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Icarus director Bryan Fogel attended Rome’s MIA Market to give a talk on how his setting out to reveal the truth about doping in sports resulted in a chance encounter with a Russian scientist, transforming his film into a geopolitical thriller. Icarus ended up exposing the biggest scandal the sports world had ever seen and resulted in Russia being banned from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
As far as documentary filmmaking is changing, Fogel is at the forefront. He made history last year as the first feature Oscar winner for Netflix. According to Fogel, the streamer’s strength as an Oscar powerhouse is just beginning, and in many ways they have a leg-up over competitors simply because of the amount of people who are able to see films on the streaming platform.
“Certainly what they were able to do with Icarus was unbelievable because they gave the film a campaign from, what at least I saw, much on the level The Shape of Water was receiving in Los Angeles and New York, in the trades and the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in Rome. “In addition, they were doing television and social media and pretty large electronic media too. We went on a very long journey with this and, with Netflix, it was truly a team.”
If Roma lives up to its Oscar buzz, Fogel says, “I’d be thrilled for Alfonso Cuaron and for Netflix. I think what we’re realizing is the power of film and cinema extends beyond being able to see it in a theater.”
“We had theatrical distribution offers, but the most important thing for me was that the film was seen and that it was seen globally,” he said. “So, here was a company that was in 190 countries and 130 million homes. I now know that there are millions and millions of people who have seen Icarus.“
“Especially for documentary, more so than feature, it’s that much harder to get people into a theater,” continued Fogel. “Yet, I believe the amount of viewership that Icarus has been far greater than most features that get theatrical release.”
Fogel has also been in the news recently for accompanying Tom Arnold to the infamous pre-Emmys party where Arnold claims to have been attacked by Apprentice producer Mark Burnett. Fogel has known Arnold for years after directing him in his 2012 comedy Jewtopia.
Arnold tweeted that Fogel had taken video footage of the incident, before Burnett’s wife, Roma Downey, knocked his phone out of his hands. Arnold’s Viceland show The Hunt for the Trump Tapes follows him as he tries to track down infamous Apprentice footage, which reveal the president’s alleged racial slurs. He claimed Burnett was attacking him in retaliation and later filed an assault charge with the LAPD.
But Fogel says that the media reporting his involvement in the scuffle was blown out of proportion. “I did not film it. That was misreported,” he said. “I don’t really want to get into this, but I didn’t film it. I’d only taken out my phone towards the end of the incident and it got swatted out of my hands a few seconds after I took it. I didn’t film anything.”
He added, “I was kind of surprised that I was at least in the media, with being brought into it because the whole thing was completely totally coincidental. I just happened to be there.”
“I wasn’t even aware that there was any feud going on between him and Mark Burnett until that evening,” said Fogel. “I’ve known Tom as just an acquaintance and an associate and somebody that I’ve directed, but I didn’t know what I was walking into. I gave a statement to the police. I’m going to let the police handle that. I know the police have been investigated and I don’t know what they’ve decided or not decided.”
While Fogel has not yet seen The Hunt for the Trump Tapes, he supports Arnold’s mission. “I hope Tom finds the tapes. I applaud that he’s trying to make a difference because I think most of us in the Hollywood community hopefully on a global level, are pretty upset about what’s going on right now,” said Fogel. “It’s a noble battle that he’s going on and clearly one that you’re gonna make enemies along the way.”
“From what I’ve known, he’s been working very hard at this and he’s been very serious about this,” he said. “This isn’t the Tom Arnold of comedy. This is somebody who is very serious and passionate about trying to bring information forward that can be impactful.”
After winning his Academy Award, Fogel is in high demand for projects. He has his hands full with two new documentary projects he’ll be announcing soon, one he’s producing and one he’s directing. Additionally, he’s coming out soon with a docuseries he will host on-camera.
Fogel has also been attached to direct a narrative film written by a very well-known writer that will be shot in Europe, in the U.K. and Hungary. “I have multiple Academy Award winners that are coming on to the project right now,” he said.
“It’s a spy-thriller, but a true story. I’ll be able to talk about it in the very near future,” said Fogel. On whether or not there are Russian elements in the storyline, Fogel responded, “Perhaps.”
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