Galapagos III, an Environmental Documentary Classic, to Screen at DC Environmental Film Festival

The French Embassy will present a screening of the 1972 film ‘Galapagos III’ by Christian Zuber as part of the 2017 DC Environmental Film Festival. Kino Productions, the rights holder of the Christian Zuber collection, and INA, its exclusive distributor, will be present at the screening. This year marks the 25th anniversary of DC Environmental Films Festival, the largest and longest-running festival of its kind in the United States.

Christian Zuber was one of the first environmental advocacy filmmaker who devoted his life to showing how nature and less-developed cultures were being destroyed by the onslaught of modern civilization. Zuber pioneered on land what Commander Jacques-Yves Cousteau later did with the oceans.

Galapagos III by Christian Zuber will be shown on Friday, March 17, 2017  at La Maison Française – Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW - Washington DC from 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM EDT. Admission is free. An online registration is required for this screening.

Click here to see Ina's collection of Christian Zuber footage.

For more information about this topic at Ina please email at

Archives Speak in Eight Days a Week

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, directed by Ron Howard, leverages the power of archival footage to take viewers back to the origins of Beatlemania, pulling the audience along with the Fab Four on their journey from local Liverpool band to global superstardom. The film’s producers took a remarkable journey as well, beginning their quest in 2003 with the idea that, given the growing ubiquity of handheld cameras in the early sixties, unseen archival footage documenting the Beatles touring years must surely exist in private collections and obscure archives around the world.

And they were right. Over a ten-year period, the original research team at One World One Voice (OVOM), headed by Matt White, Stuart Samuels and Bruce Higham, scoured the globe for these unseen films, tapping into an international network of Beatles collectors and historians and assembling a massive, crowd-sourced cache of rare, lost and amateur-shot Beatles footage. Throughout, they maintained the unconventional approach of building their production archive first, and letting the archival materials drive the story forward.

“We flipped the model,” said White at the London premiere. “What we were saying is we don’t know what’s out there, let’s just find as much as we can, let’s not limit ourselves to a story first. Let’s find that and see how the archives can speak, how they can do it. So then Ron Howard becomes the one who is listening to those archives. And he's going on and he’s finding these amazing stories and he’s starting to put that through.”

The effect is riveting. From the films first concert sequence at the ABC Cinema in Manchester in 1963, with the youthful Beatles performing “She Loves You” before a throng of screaming teenagers, the excitement still resonates, and not simply as nostalgia.

“If it allows people to feel what they felt back then, that’s what it’s all about,” said White.

The film captures the Beatles personal experience as they encounter global fame on an unprecedented scale.  No band had ever achieved this level of international popularity before, so they had no script to follow.  The scenes at Shea Stadium are remarkable not just for the collective madness of the crowd, but also for the vision of the Beatles performing on a bare-bones stage, their music barely audible over their modest amplifiers and the stadium’s in-house PA system against the backdrop of the screaming fans. The phenomenon of the stadium band was new, and the Beatles, with just three roadies on hand, were clearly making it up as they went along. 

“I thought that their idea of focusing on the touring years was really ingenious because the Beatles' story in total is epic and sprawling,” Ron Howard said in an interview with Fast Company. “But this has a narrative. As a director, I immediately identified it as sort of an adventure story. I felt like it was almost a survival story for these guys. They launched themselves into this, and the world reacted in a way that nobody could have predicted. It created all kinds of challenges for them. The way they navigated those challenges is revealing, moving, and impressive.”

Innovative Footage Search Process
While the interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and others provide context, the visceral impact of the film comes primarily from the archival clips and performance sequences, many which, like their last concert at Candlestick Park in 1966, had not been seen before. Unearthing that sort of footage required an extensive, global, multi-year effort.

The idea of telling the Beatles story through unseen archives was conceived by Matt White in 2003. While working at National Geographic archives, White discovered a clip in the Nat Geo vaults of the Beatles from 1966, making an unscheduled landing in Anchorage, Alaska while en route to Japan, filmed by a Nat Geo camera crew. He believed that more forgotten footage like this must be hidden around the world, and pitched the idea to Neil Aspinall, then CEO of Apple Corps, not as a film first but as a global search for undiscovered materials that could be used to tell the Beatles story in a new way. The idea intrigued Aspinall, and White kept at the search over the the next few years, eventually forming One Voice One World in 2007 with partners Samuels and Higham, to build out the project, resulting in an enormous trove of home movies, newsreel footage and other found archival materials. 

