Tom RostonIndependent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @DocSoupMan.

Doc Soup: An Open Letter to Fisher Stevens

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Hi Fisher,

The CoveI want to congratulate you on your huge accomplishment in producing The Cove. It’s a fantastic film. It unspools like a great thriller and it captures a terrible wrong on tape — it does everything I think a great documentary should do. Your Oscar nomination is well deserved, and I have been watching with great interest since you were designated as one of the two nominees for the film, along with director Louie Psihoyos. The parade of Oscar events and parties must be dizzying. It must have also been great to be anointed a producer of the year, along with your co-producer Paula DuPré Presmen, by the Producers Guild of America. What a great year for you!

But I also just wanted to mention that I felt a little weird about an interview I noticed you did with back in August. In the interview, you talked about how Psihoyos had been working on the doc for years when he gave you a two and a half hour hour cut, of which only 15 minutes made it to the final cut of The Cove. You turned it all around, you said, and refocused the film on the actual “cove” and activist Ric O’Barry, turning it, in your words, from a “preachy” and “typical boring, documentary” into an “eco-Ocean’s Eleven.”

I mean, you’re basically saying that you made this movie the great movie that it is! It calls to mind a conversation I once had with producer Larry Turman (The Graduate) when I was editing a story he wrote for Premiere magazine about what it means to be a producer, and how it’s so hard to define what a producer does. I recall laughing with Larry about how, at the same time producers never get credit, they are always claiming credit for their films. Ironic, isn’t it?

And then, there you were, talking to TreeHugger, telling them in very specific detail about what you did for The Cove. I noticed that other reports on the film from more mainstream outlets didn’t really catch this drift. I’m not sure if it’s because they missed the story or if they didn’t think it was important. But I do.

The reason is because I think you should be praised for the singular achievement. In fact, I think you deserve to win the Oscar. (I should note here that POV is behind two of your rivals — Food, Inc. and The Most Dangerous Man in America — but you still get my vote!) I know you’ve been acting a lot, and people loved you in Lost, but I have to say that what you did for The Cove is really remarkable.

Still, I have to ask: is Psihoyos cool with your claims in TreeHugger? I believe your points are legit, so I bet he is, but I just wish I could see a quote from him backing up your assertions. I’m all for producers getting more credit for really shaping a film, but that doesn’t seem to be the way of the world, does it?

With Psihoyos supporting you, then you can avoid the suggestion of hubris that plagues producers everywhere — but that shouldn’t dog such a high-minded film as The Cove. I think you’re better than that. I know your movie certainly is.


Doc Soup Man

Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki