Barry Poltermann | Editor/Story Supervisor

Whirlybird

(Feature Documentary, Premiere Sundance Film Festival 2020)

Flying high above Los Angeles in a whirling news helicopter, Marika Gerrard and Zoey Tur (known then as Bob) captured some of the city’s most epic breaking news stories. The two recount the salacious details of their career as a husband-and-wife journalist team doing whatever it took to catch an unfolding story. Their camera captured the extreme adrenaline of the culture of live news and, as a result, the strain it took on their relationship—and, ultimately, a major life transition for Zoey. A wholly unique take on the story of Los Angeles told through stunning aerial footage and remarkable home videos, Whirlybird reframes many of the city’s pivotal moments of the 1990s, including the O. J. Simpson pursuit and the 1992 riots.

In Matt Yoka’s sprawling debut feature, he deftly mirrors the peaks and valleys of one unique American family to the city of Los Angeles, showcasing their parallel growing pains and their search for a sense of self. Whirlybird is a completely original and intricately woven tapestry that reveals the agony and the ecstasy of breaking news.

Director: Matt Yoka

Editor: Brian Palmer

Co-Editor: Matt Yoka

Story Supervisor: Barry Poltermann

Additional Editor: Erin Elders

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I Am Not Alone

(Feature Documentary, Winner Audience Award, TIFF 2019)

The 2018 Armenian revolution fuels Garin Hovannisian’s gripping documentary about a modern-day political power struggle and the citizen activists who refused to accept it.

This galvanizing chronicle of the 2018 Armenian revolution combines gripping front-line reportage with new interviews that describe incidents the cameras could not capture. Hugely informative, briskly paced, and offering a laudable balance of perspectives, I Am Not Alone is a feat of nonfiction storytelling and a must-see for anyone eager to make sense of recent history.

In March of last year, after changing the constitution to bestow new powers upon the Prime Minister, the Republican Party declared that it would allow Serzh Sargsyan to continue his dominion over the Republic of Armenia as PM, despite having already served his maximum two terms as President. Nikol Pashinyan, Member of Parliament and head of the Civil Contract Party — and also a former journalist who had already served a year in prison for inciting public disorder in rallying people against Sargsyan’s rule — wasted no time in responding to the news.

He led a two-week march from Gyumri to Yerevan’s Liberty Square. It would prove to be but the first in a series of daring demonstrations of resistance, including the storming of the national broadcaster and numerous clashes between demonstrators and police.Helmed by Garin Hovannisian (codirector of 1915, which re-examines the Armenian genocide), I Am Not Alone extracts fascinating commentaries from an array of individuals on both sides, including Pashinyan and, most surprisingly, Sargsyan. Defying one interview subject’s characterization of Armenians as a people “who had forgotten how to dream,” the film ably demonstrates that fundamental change brought about by the people can be made manifest.— THOM POWERS

Editor Barry Poltermann

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Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

(Documentary Feature, 2017, Premiere Venice International Film Festival)

In 1999, Milos Forman cast Jim Carrey to play cult comedian Andy Kaufman in the biopic Man on the Moon-but only after Carrey had convinced the renowned Czech director by nailing Kaufman in an audition. When Carrey heard that he had the part, he was in Malibu looking out at the ocean. What would Kaufman say? Carrey wondered before deciding that Kaufman would communicate telepathically. At that moment, a pod of some thirty dolphins broke the surface of the sea-and Carrey’s odyssey into Kaufman began.

Jim Carrey earned critical acclaim and a Golden Globe for the performance, but many of the production’s most Kaufmanesque moments played out behind the scenes, thankfully captured on video by Andy’s former girlfriend, Lynne Margulies and former writing partner, Bob Zmuda. In Jim & Andy, Carrey looks back at the resulting footage 18 years later, reflecting on how he and Andy came up in oddly parallel universes, his experience channelling Andy and Tony, and more broadly the spiritual journey of his career.

Production Company: Vice Documentary Films & Netflix

Producers: Brendan Fitzgerald, Danny Gabai and Spike Jonze

Director: Chris Smith

Editor: Barry Poltermann

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Zedd: True Colors

(Documentary Feature, 2016, Premiere LA Film Festival)

A countdown hits zero and EDM fans hit the ground running, scouring the city for clues to be the first to get exclusive tickets. Their destination? They have no idea.

Embark on a journey with multi-platinum, Grammy winning, electronic dance music artist ZEDD. From his classically trained roots, through his brief career in a metal band, to stepping on the stage of the biggest music festivals in the world, ZEDD has shot up the charts to mega-pop stardom. Ride along with some of ZEDD’s most passionate fans as he explores new territory with his latest album, ‘True Colors,’ and get to meet him as they did – up-close, personal and performing like you’ve never seen him before.

