David Grubin is a director, writer, producer, and cinematographer who has produced
over 100 films, ranging across history, art, poetry, and science, winning every award in the field
of documentary television, including two Alfred I. Dupont awards, three George Foster Peabody prizes,
five Writer's Guild prizes, and ten Emmys.
For me, documentary filmmaking is a process of discovery, an opportunity to wander along some unmarked shore with my mind open and my senses alert. I love to be surprised. I begin each project with a recognition of how little I know, and cultivate a state of radical ignorance.
Tolerance for the disquieting limbo of uncertainty in the midst of chaos is at the center of my creative process. I’ve always done the initial research on my films myself because I can’t explain to anyone else what I’m looking for. It’s only later – when I start to write the script or I’m in the editing room, trying to make sense of a shapeless jumble of information – that I begin to understand where I might be going. Making documentaries requires comfort with disorder – being at ease with what seems like an infinite number of brute, meaningless facts and knowing that only the empathetic imagination can infuse them with meaning.
It is the empathetic imagination that feels its way into the thicket of facts to find hidden in the welter of possibilities the shape of a story. I have no argument with films that are essays, laying out ideas in an orderly, point by point fashion. But I like to tell stories – because stories do not simplify complex personalities and events; because stories embody values without preaching them; because in stories, we learn how ideas feel; because in stories there are no answers, only more questions, pointing viewers, I hope, toward insights of their own.