Alex Gibney ("The Armstrong Lie"), Errol Morris ("The Unknown Known"), Morgan Neville ("20 Feet From Stardom"), Teller ("Tim's Vermeer"), James Toback ("Seduced and Abandoned") and Lucy Walker ("The Crash Reel") share secrets of making their acclaimed documentaries.
"With The Crash Reel, we're putting it in theaters after HBO, which is an unusual experiment," says Walker. "And I'm actually convinced that this is a better approach because it's so hard to have the resources to create the awareness for a proper theatrical [run]. And we're treating HBO as a wonderful sort of promotional instrument, in addition to reaching a certain demographic."
Walker's film, The Crash Reel, follows the rivalry between Olympic snowboarder Shaun White and Kevin Pearce, who was injured while training for the 2010 Games. "It took me a little while to see the potential for a bigger story," says Walker. "And it was when I started to observe that Kevin was desperate to get back on a snowboard, despite his doctors telling him that if he hit his head again he would die."
Gibney's chronicle of Lance Armstrong's cycling comeback changed focus midstream in The Armstrong Lie. "It was a five-year process. I started out to make a comeback story. And it went from Breaking Away to Breaking Bad. So I had to follow that curve," he says.
Morris turned his camera on his second U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, for The Unknown Known.
Teller followed Tim Jension, whose quest to discover how the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer worked is documented in Tim's Vermeer.
Darlene Love reluctantly opened up to Neville about her trials as a lead and backup singer in 20 Feet From Stardom.
The Seduced and Abandoned director on iconic figures: "I was stunned at how easy it was to get these iconic figures, Scorsese, Coppola, Bertolucci, Polanski, RyanGosling, to trust that I was going to make them look … not good, but look like who they are, which was my goal as those portraits are fundamental to the film."
Toback and Alec Baldwin journeyed to the Cannes Film Festival ostensibly to raise money for a film, but made Seduced and Abandoned instead.
Errol Morris -- an Oscar winner for 2003's The Fog of War -- on meeting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for The Unknown Known: "He told me that he had seen The Fog of War, my film about a former secretary of defense like himself, Robert McNamara. And he told me he hated the movie."
Documentary Roundtable Group
"We have the power of how people appear. We can make them say things they don't say. That's a huge responsibility," says Lucy Walker (second from left), photographed Nov. 15 at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, N.Y., with (from left) Errol Morris, Alex Gibney, Morgan Neville, Teller and James Toback.
Who better to judge the best movies of all time than the people who make them? Studio chiefs, Oscar winners and TV royalty all were surveyed as THR publishes its first definitive entertainment-industry ranking of cinema's most superlative. View gallery