the right side of this page.
Thanks in advance for any support you can offer. We’re working hard – everyday – in the editing room and I can hardly wait to share this magical film with you.
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