SxSW 2018 Interview: GARRY WINOGRAND: ALL THINGS ARE PHOTOGRAPHABLE director Sasha Waters Freyer

Garry Winogrand: At SxSW 2018


“Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable is about one of the great photographers of the 20th century.  If you’re a fan of street photography, you probably already know (and love) his work. But it’s also likely that you’ve never heard of him before.  He was celebrated in his lifetime with solo shows in major museums and several books of his work, but forgotten after his sudden death in 1984. He took a million pictures in the pre-digital era, a quarter of which he never saw himself.  In the digital age, we all work in his legacy, whether we know it or not, as his “snapshot aesthetic,” once mocked by fine art critics, is now the universal language of picture making. The film introduces fans to never-before seen discoveries from the archives, including intimate audio recordings and home movies.  Newcomers to Winogrand will be enthralled by this charismatic, complicated man of his time, who both personified his era and transformed it.” Director Sasha Waters Freyer on GARRY WINOGRAND which screens at the 2018 edition of SxSW.

Congratulations on your film playing in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes and yes!  So thrilled to attend SXSW for the first time, and to premiere this film in Austin, where Garry Winogrand lived and taught, at UT, in the 1970s.

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I was very lucky early in my career to have wonderful mentors in filmmaking in New York, working with legendary documentarian Barbara Kopple and cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, as well as filmmakers Michael Almereyda and Sasha Alpert among others.  After graduate school in Philadelphia, I gravitated towards film education, teaching first at the University of Iowa and now at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond. My “day job” in teaching has allowed me to explore more personal, artisanal, avant-garde filmmaking, mainly in 16mm, but I have continued to occasionally make longer form docs with a more experimental edge.  My last feature doc, “Chekhov for Children,” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 2010.


How did this project come together for you?

This project was inspired by wanting to see something that didn’t already exist:  a documentary on Garry Winogrand. I wondered why it hadn’t been made, given that he was such an influential artist in his day.  When I reached out the the folks who manage his estate, I discovered no one had ever asked! The estate was incredible to work with – trusting and generous, always willing to answer questions, but also very hands off.  It was really an ideal experience in that sense. The early funding for the film came from the National Endowment for the Arts. Those kinds of grants are time-consuming, it’s a long, slow process between submitting the application and the release of funds.  So it was almost two years between my first spark of interest in the project and the first day of actual filming, which commenced in August 2015. I love in-depth research, so it was great to have all that time to dig into Garry and his work, both at the archives in Tucson, online, in books and in pre-interviews with so many who knew him. Editing and production happened simultaneously over 18 months, with the final interviews filmed in April 2017.  A successful Kickstarter in spring 2017, as well as American Masters Pictures coming on board later that year, allowed me to license some absolutely sensational music, and to complete post just in the nick of time to submit to SXSW.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

Being surrounded by super smart and generous students, colleagues and creative friends who are willing to give honest, critical feedback on rough cut after rough cut really keeps me going.  Especially since I am the editor of most of my films, as well as the producer/director, it’s crucial to making the work the best it can be. Seeing it through the “fresh eyes” of others I trust, being able to step away for a time before digging back into the edit, is such a gift.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

Every filmmaker I know who has launched a Kickstarter campaign warned me of the agony, the challenges, and the immense amount of work needed to make it happen.  I did my research but when it launched it was overwhelming and emotionally exhausting. Honestly, I almost gave up about a week before it ended, convinced it would fail, but then a few friends – excellent filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Mitch McCabe among them, as well as some long time photo world friends – pushed me hard, promoted the Kickstarter as tirelessly as if it were their own and simply would not let it fail – and it didn’t! Since then, whenever a friend is doing a online funding campaign I try to help as much as I can, to “pay it forward” as it were.


I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

Visually, the movie is unusual in that it is primarily black-and-white photographs. Seeing nearly 400 images by Winogrand, especially on the big screen, allows the viewer to become immersed in the wild wit, pathos and intricacy of his work made across several decades.  These images are complemented by color home movies by Winogrand from the era, and some images by his photography contemporaries as well. However, the dozen interviews we filmed with D.P. Eddie Marritz are crucial to unpacking the artist’s legacy. Working with Eddie was amazing because he is both skilled cinematographer and very knowledgable and talented photographer in his own right.  His good natured, unflappable vibe contributed enormously to setting a relaxed, intimate space for our interviews with Garry’s closest companions.


What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?


The audience!  The dedicated, enthusiastic and smart viewers at SXSW are legendary.


After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

The movie will be released in theaters in later summer or early fall, and be broadcast on the PBS series “American Masters” in early 2019.


If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

Film Forum in New York.  I am a native New Yorker and even when I was my brokest broke self struggling young filmmaker in the ’90s, I always maintained my membership at Film Forum.


What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?


Leaving halfway is cool with me, actually, much better than texting.  To that I hope I would politely request the person stop texting – or leave!


We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Find your people.  People you can trust, people who love the same things you do, people who hate the same things you do. Help and support one another, give honest, loving criticism of each other’s screenplays or treatments or film projects.  Feed your crew well and thank people profusely and be polite. My parents are from the south and the midwest and I can’t overemphasize the importance of gracious civility. Also, if and when you have real, professional interest in your work from people outside your circle, find a great lawyer.


And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

I saw the documentary WESTERN by Bill and Turner Ross at Indie Grits a few years ago and found it breathtaking.

Website, Social Media & Screening Information all available on the official Facebook page! 


SXSW Screenings:
Monday, March 12, 11:00 am – Alamo Ritz
Tuesday, March 13, 11:00 am – Alamo Lamar
Thursday, March 15, 12:00 pm – Alamo Lamar


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