A 42 Entertainment / Zedd Music Production

Director/Producers: Susan Bonds & Alex Lieu

Editor: Barry Poltermann

Trailer Editor: Matt Prekop

 

 

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Raiders!

(Documentary Feature, 2015, Premiere SXSW)

There’s a good reason why TV and movies have adopted the disclaimer “Remember kids, don’t try this at home.” As inventive as they were impressionable, pint-sized super-fans Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb nearly killed themselves on multiple occasions attempting to remake the first Indiana Jones movie, breaking it down shot-for-shot and filming each scene as best as their limited resources would allow over the course of eight summers. The result has become the stuff of fan legend, inspiring magazine articles, movie deals and what feels like the perfect Hollywood ending, which the geek-bait documentary “Raiders!” reveals for the first time, as the original trip reunite a quarter-century later to finish the airplane scene they deemed too difficulte to film as kids. Often poignant, occasionally pathetive, but never short of entertaining, “Raiders!” captures the obbsessive hold movies have on young people’s imaginations, as exemplefied by such pics as “Son of Rambow,” “Super 8” and the upcoming “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

Today, Zala’s son is roughly the age his father was in 1981 when he and best friend Strompolos hatched their ambitious fan-film project. “I think it’s amazing that Steven Spielberg needed $20 million to make ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my dad only needed his allowance,” the kid says in the documentary, which clearly shares that same charitable affection toward a project undertaken in total earnestness and executed with almost reckless naivete.

It would be easy to treat Zala, Strompolos and especially Lamb (their truly eccentric vfx maestro) as comic figures, the way “American Movie” and “The Disaster Artist” presented their inept indie-filmmaker subjects. For directors Jeremy Coon (a producer on “Napoleon Dynamite”) and Tim Skousen, however, “Raiders!” represents something more than an excuse to poke fun. These two seem genuinely inspired by the kids’ story and eager to do it justice, balancing a respectful retelling of how the project came to be (supported by amusing anecdotes and priceless outtakes) with genuinely encouraging coverage of the amateur filmmakers’ most dangerous stunt yet: their decision to complete “the lost airplane scene” all these years later — the one where the bald Nazi backs into the propeller and gets sprayed across the cockpit of the Flying Wing, before everything blows sky-high.

In many ways, the story behind the “Raiders” adaptation has outgrown the film itself, which is sampled somewhat sparingly. Back in 1989, Strompolos’ mom organized a small public screening of her son’s home-movie tribute in Mississippi, but the boys’ friendship was already on the skids — for personal reasons which the documentary explores, doing a remarkable job of not shying away from the double-crosses, drug addiction and disappointments that followed (nor the divorces, abuse and psychological motivations that likely enabled it in the first place). The trio had closed the door on that chapter in their lives when Eli Roth got his hands on a VHS copy of the film and brought it to Butt-Numb-A-Thon, Harry Knowles’ 24-hour binge-viewing geekstravaganza, in 2002.

Both Coon and producer Scott Rudin have expressed an interest in making scripted versions of the “Raiders” adaptation story, and the docu digs deep enough to show where the heart of such a project could be. As cover versions go, this amateur tribute can’t touch the original “Raiders” (though the airplane scene, which unspools over the end credits, is a huge improvement over the VHS footage they shot as kids), but there’s no question that it boasts a much better behind-the-scenes story — one whose divided-family dynamic and corny group-hug ending further echo Spielberg’s unmatched influence on a generation of filmmakers.

Peter Debruge, Variety

A Jeremy Coon Production

Directed and Produced by Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon

Edited by Barry Poltermann

Official Site

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Collapse

(Documentary Feature, 2009, Premiere TIFF)

Meet Michael Ruppert, a different kind of American. A former Los Angeles police officer turned independent reporter, he predicted the 2008 financial crisis in his self-published newsletter, From the Wilderness, at a time when most of Wall Street and Washington analysts were still in denial.

The current documentary landscape is chockfull of doom-laden scenarios of every stripe: If global warming (An Inconvenient Truth) doesn’t get you, then maybe genetically engineered Frankenfoods (Food, Inc.), will. Or contaminated water (Flow). Or crushing personal (Maxed Out) and national (I.O.U.S.A.) debt. But few apocalyptic visions are as comprehensive and frighteningly assured as the one offered by Michael Ruppert, the subject of Chris Smith’s mesmerizing new documentary Collapse. A former Los Angeles police officer turned independent reporter, Ruppert has chased big stories for his self-published newsletter, From The Wilderness, on everything from CIA involvement in drug trafficking to the current economic crisis, which he claims to have predicted long before it gobsmacked the mainstream media. His latest obsession is the issue of “peak oil,” the concern that oil production has reached its apex, and as fossil fuels decline, our entire industrial and economical infrastructure will collapse along with it.