Based on that work, Apple commissioned OVOM to expand their search in 2012, allowing them to set up a global crew of 30 researchers and put out a more comprehensive call to fans on social media, including a short video on YouTube. Meanwhile, Apple brought in Nigel Sinclair and his team at White Horse Pictures to produce the film, and, with Ron Howard on board to direct, announced the start of production in 2014, whereupon White Horse relaunched the footage search campaign, setting up a dedicated website to draw in footage owners and reaching out to the Beatles 40 million Facebook fans. “The result was a massive outpouring of materials,” said White Horse’s Nick Ferrall, one of the film's producers, in an interview with Variety.

Archival Sources
There are over 100 archival sources listed in the credits, with many of the big archival providers listed, including ABCNEWS VideoSource, AP Archive, Framepool, Getty Images, Global ImageWorks, Historic Films, ITN Source, NBC Universal Archives and WPA Film Library. The film benefits from access to the archives of Apple Corps and the inclusion of archival gems gleaned from untraditional sources, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the Vancouver Police Museum, as well as many private collections. 

Audio Reengineering
The film is noteworthy for its sound quality, with audio engineering headed up by Giles Martin, son of the late Sir George Martin, the Beatles original producer. The challenge in restoring the audio was two-fold: separating the Beatles music from the noise of the fans, which often overwhelmed the band’s onstage sound systems; and working with what were often lo-fi recordings of the Beatle’s live performances. Martin used cutting-edge audio technology to re-master these recordings and bring the sound of the Beatles to the forefront, and it makes a huge difference, giving viewers the chance to actually hear the music. 

Strong Box Office
With big players like Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and White Horse Pictures involved, as well as the full participation of Apple, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr bringing the film to fruition, the release was a hit. According to the Los Angeles Times, “in the first three days after opening on 85 screens on Friday, Sept. 16, Eight Days a Week grossed $622,410, for a per-screen average of $7,322,” according to the film’s distributor, Abramorama. “Factoring in preview screenings on Thursday, the total gross through Sunday came to $771,154,” the LA Times reported. As of October 2, the film had grossed $2,088,918 in North America and $6,071,329 outside of North American for a worldwide total of $8,160,247, according the website Box Office Mojo. The film is being held over for a third week in some theaters and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 18, according to Billboard. The release strategy was also innovative, premiering simultaneously in theaters worldwide and on-demand on Hulu. 

A Post Network Hit
This film has all the characteristics the Post-Schedule Documentary economy described by Peter Hamilton both on his blog,, and in an interview we published in last month’s newsletter (Archives are Back!). It includes a big name director (Howard) and A-List production talent, brings with it a large affinity audience and has as its subject matter a group of major, global celebrities. It also includes previously unseen footage, a critical selling point for the networks. Hamilton’s Case Study on Eight Days a Week is a must read.

“Archive based ‘event’ docs are nearly always about celebrities and historical figures with huge name recognition, and therefore the film is presold to the audience,” Hamilton said in our interview. “This is important in a universe where there are thousands of channels, and networks can’t afford to market a concept from a standing start.”

Documentaries like Eight Days a Week “attract passionate affinity audiences who promote their favorite docs across their own press and social media communities,” according to Hamilton.

And the significance of previously unseen footage in Eight Days a Week as well as other signature docs cannot be overstated. “Just about every network we are working with will not accept archive-based shows unless we can say the images have never before been seen,” filmmaker Tom Jennings said in our interview. “There is tremendous pressure to do this.  Obviously, the image and sounds have been seen at least once if they were broadcast.  We have to look far beyond the usual images that an audience remembers to try and find the moments that live outside our collective consciousness.  If we can’t say ‘unseen’ many times we lose the sale.”

The film also exploits an innovative Post Network release strategy, premiering in both theaters worldwide and on Hulu simultaneously.

Production Team
Eight Days a Week was produced by Nigel Sinclair (White Horse Pictures), Scott Pascucci (Concord Bicycle Music), Brian Grazer and Ron Howard (Imagine Entertainment) and Apple Corps. Coproduction credits went to Matt White, Stewart Samuels and Bruce Highman (One World One Voice). Clearance work was provided by the team at Global ImageWorks, headed up by Jessica Berman Bogdan and Cathy Carapella.  Eight Days a Week is running now on Hulu in select theaters worldwide. 

Archives Are Back!

An Interview with Documentary Guru Peter Hamilton and Filmmaker Tom Jennings on the return of the Signature Archival Doc to the Cable Network Schedules and SVOD Channels.

With decades of experience in the documentary business, Peter Hamilton is a keen observer of trends in unscripted programming. We spoke with both Peter and renowned documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings about the return of “signature” archive-based docs to both the cable and SVOD schedules. In a recent edition of your newsletter, you noted that “History channel’s recent advice was: ‘Forget about the archive!’ Now, all the major channels and platforms are competing for stories that involve access to unique archival footage. What is driving this shift?

