2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmaker Profile: Bao Nguyen (Director – ‘Live From New York’)

Saturday Night Live has been reflecting and influencing the American Story for 40 years. Live From New York! explores the show’s early years, an experiment from a young Lorne Michaels and his cast of unknowns, and follows its evolution into a comedy institution. The film looks at SNL as a living time capsule, encompassing decades of American politics, media, tragedy, and popular culture with an irreverent edge.

Archival footage is interwoven with stolen moments and exclusive commentary from SNL legends, journalists, hosts, musical guests, crew and others influenced by the comedy giant.

Live From New York! captures what has enabled SNL to continually refresh itself over nearly 800 episodes and keep America laughing for 40 years.

Anticipating the WORLD PREMIERE of Live From New York!, we profile the film’s Director Bao Nguyen to discuss the show’s place in the Big Apple, how the documentary originated, and more.  Live From New York! will OPEN the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 with a screening followed by a live performance from Ludacris at the Beacon Theatre. Additional Tribeca Film Festival screenings occur on Friday, April 24 and Saturday, April 25.

Find More Information & Tickets to ‘Live From New York’ at the 2015 Tribeca Film FestivalHERE

How long had you been wanting/preparing to do this project?
By the time I was approached by our Producer, JL Pomeroy, the project was underway. I was brought onto the project midway through the 39th season and we began shooting just one month later! From there, it all happened at a pretty breakneck pace in order to keep it timely to the show’s 40th Anniversary.

Live_From_New_York_StillWhat was your entry point to documenting a television show that’s spanned four decades?
The film’s creators, JL Pomeroy and Tom Broecker, were able to gain approval from Lorne Michaels. Tom has been the Costume Designer on show for 20 years so there was an underlying trust and comfort level there. Tom was really our ‘in’ to the world of SNL. I previously directed a short film with JL and she thought I’d be a good fit for this project. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I jumped at the chance.

How does this film differentiate itself from others that have traced SNL’s history and cast members?
I was fortunate that our Producers started with a really clear vision of how they wanted to approach the project that really resonated with me. Collectively, our focus was documenting how SNL has really reflected and impacted American culture and society in the last 40 years. With this very specific thesis, we were able to tell a particularly focused story of SNL that is really different from the past television retrospectives which have chronicled the show’s history, cast and most notable sketches over the years.

Live_From_New_Yok_Still_2What impact has New York City had on the show?
I think starting with the inception of the show, New York has had a monumental impact on the show and its DNA. The genesis of the show took place in 1970s New York when the city was notoriously dangerous but also reflected a more dynamic, experimental approach to culture and the arts. The punk scene was breaking out and hip-hop was a few years away so the atmosphere of the city really lent itself to a new type of program like SNL. Today, as the city has dramatically changed and become a bit more “mainstream” in a sense, SNL has shifted in a parallel with New York. Over the past 40 years, SNL has become synonymous with New York City and vice versa.

Will people be surprised by this documentary? Was there anything you uncovered you weren’t expecting?
I was surprised to meet so many crew members who have been on the show since it began. This is an extremely high-pressure environment with incredibly long (and late) hours. To have the dedication to come back week after week for 40 years says a lot about the passion and drive of the people working at SNL.

– Interview conducted by Jake Kring-Schreifels

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