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Chris Hegedus


Chris Hegedus

Filmmaker Chris Hegedus

Pennebaker Hegedus Films

The Quote:

"I think what drew me to documentaries was that they were handmade… you could do it yourself. That was very much an art model – you don't have people paint your paintings for you."

The Basics:

Chris Hegedus was born in 1952, studied art at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and has co-directed more than a dozen documentary films with D.A. Pennebaker, her producing partner and--since they married in 1982--husband. As a team, they produce their movies under the umbrella of their company, Pennebaker Hegedus Films. They live in New York and teach film at Yale University.

The Story:

Hegedus began her career as film a director by making experimental art movies while she was an art student at Vassar. Both her subject matter and cinematic style changed completely in the 1970s, shortly after she moved to New York, began filming political events and met her future collaborator, partner and husband, D.A. Pennebaker. Hegedus always co-directs projects--mostly frequently with Pennebaker or Nick Doob. Hegedus and her collaborators are best known for documentary film profiles of famous, influential people and events that shape their lives, or of rock musicians and noted concerts such as Woodstock.

Filmography -- Projects co-directed with D.A. Pennebaker:

  • Energy War (1977)
  • Town Bloody Hall: A Dialogue on Women's Liberation (1979)
  • DeLorean (1981)
  • Rockaby (1983)
  • Jimi Plays Monterey (1986)
  • Depeche Mode 101 (1989)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis: The Story of Rock & Roll (1991)
  • The Music Tells You (1992)
  • The War Room (1993)
  • Keine Zeit (1996)
  • Moon Over Broadway (1997)
  • Searching for Jimi Hendrix (1999)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock (1999)
  • Only the Strong Survive (2002)

Filmography -- Projects co-directed with other filmmakers:

  • Jimi Hendrix Live (1989) - co-directed with Erez Laufer
  • Woodstock Diary (1994)- co-directed with Erez Laufer
  • Down from the Mountain (2000) - co-directed with Nick Doob
  • Startup.com (2001) – co-directed with Jehane Noujaim
  • Elaine Stritch: At Liberty (2002)- co-directed with Nick Doob
  • The First Amendment Project (2004) - co-directed with Nick Doob
  • Al Franken: God Spoke (2005)- co-directed with Nick Doob
  • Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl (2006)- co-directed with Nick Doob


  • 2002--Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries for Startup.com, co-directed by Jehane Noujaim, produced by Pennebaker.
  • 2002--International Documentary Association Award for Distinguished Feature Film for Startup.com.

Approach to Filmmaking:

Together with D.A. Pennebaker, who is her partner, collaborator and husband, Chris Hegedus championed the documentary style known as Direct Cinema, in which hand-held cameras are used to capture moving images of people as they are and of events as they occur. The style also entails the use of natural sound that is recorded while the subjects are being filmed.

Recently, continuing with the same style and technique of documentary filmmaking, Hegedus has co-directed films with other documentarians, most notably Nick Doob, while Pennebaker has served as a producer and advisor on current projects.

Hegedus and her co-directors insist upon complete and uncensored access to their subjects, whom they follow for an indefinite length of time, shooting much more footage than they will eventually use in the film's final cut. The extent of their excess footage, which is always carefully preserved, has allowed them to revisit their past subjects. For example, Pennebaker-Hegedus Films is releasing [linkurl=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0945310]65 Revisited, a brand new DVD remake of Pennebaker's highly acclaimed 1967 film Don't Look Back, about Bob Dylan's career-changing transition from electric to acoustic guitar.

In most of her films, Hegedus and her co-director du jour follow famous musicians like Dylan or Jimi Hendrix, or influential people such as John DeLorean or Al Franken during their stress-laden preparations for major life-changing events. For example, in Al Franken: God Spoke, Hegedus and Doob tail the famous political satirist as heads out on the campaign trail, considering whether to make a serious bid for public office.

In their roles as documenting observers, Hegedus and her co-directors position themselves to remain invisible to the audience--they are never on camera, and they never editorial with their focus or framing during filming, nor with their choices in cutting their footage. Instead of predicting the film's conclusion, they discover it while they are following the film's subject.

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