Between Going Clear and now this, best-selling non-fiction books becoming high-profile documentaries are officially a “thing.” It was announced just today that Bao Nguyen’s Live From New York will open the Tribeca Film Festival on April 15th.
Nguyen’s documentary is based on the best-selling oral history of SNL of the same name.
UPDATE: A rep for the film clarifies that “the documentary is not based on the book and is a separate film.” Though, you know, they are both non-fiction accounts of the same subject with the same name.
“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 that began with a young Lorne Michaels and his cast of unknowns, and follows its evolution into a comedy institution. Archival footage is interwoven with stolen moments and exclusive commentary from “SNL” legends, journalists, hosts, 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. Live From New York! is directed by Tribeca alum Bao Nguyen and produced by JL Pomeroy and Tom Broecker. Tickets for the TFF 2015 Opening Night Gala go on sale on March 23 at tribecafilm.com/festival. The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 15 to April 26.
True story: I’ve bought Live From New York! as a present for multiple ex-gilfriends (come to think of it, maybe it’s a jinx). It combines the irresistible crack that is the oral history format with the irresistible crack that is reliving your favorite era of SNL (usually whatever period you were first able to stay up late).
At this point, I think SNL is such a venerable institution that it’s probably hurting it as a show. Is a cast working round the clock for three days straight to pump out a live show on a Saturday night the best way to make a comedy show? Almost certainly not. And their recorded bits have been the best part of the show for going on a decade now. It’s sacrilege to say, but I’d be curious to see Saturday Night Not Live with a similar cast.
As for the movie, it’s nice that they seem to be letting non-fiction books become non-fiction films more these days, instead of trying to shoehorn The Blind Side or Moneyball or Fast Food Nation into the format of a fiction film. That phenomenon will probably never go away given how much more money there is to be made on a traditional fiction film, but it’s interesting to wonder what some non-fiction best sellers would look like had they not been given the 99th-percentile-in-protective-instincts treatment.