The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Larry Hott

Larry HottLarry Hott has been producing documentary films since 1978, when he left the practice of law to join Florentine Films. His awards include an Emmy, two Academy Award nominations, a George Foster Peabody Award, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, the Erik Barnouw Award, five American Film Festival Blue Ribbons, Fourteen CINE Golden Eagles, screenings at Telluride, and first-place awards from the San Francisco, Chicago, National Educational, and New England Film Festivals. Hott was the Fulbright Fellow in Film and Television in the United Kingdom in 1994. He received the Humanities Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities in 1995; a Massachusetts Cultural Council/Boston Film and Video Foundation Fellowship in 2001; and the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism in 2001. His recent films include “Through Deaf Eyes,” “American Masters John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature,” “The Return of the Cuyahoga,” and “Imagining Robert.”

The Pride of Springfield vs The Pride of the Lakota

Florentine Films/Hott Productions finished two films this year that, at first blush, would appear to have no connection at all.  One is SciTech Band: Pride of Springfield, a half-hour film about a band in Springfield, MA that has a profoundly positive effect on the graduation rates of a troubled high school.  The graduation rates for […]

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A Thrill in the Park

I was excited when I got off the train at the Park Street T stop in Boston. I was meeting Margaret for the first time. She had promised me a thrill in the park and I was more than a little curious. I had told her to look for a little bald man. She told me to look for a Boston Parks and Recreation vehicle. I spotted her first; there were lots of little bald men to choose from but only one Parks and Recreation SUV.

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Hecho en Socialismo: Made in Socialism

I was sitting in the make-up chair for the morning news show at Globovision, a large cable network station in Caracas, Venezuela a few weeks ago. As the assistant touched up the liver spots on my bald head (they form the shape of the Hawaiian Islands to exact scale), I was thinking about what kind of questions would be hurled at me. What do you think of relations between the US and the Chavez government?

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Cringe-Worthy History

How many of you have groaned your way through cringe-worthy reenactments in history documentaries? Let me see a show of hands in early 19th century gauntlets. Do you have any idea how much it costs to rent those gauntlets. If you throw them down please remember to have them dry-cleaned before returning them to the costume department.

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I Broke Up With My Television

According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. I broke up with my television eighteen months ago and I’m still getting over it. We used to get along beautifully, sometimes spending four hours a day together.

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Can Documentaries Change the World?

In the late 1970s Jimmy Carter was president, disco was in its death throes, wide lapels were all the rage, and I was a post-hippy child-lawyer living in wet and wild Portland, Oregon. I had moved there from western Massachusetts to take a job as a Legal Services attorney and life was sweet. I had good friends, a cozy, somewhat moldy rental house, and a challenging job that paid poorly. I was happy. The innocence of youth rarely survives the slide into maturity.

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Romancing the Little Screen

Documentary film purists are apoplectic over the fractionalization and miniaturization of the media. We’ve gone from 35mm theatrical releases to 16mm school showings to television broadcasts and the final indignity, tiny private screenings on your computer courtesy of YouTube. But I’m not indignant; in fact I’m ecstatic about the changes. I gave up being a film purist years ago.

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The Media Knack and How to Get It

Up until ten years ago I used to get a phone call every week from aspiring filmmakers or parents of aspiring filmmakers (or were they aspiring to be parents of filmmakers?) asking me if their talented son or daughter should go to film school to become another Spielberg or Lucas or Scorcese. Or, they asked, can one learn to make films on one’s own. In other words, how do you become a filmmaker?

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Show Me the Money and Nobody Gets Hurt

What do you think is the first thing aspiring filmmakers want to talk about when they take workshops on producing documentaries? The process of self-discovery? How the observer affects the subject matter? The influence of the internet on editing style? Of course not. They want to talk about the money and how to get it. And why shouldn’t they? People start films with pocket change, but they can’t finish them without big piles of dough.

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Fact, Fiction, Chaos and Control

I have some very close friends who annoy me no end with questions such as, "When are you going to make a real movie." "What do you mean," I ask. "Aren’t documentaries real enough for you?" "Well, documentaries are OK, but why aren’t you famous like Spielberg or Coppola? Where are the corporate jet and the entourage and the house in Beverly Hills?

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