The Wachowskis, The Coens, The Duplass'... And now, meet The Zimbalists! Jeff & Michael Zimbalist are Emmy and Peabody Award winning writer/directors whose films have broadcast on HBO, Netflix, PBS, CBS, Fox, ESPN, Showtime, among others, and been theatrically distributed worldwide.
Most recently, The Zimbalists won LAFA Best Director with "Give Us This Day" (premiered at Tribeca 2018), Best Inspirational Film with "Momentum Generation" (debuts December 11th 2018, exclusively on HBO), and Best Picture with "Nossa Chape", that was theatrically released in 21 markets throughout the U.S. and broadcast by Fox.
Jeff & Michael Zimbalist
Nossa Chape is a moving documentary that tracks the rebuilding of the Chapecoense football club in Brazil after an airplane carrying the team crashed on November 28th, 2016, leaving all but three of the players dead. With exclusive access to the new team, families of the deceased, and three surviving players as they fight to recover from severe injuries and return to the field, this documentary shows a team and a city divided about how to handle tragedy – should they focus on keeping the memory of the dead alive or move on with their own lives? As the team flies the same fated route to play the final championship game that last year's team would have played, they must unite around a common identity.
Meet two passionate brothers who always push each other forward and never stop creating valuable content.
Tell us about your background- how did you both get into visual media?
Our mother is a therapist and artist, so the visual arts started from day one for us. JZ was a drawer / painter and studied filmmaking at Brown University, then taught story and editing at the New York Film Academy before going on to produce and direct FAVELA RISING. During this time, MZ was running a theater company in Mexico, writing and directing stage plays. We teamed up shortly after and began making films together.
LAFA Best Picture, "Nossa Chape"
You established your production company, All Rise Films, in 2004. Since then, your projects have won the Emmy and the Peabody awards, and have been shortlisted to the Academy Awards Incredible! What, in your opinion, is the formula to creating a successful cinematic piece? How do you choose the stories you wish to tell?
Thank you! The road this far has been challenging, fun, arduous, rewarding, and everything in between. While we should point out the importance of the obvious factors, like work ethic and resilience, it seems to us that there is no one formula for creating successful cinema, since a big part of that depends on what one defines as "successful." Sometimes we're more motivated by the process than the product, for example. Other times, we're driven to reach and influence wider audiences or to service a specific social cause or to push the boundaries of the craft. Generally, we've always been drawn to telling stories that not only speak to us personally, but also have the potential to create meaningful dialogue in the world. We also consider ourselves narrative structure freaks, so we're particularly drawn to stories that lend themselves to three act structures in fresh, emotional ways. We don't tend to take on projects that don't scare us at least a little, because we strive to grow with each one and on the other side of fear, having accomplished something we weren't sure we'd be able to, is the most rewarding place.
Nossa Chape - Trailer
Why and when did you decide to make Nossa Chape, and how did you approach this unique story?
MZ lives part time in Medellín, where the plane crashed, and we have both spent a big part of our lives in Colombia and Brazil, so we were following the story closely. Everyone at Fox Sports, like us, were devastated by the news of the crash. A number of Fox’s journalists were actually on the plane and passed away. Gabe Spitzer at Fox Sports reached out to us and our partner Colby Gottert with the idea of filming a documentary about the recovery effort. This was in December 2016, days after the crash, which occurred on November 28th, 2016.
We linked up with our co-director Julian Duque and had conversations with the remaining members of Chapecoense about our intentions and how our approach was different from the news media’s approach. The team agreed to work with us and give us access to all elements of the club and community. By the time everyone returned to the facility to begin the rebuilding effort, our cameras were rolling.
The initial plan was only to film just for a month, up until the team’s first game. But as the weeks went on, the team and families saw we were there day after day and slowly started trusting us and opening up to us far more than we had expected. There were so many different threads, so many complex dynamics that were still developing, it just became obvious that we needed to continue filming. Fortunately, the team, community, and Fox Sports were all in agreement, and we ended up continuing production for the better part of 2017.
Who are the key crew members that helped you made this happen, and how did you meet them? Are they long-time collaborators?
Our crew was varied and very international. We were filming constantly in Chapecó, but also traveling with the team, which meant filming in Colombia, Spain and so on. Our crew really spanned the Americas. Everyone played a major role, from Gabe Spitzer and Charlie Dixon and their team at Fox Sports, to Julián Duque (whom we had recently met through producer and our good friend Rodrigo Guerrero, who also served as Consulting Producer on the film) as our co-director and shooter along with Federico Pardo, Andrés 'Comanche' Vergara and our producing partner Colby Gottert, to Luis Dechtiar, our longtime collaborator and editor, who is Brazilian and really did outstanding work throughout the process to help us shape this film. Lastly, we had the privilege of working for the first time with Colombian composer Alejandro Reyes, who created a truly beautiful and moving score for the film.
