The films of D.A. Pennebaker, now 85 years old, comprise one of the most formidable oeuvres of any non-fiction filmmaker. While concert documentaries like 'Don't Look Back' (1967), 'Monterey Pop' (1968) and 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars' (1973) are probably Pennebaker's most famous works, recent collaborations with wife Chris Hegedus, like 'The War Room' (1993) and 'Startup.com' (2001), have proven the durability of their brand of cinema vérité filmmaking.
Making roughly a film per year, Pennebaker and Hegedus have collaborated on numerous documentaries with their signature unobtrusive "fly on the wall" approach to filming. It allows them to better capture their subjects in their environment, reserving judgment for the editing room afterwards.
Pennebaker and Hegedus' new collaboration is 'Kings of Pastry' (2009), a new vérité doc that follows Jacquy Pfeiffer, a Chicago-based French pastry chef and founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago. Pfeiffer covets a celebratory collar awarded to winners of the famous Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France) award for craftsmanship in pastry. Competition for the collar is so fierce that it's a nigh-Olympic three-day event that, in some cases, requires knowledge of complex mathematics and even basic engineering. I sat down with Pennebaker and Hegedus recently at their office on Manhattan's upper west side to talk about filming Pfeiffer, how the two filmmakers work together and any number of films that the couple never made.