Shooting the tortured, chain-smoking Ruppert inside what looks like a bunker, Smith’s film takes the form of Errol Morris’ The Fog Of War, illustrating long, feverishly intense monologues with dazzling montages. Ruppert may appear like just another crackpot, the sort of obscure, raving prophet who regularly offers up worst-case scenarios in Glenn Beck’s War Room. (Or Stephen Colbert’s Doom Bunker, for that matter.) But he isn’t an ideologue, which makes his Chicken Little panic more authentic—as do his confident voice and meticulously crafted arguments. The scope of his argument is suspiciously immense, yet thought through to the smallest detail; every time a “Yeah, but” question comes up (as in “Yeah, but what about these alternative energy sources?” or “Yeah, but what about human innovation?”), Ruppert has an answer. “I don’t deal in conspiracy theory,” he says. “I deal in conspiracy fact.”

That said—and this is important to remember—Collapse is by no means an endorsement of Ruppert’s worldview. Smith (American Movie) has enough faith in his audience to allow them to sort it out for themselves. He gives Ruppert the floor, but his occasional interjections question whether his subject has walled himself into an argument by accepting only the information that supports his point of view. And in several exceptionally poignant moments, he also allows us to see an angry, lonely, vulnerable man whose life epitomizes the title as much as the globe does. There are many layers to the man and the movie, and it’s hard not to leave the theater shaken.

Scott Tobias, The Onion / AV Club

A Library Films Production

Directed by Chris Smith

Produced by Kate Noble & Chris Smith

Edited by Barry Poltermann

Music By Joe Wong & Didier Leplae

Official Site

 

 

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The Pool

(Dramatic Feature, 2007, Winner SUNDANCE Jury Prize)

A boy in abject poverty works in a hotel and becomes obsessed with a swimming pool in the opulent hills of Panjim, Goa, India. His life gets turned upside-down when he attempts to meet the mysterious family who lives at the house. Winner of the 2007 Sundance Special Dramatic Jury Prize.

You can also check out an excerpt from the “Behind The Scenes” documentary here… directed and edited by Chris James Thompson.

A Library Films Production

Directed & Photographed by Chris Smith

Written by Chris Smith & Randy Russell

Produced by Kate Noble

Edited by Barry Poltermann

Music By Joe Wong & Didier Leplae

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The Life of Reilly

(Documentary Feature, 2006, Premiere SXSW)

As a child, game-show fixture Charles Nelson Reilly had a lobotomized aunt, an institutionalized father, a racist mother, and was the only gay kid on the block. So how did he end up a Tony winner, a staple of television, and a generational icon? The Life Of Reilly is his funny, sad, surprising, and ultimately touching life story.

With equal measures of prickly wit, gleeful pride and bemused gratitude, Charles Nelson Reilly looks back at his life, and invites his audience to share the view, in this thoroughly engaging filmization of his one-man stage show.

Helmers Frank Anderson and Barry Poltermann wisely refrain from efforts to “open up” the stage production. Instead, they simply train their cameras on the casually-attired star as he offers a free-wheeling series of autobiographical anecdotes about his misadventures as talkshow gadfly, sitcom co-star, quiz show regular and, not incidentally, Tony Award-winning Broadway vet.

For auds who know him only from television, pic’s biggest surprises may be Reilly’s stories about studying acting under Uta Hagen — with Jason Robards and Hal Holbrook as classmates — and his own experiences as a thesping coach. (He nabbed a Tony nomination for directing Julie Harris in a 1997 revival of “The Gin Game.”)

When he describes how he silenced a snooty talkshow guest by powerfully rendering a “Hamlet” soliloquy, Reilly gets a big laugh. At the same time, though, aud can’t help wondering if maybe the irrepressibly comical Reilly always possessed under-valued (and seldom utilized) dramatic chops as an actor.

Except for some fleetingly serious scenes — recollections of a troubled childhood, and miraculous escape from a 1944 circus fire — the tone is light, bright and shamelessly dishy. There’s a suggestion of still-simmering anger when he recalls a brutal brush-off by an NBC talent scout in the early 1950s: “They don’t let queers on television.” Ultimately, however, “Life of Reilly” is vivid proof that living well, and laughing heartily, can be the best revenge.