What was the biggest challenge in making Nossa Chape?
One challenge were those initial conversations with the subjects of the film only weeks after the tragedy. There was of course a lot of trauma, significant and delicate challenging emotions. But there was also a strong interest in getting the story out and a sense that doing so would be a meaningful way to honor the deceased.
A second big challenge was the scope of the production. It was important to us from the onset that the film be about the whole Chapecoense family, and that meant filming over time with many subjects – from the three survivors, to the other players and administration from 2016, to the new players and coach and administration, but also the larger family that included the families of the deceased and the fans and Mayor and really the whole city. So that was a lot of filming, sometimes with multiple crews in different parts of the world at once, a lot of logistics, and a lot of editing.
What message do you wish the audience to take away from the film, and what was the reaction so far?
The reaction has been very positive. As far the take away, we'd point to what we learned during our journey making the film...
Initially, we were drawn to the story of how does a family or community respond to the loss of loved ones. And what we found were these two camps that were divided on this question of: how do we best move forward? Is it by honoring the memory of the deceased at every chance we can, or by pushing forward with our own lives? And what would the deceased have wanted of us?
In the end, we were as surprised as everyone to find, essentially, both camps agreeing that perhaps neither was right, and that really the most important thing was to stay unified, which ultimately was the value that was most important to those who died passed away.
This was the narrative that really resonated with us and that felt universal. At some point in our lives, we all face this question of how do we best grieve. And unfortunately, particularly in this time of frequent mass tragedies, it’s a question of how do we do that grieve not just as individuals, but in concert as a community, as a family.
At what point did you secure distribution for this film?
The initial concept for the film actually originated with the team at Fox Sports, so they were on board from the onset. We then had the good fortune of teaming up with our friends at Wild Bunch for international sales, and Michael Tuckman did a bang up job of booking the theatrical release across 22 markets in the U.S.
Many siblings are famous for their cinematic work. The Wachowskis, The Coens, The Duplass'... And also, the Zimbalists! You've been collaborating on so many projects together, most recently Momentum Generation, Give Us This Day and Phenoms. How do you navigate your professional and personal relationship? How do you resolve disagreements on a certain aspect of a film?
Sometimes we use boxing gloves, but mostly we just bare first it, in a cage, no holds barred. But really, over the last couple years, our company made made a number of documentary projects simultaneously. One of the best parts of working together as brothers is trusting each other implicitly, so that each of us can be taking lead on one project while the other is taking lead on another. Of course, we always end up both working on everything together, but the ability to splinter has been a key part of what keeps the train on the tracks. We've seen many strong partnerships in the industry that also take this approach.
LAFA Best Inspirational Film, "Momentum Generation"
Among your creative collaborators are production companies and distributors such as Imagine Entertainment, Quincy Jones, Robert Redford, Roth Kirschenaum Films, HBO, MTV, PBS, ESPN, CBS films, BBC, Netflix, Showtime, Fox and organizations like the UN and the World Bank. Such an impressive list! Do you have any tips on how to develop relationships with such important collaborators across the industry? Where does one even begin?
While we don't want to underestimate the value of networking, for us, the key always comes down to the quality of the work you're putting out into the world. In our experience, making a strong piece of work -- even if just with cell phone video and a couple friends lending a hand -- often goes further than spending that same amount of time and energy on networking. It will often also be more rewarding and more helpful in developing your craft.
LAFA Best Director winner, "Give Us This Day"
What do you wish people knew about your work?
Some of our films have had better platforms than others to be seen. GIVE US THIS DAY is a film we're very proud of and we believe speaks to important socio-political issues in our country, but very few people knew about when it was released.
What's next for you, and what's next for Nossa Chape?
On December 11th, HBO is releasing our feature doc MOMENTUM GENERATION. We're also currently releasing REMASTERED, a Netflix Originals music documentary series of 8 different feature films. 2 of the 8 have been released, the 3rd will go live on Netflix on December 7th, then one per month after that. We're also in development on a number of new documentary and scripted projects.
Would you like to add anything or thank anyone?
We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone that made NOSSA CHAPE possible, from Fox Sports to the entire crew and all the people of Chapecó who invited our team into their lives for so many months during a very trying time. And we want to say how very grateful we are to the LAFA team for this awesome recognition, as well as their recognition of GIVE US THIS DAY and MOMENTUM GENERATION. Thank you!!