“The documentary film is one of the most powerful and effective vehicles for human expression ever invented. For over 100 years documentary films have given us a glimpse into worlds we wouldn’t otherwise see. They’ve brought to life serious issues that concern humanity and the world as a whole. And they’ve been an important catalyst for change.”
No pressure there, right guys?
On Thursday, TheBlaze debuted Pursuit of The Truth, a new reality series from Executive Producers Vince Vaughn and Glenn Beck. Focused on finding the next great documentary and documentary filmmaker, Pursuit of The Truth follows contestants as they pitch their ideas and are selected to compete with one another to prove they have storytelling ability and the filmmaking skills to turn their dream into a reality.
On the series premiere, audiences were introduced to several contestants – some of who clearly had what it takes, and a few whose ideas were just a little bit out there (ok, very out there).
One of the most impressive pitches came from Joshua Ligairi, who pitched his idea for “Plan 241”, a documentary about an Alaskan militia leader who gained a cult-like following that were arrested by the FBI for some very questionable rhetoric and the belief that they would commit a crime, even though they didn’t actually do anything.
Josh showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm during his presentation, and the judges were clearly impressed with his resume and thought his concept had a lot of potential. However, his documentary really was dependent on one thing that they weren’t quite sure he could deliver on: access to the people who had been incarcerated. With thousands of applicants and hundreds of people to interview, will the judges decide to let Josh in with that huge question mark on his project?
Watch his pitch and the judges reaction below:
Chris Bell was another standout with a solid background in filmmaking. The man behind the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Bell wants to move from tackling steroids to taking on one of the biggest, and most unspoken, health threats in the world today: prescription drugs. While America is engaged in a war on drugs, there is a lack of awareness of addiction to legal prescription drugs.
The project is a personal one, as Bell’s own brother passed away due to his addiction to prescription drugs.
The filmmakers really liked Bell, citing that he had proven skills and knew how to pitch a compelling story. Chalfen and Hatkoff knew that even without the competition this film would get made, but they wondered if Bell would be able to make it a “great” film that went above and beyond, or would it simply end up being a good film.
Bell also had a pretty creative submission video, dressing up as Hulk Hogan:
And (I think) Clark Kent?
While Josh and Chris may have had the skills, no one had more passion than Jon Eric Anderson. Jon pitched the story of Rodney Nelson and the South Shore Drill Team, who found out that his best friend was killed at the same time he was winning a major competition. Jon proposed focusing on how Rodney and his team came from one of the most deadly neighborhoods in America, yet were able to overcome their environment to excel.
Why does Jon feel like Rodney Nelson’s story is one that needs to be told? Watch his pitch and personal confession to the judges below:
Who would have thought that someone would reveal their past as a low-bottom alcoholic to not only three judges, but the world as well, in order to show the passion they have for their story?
While all the judges were impressed by his passion, Peter Billingsley and Daniel Chalfen were unsure whether Jon would be able to get the pieces he needed, including archival footage of Rodney’s competition, in order to make a compelling documentary. Hatkoff, clearly the champion of the underdogs of the competition, was impressed by Jon’s passion and said he would fight for his documentary.
The most unusual concept came from Angela Hefner, who pitched “Growing Temptations” which focuses on the dangers of homegrown gardening. Hefner believes that compost can have damaging effects on the human body not unlike tobacco.
When the judges started to question Hefner, her idea seemed to fall apart before our very eyes. Is there a scientific foundation for this? No. Who would you interview? I would explain to people and they would nod their head “Yes”.
As Chalfen put it: I don’t even care about a hook, or proof, or science. I care about story – and she’s got no story.
Last up was John Bartosz, whose idea “Gold in September” would seek to tell the story of a deadly childhood illness. The story would focus on the story of Bartosz’s daughter Annie who would be on a mission to raise awareness on childhood cancer.
Bartosz was by far the most passionate presenter, and his pitch concluded with an emotional call to remember the thirty kids who die every week from childhood cancer.
The judges were moved by his story, and believe that Bartosz is so committed to this project that he will find a way to raise awareness on this issue no matter what, but they weren’t sure if it worked as the “next great documentary”.
Next week: The search for the next great documentary film continues in New York and Dallas as more contestants bring their ideas to the judges.
Meet the Judges:
Craig Hatkoff is a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival along with his wife Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro. The largest film festival in North America, the festival was created immediately following the events of September 11th to help revitalize lower Manhattan. In 2010, Craig created and curates the annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards in collaboration with Professor Clayton Christensen, with whom he is Co-founder of the Disruptor Foundation. Craig is Chairman of Turtle Pond Publications LLC, a private entertainment and media based company.
Peter Billingsley is an Emmy and Tony nominated producer and a partner at Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Productions based in Los Angeles, CA. He has executive produced the documentaries Art of Conflict and Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & Nights – Hollywood to the Heartland. Other credits include directing the blockbuster hit Couples Retreat, executive producing Iron Man, Four Christmases, The Break-Up, and the Emmy nominated television show Dinner for Five. He currently is an executive producer on the TBS hit sitcom Sullivan & Son which is entering its third season, and is preparing to direct the feature film Term Life film for Universal Pictures. Billingsley is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Daniel J. Chalfen is a world-renowned producer and documentary filmmaker. He is the co-founder of Naked Edge Films. His recent credits include “State 194” for Participant Media; "The Revisionaries" and “Donor Unknown” for PBS’ Independent Lens; Emmy-nominated “War Don Don” and Oscar short-listed “39 Pounds of Love” for HBO; and “Gone” for Discovery ID. Other credits include the Sarah Jessica Parker Executive Produced “Pretty Old,” the Danny Glover Executive Produced "The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan," “Code of the West,” “Budrus,” and "Meeting Resistance." Chalfen’s forthcoming films include Academy Award nominated director James Spione’s “Silenced,” Gabriel London’s “The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest,” and Meghan O’Hara & Mike Attie’s “In Country.” Chalfen is a voting member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and a Founding Member of the DCTV Cinema Advisory Council.