2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: WHIRLYBIRD

WHIRLYBIRD | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Los Angeles News Service

WHIRLYBIRD
Matt Yoka tells the story of a marriage’s fraying against the backdrop of cutthroat news reporting in 1990s Los Angeles.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

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 OJ 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.

Some Background:

Director/Producer/Co-Editor:

  • Matt Yoka

    Yoka makes his feature directorial debut with this project. He has a background producing series for Vice Media.

Producer:

Co-Producers:

  • Matt Radecki
    Past Sundance docs:

    FINDERS KEEPERS (2015)
    TV JUNKIE (2006, director)

    Radecki won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for TV JUNKIE. Together with co-producer Greg Lanesey, he operates LA postproduction house Different By Design.

  • Greg Lanesey
    Past Sundance docs:

    TV JUNKIE

    Lanesey co-founded LA postproduction house Different By Design with Matt Radecki.

  • Stephen Holmgren
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE VIOLENCE OF A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT SECRETS (2018, short, executive producer)

    Holmgren is an entertainment attorney and producer. He previously was a longtime programmer at Brooklyn’s Union Docs. Holmgren is also executive produced fellow 2020 Sundance documentary feature MAŁNI – TOWARD THE OCEAN, TOWARDS THE SHORE, in New Frontier, and produced Sundance alumni fiction projects DEEP ASTRONOMY AND THE ROMANTIC SCIENCES and I USED TO BE DARKER.

Associate Producers:

Executive Producers:

  • Molly Thompson
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54
    CITY OF GHOSTS
    LIFE, ANIMATED (2016)
    AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY (2016)

    The Emmy-winning Thompson is head of documentaries for Apple. Previously she was the longtime head of documentary films for A+E Networks.

  • Elaine Frontain Bryant
    Past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54
    CITY OF GHOSTS

    Frontain Bryant is the Emmy-winning EVP and head of programming for A+E Networks.

  • Rob Sharenow
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    STUDIO 54
    CITY OF GHOSTS
    LIFE, ANIMATED
    AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY

    Emmy-winner Sharenow is the president of programming for A+E Networks.

  • Josh Braun
    Past Sundance docs:

    APOLLO 11 (2019)
    THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY (2019)
    KUSAMA: INFINITY (2018)
    WILD WILD COUNTRY (2018)
    IVORY TOWER (2014)
    PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011)

    Together with his twin Dan, the Emmy-winning Braun is co-founder and co-president of Submarine Entertainment, a leading sales agency that represents numerous titles at Sundance each year.

  • Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey
    Past Sundance docs:

    RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE: A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE CULTURAL PHENOMENON (2018, short)
    MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES (2016)
    BECOMING CHAZ (2011)
    MISS NAVAJO (2007)
    INSIDE DEEP THROAT (2005)
    THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (2000)
    PARTY MONSTER (1998)

    Veteran Sundance filmmakers Barbato and Bailey produce under their World of Wonder shingle, and are best known as the producers of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE.

Co-Executive Producer:

  • Melanie Miller
    Past Sundance docs:

    INVENTING TOMORROW

    Miller is the co-founder of production shingle Fishbowl Films with Diane Becker, and has background in music supervision, festival programming, marketing, and acquisitions.

Editor:

  • Brian Palmer
    Past Sundance docs:

    JAWLINE (2019)
    HAL (2018)
    GLEASON (2016)
    FINDERS KEEPERS

Story Consultant:

  • Barry Poltermann
    Past Sundance docs:

    AMERICAN MOVIE (1999, editor)

Why You Should Watch:
Adeptly combining the personal and the professional strands of the Turs’ lives with Los Angeles history, Yoka crafts a compelling, and sometimes tragic, dual narrative. Privileged with footage capturing both the city and the couple from a unique vantage point, the film offers unforgettable imagery and an indelible sense of place.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist Profile
Website
Facebook
Twitter

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.