The “New York Times” on its way to the Oscars

The newspaper, which has been producing short documentaries for ten years, is launching into the long haul, with “Time”, one of its first projects on this format.

Time could earn his first Oscar at New York Times. How did the benchmark daily find itself in this enviable and somewhat unexpected position? First thanks to the platform of short documentaries launched by the media on its site in 2011, named Op-Docs, who produced filmmaker Garrett Bradley’s previous short, Alone, already devoted to the intimate side of mass imprisonment. Imagined as a visual variation of the page devoted to the forums of external speakers (“the Op-Ed page”), and sharing its goal of “Start conversations”, the platform now boasts some 400 courts, which can be viewed free of charge on their site or a dedicated YouTube channel. These films are either purchased or co-produced by the newspaper from the writing stage, the New York Times thus behaving like any “streamer”, except that the newspaper engages in a meticulous fact-checking of all the information presented by the docs, until verifying the plausibility of details found in the films in reality Virtual.

Streaming and movie theaters

The platform is now recognized in the United States as a good way for first-time directors to promote their work, but there are also some big names there. It is thus thanks to Op-Docs that Edward Snowden spotted Laura Poitras in 2012 and chose to deliver his revelations to her, because he had discovered his short The Program, dedicated to an NSA whistleblower. Other notable titles include Ten Meter Tower, gone viral on the Internet, a brief split-screen study of fear at the top of a ten-meter high diving board (3.5 million views on YouTube) or What if he falls, a making-off of the successful documentary Free Solo, which recorded the ascent of El Capitan in full solo by the American climber Alex Honnold (and flanked the vertigo 12 million times on YouTube).

The daily recently announced that it is going into the field of feature-length documentaries for good, with films destined for streaming sites and cinemas, placing the woman who had been piloting Op-Docs since 2013 at the head of the operation, Kathleen Lingo, one of whose first projects is this Time oscarisable. “Our main ambition is to produce films from newspaper articles, she explains to Release. We have been selling the rights to our content in Hollywood for fictional films for years, but have never sold anything for documentaries, and we have a lot of exciting archives. The key is to find the right filmmaker to adapt each subject, whether he works more or less closely with our journalists. ” And to point out that their numerous offices abroad, and their “morgue” (the nickname given to the photo archives) with its six million images not yet digitized, already have potential to be exploited.

“In the living room of the Americans”

One of the members of the management board of the newspaper also explained in an interview with Variety that these films were a way “To enter the living room of the Americans” ; passing on Amazon Prime-type channels, they also allow the newspaper to reach a younger audience, not necessarily readers of the newspaper, of which it is to be hoped that they will then have the curiosity to visit the site… According to the Bloomberg site , a series produced in partnership with the CNN news channel on conservative mogul Rupert Murdoch is reportedly in production (Kathleen Lingo has not confirmed the news), taking as a starting point the enormous investigation by Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg published in the pages of New York Times Magazine in 2019.

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The “New York Times” on its way to the Oscars

Hank Gilbert