Robert Drew

Robert Drew

Actor, Director, Producer, Executive Producer


Robert Drew (1924 - 2014) was an American documentary filmmaker who revolutionized the field of documentary filmmaking through his innovative use of the cinéma vérité style. He was born in Toledo, Ohio and attended Dartmouth College, where he studied journalism. After serving in World War II, he began his career in television news, working for ABC, CBS, and NBC.

In 1958, Drew was hired by Time-Life Films to make a documentary about the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. This film, Primary, used a handheld camera and direct sound recording to capture the immediacy of the campaign. This marked the beginning of Drew's contribution to the cinéma vérité style of documentary filmmaking.

Drew then went on to produce a series of groundbreaking documentaries, including Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963), which documented the civil rights struggle of James Meredith to enroll at the University of Mississippi; The Chair (1964), which followed the life of a condemned prisoner; and The Children Were Watching (1965), which focused on the desegregation of a school in New Orleans.

In 1963, Drew founded the Drew Associates production company with Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker, Albert Maysles, and others. This production company focused on cinéma vérité documentaries and revolutionized the field of documentary filmmaking. They produced a series of critically acclaimed films, including Jane (1962), a portrait of activist Jane Fonda; Don't Look Back (1967), which followed Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England; and Salesman (1968), which examined door-to-door Bible salesmen.

Drew's work was highly influential and his influence can be seen in the films of contemporary filmmakers such as Errol Morris and Martin Scorsese. He received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Documentary Association in 2009.

Robert Drew died in 2014 at the age of 90. He was a pioneer in the field of documentary filmmaking, and his work will continue to influence filmmakers for years to come.


Feb. 15, 1924