Joe Leydon, VARIETY

You can also check out our ‘behind the scenes’ of the shoot available here.

Directed by Barry Poltermann & Frank Anderson

Edited by Barry Poltermann

Music by Frank Anderson

Producers: David Dahlman, Steve Farr, Adrian Selkowitz, John Lyons Murphy, Bob Fagan, Wrye Martin, Carrie Heckman, Peter McDonnell

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American Movie

(Documentary Feature, 1999, Winner SUNDANCE Grand Prize)

On the northwest side of Milwaukee, Mark Borchardt dreams the American dream: for him, it’s making movies. Using relatives, local theater talent, slacker friends, his Mastercard, and $3,000 from his Uncle Bill, Mark strives over three years to finish Coven, a short horror film.

Meet Mark Borchardt, the funny, garrulous subject of the not-to-be-missed documentaryAmerican Movie. He’s someone you won’t soon forget. He has dedicated himself to making a no-budget black-and-white horror film that features homemade scarecrows and primitive acting, one that’s not about to rival The Blair Witch Project in anything but the expletive department.

But that doesn’t matter. The point is that Borchardt cobbles together this project as if his life depended on it, because it does. Insightfully and stirringly, not to mention hilariously, American Movie shows why.

“The American Dream stays with me each and every day,” Borchardt says when he speaks of his motivation. And he likes to drive past big, sterile new houses to illustrate what that dream means. But as captured here so intimately by Chris Smith, Borchardt is already living through a much darker and more authentically American story. As hard as he works to attain what he wants, he’s struggling even harder to escape what he has.

Because American Movie is the rare documentary that combines a wildly charismatic subject with an elegant structure, it begins very simply, with the lanky, long-haired Borchardt talking about his big ambitions. (“If he is able to do even 25 percent of what he says, that is more than most people accomplish,” a girlfriend later says of him.)

Then the film starts to open, like a slow iris shot, onto the larger landscape of his life. When it comes to obstacles, he has a brother who announces that Borchardt would have been best suited for a factory job. And that’s just for starters.

Smith, who made the film working closely with Sarah Price, builds a surprising amount of suspense and even shock into this documentary’s gradual revelations about its subject. By the time Borchardt is seen doing a dead-end job at a cemetery and describing the worst kind of work he’s ever been faced with, the film has built up an enormous amount of empathy and hope for him.

But even those parts of American Movie that display the most Crumb-like poignancy have their share of affectionate humor. Take Uncle Bill Borchardt, the only family member who might conceivably lend Mark any money.

Mark Borchardt woos his uncle into the movie business by flashing a picture of a pretty young actress and announcing, “She wants to be in your movie, Bill.” Almost before Bill can exclaim, “Oh, my gosh,” he has been enlisted as the producer of “Coven,” which his nephew likes to mispronounce as KO-ven because he doesn’t want it to rhyme with oven. When he gets an idea, he tends to stick with it all the way.

“I see great cinema in this,” he says at one point, causing the woozy, pitifully fragile Bill to ask, “Cinnamon?” Smith has a wonderful ear for moments like that and does an expert job of extracting them from the 70 hours of film he originally shot.

Because Borchardt had been recruiting friends and relatives for projects like “The Creeps,” “I Blow Up” and “The More the Scarier III” since he was 14, everyone here is very comfortable with a camera rolling, and very revealing.

Borchardt’s friend Mike Schank, who seems to have wandered in dazed from a Kevin Smith movie, tells about a near-death experience on drugs. Then he giggles nervously and offers to tell some more. While Borchardt struggles to overcome a history of alcoholism, Schank goes him one better. He has an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who also drives him to Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

American Movie begins with Borchardt’s ambition to make an autobiographical film called “Northwestern,” American Movie which is meant to be an ambitious exploration of his upbringing in Milwaukee. Since this soon proves to be a non-starter, he vows to raise the money for it by completing “Coven” and selling 3,000 video copies.

It is soon revealed that this won’t be easy, as Borchardt lies in the snow filming friends in black hooded capes (“Now you guys gotta look menacing!” he directs), bungles a scene in which a cabinet door is supposed to break on a friend’s head, and otherwise shows why the road to a finished “Coven” is full of potholes.

By the time American Movie completes its own mission, it has blossomed wonderfully into much more than a portrait of one fiendishly determined filmmaker. For anyone wondering where the spirit of maverick independent filmmaking has its source, you need look no further.

Janet Maslin, THE NEW YORK TIMES

A Library Films Production

Directed by Chris Smith

Produced by Sarah Price

Edited by Jun Diaz & Barry Poltermann

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