Peter Hamilton: There definitely has been a huge swing of the pendulum back to the archive. The drivers are four-fold:  the biggest is the profound structural change in viewing from broadcast and cable/satellite channels to online platforms. The other drivers are Financial, Editorial and Technical.

Let’s look at the shift in industry structure first. We are entering the “Post Schedule Documentary Economy.” US channel viewing has dropped around 20% in recent years, and more among the most desirable younger demo. Channels are being challenged by SVOD platforms, particularly Netflix and Amazon. 

The SVOD (subscription video on-demand) platforms developed a programming strategy of acquiring and then commissioning original docs. A good example is Netflix’s wonderful Nina Simone bio-doc, which was picked up after Sundance. The SVODs are expanding this strategy and commissioning more original docs, including series like Amazon’s Hugh Hefner series. Another example is the September Hulu launch of its documentary SVOD originals with The Beatles Eight Days a Week, which we are covering in a detailed Case Study in

Peter Hamilton directs Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc. where he helps his clients to successfully develop, produce and market video content. 

Peter Hamilton directs Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc. where he helps his clients to successfully develop, produce and market video content. 

Documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings's  many archive-based documentaries cover subjects from the Challenger Disaster to OJ Simpson to the JFK assassination.

Documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings's  many archive-based documentaries cover subjects from the Challenger Disaster to OJ Simpson to the JFK assassination.

Meanwhile, the channels like Nat Geo, Discovery and History had relied for many years on a schedule based heavily on Reality series.  But Reality lost the leading-edge following it had earned when shows like Ice Road Truckers, Jersey Shore and Pawn Stars dominated the conversation around the office water cooler.

The Reality TV era left another challenge for the networks: their programs had become commodified, and all-too-often interchangeable. Their once distinct brands had become diluted in the quest for a hit, character-based series. For example, Duck Dynasty could have been scheduled on several channels, and it muddied the A&E brand. There wasn’t much history on History. Nat Geo strayed from the promise of the famous Yellow Border brand. Now, in the “Post Schedule” economy led by Netflix and Amazon, channels that rely on factual programs need to return to their brands if they want to stand out, and the signature, event documentary is one of the keys to this process.

FN: How are financial considerations driving this trend?
PH: The SVOD era is dominated by big, scripted, multi-season series like House of Cards. It’s the binge-watching era!  The platforms can only afford so many scripted series with A-List talent like Kevin Spacey, and documentaries are relatively affordable in comparison. 

A typical doc is much less expensive than a scripted series involving even B-List stars, but brings along the passionate audience that B-Listers don’t.

Documentaries also attract A-Listers as executive producers rather than as performers. Beginning with Netflix’s Virunga, Leonardo Dicaprio now seems to have his name on a half-dozen projects including The Ivory Game and Nat Geo’s climate change doc.  These films are part of the zeitgeist, so A-Listers are really motivated to become involved. 

Another financial factor is that documentaries attract passionate affinity audiences who promote their favorite docs across their own press and social media communities. To sum up, docs are financially efficient because they are relatively affordable to produce or acquire, and they bring along their own audiences.

FN: Moving on to editorial factors: Are archival docs an important part of the signature programming mix?
Absolutely. First, archive based ‘event’ docs are nearly always about celebrities and historical figures with huge name recognition, and therefore the film is presold to the audience. This is important in a universe where there are thousands of channels, and networks can’t afford to market a concept from a standing start.

FN: Are there some other good examples of recent archive based projects that illustrate this trend?
PH: Of a recent sample of productions announced by National Geographic Channel, Amazon and Netflix, four involve extensive use of archive:  the Hugh Hefner mini-series from Amazon; an Amanda Knox film and The 13th from Netflix; and a Katie Couric led project on the Gender Revolution from National Geographic. Nat Geo earlier announced projects that will lean heavily on archives. These are about Jane Goodall, the global water crisis and the Los Angeles Riots.  

FN: Does this mean that you have to have a big name associated with your film?
PH: Unfortunately, in terms of big signature docs, there seems to be little room here for revealing and compelling but untold stories about unheralded people and obscure situations. 

FN: This is a very positive development for the big signature quarterly shows, but what about programming the rest of the schedule?
PH: It can’t be all about the tent poles. There has to be a tent, too! There are increasing opportunities for archive-based films in the regular 24x7 schedule because the archive can be affordable, carries name recognition and is readily promotable.  And this creates opportunities for the skilled journeyman production companies.

FN: How are archive-based stories evolving? 
PH: Archive based story telling has improved. Tom Jennings’ Peabody Award winning MLK The Assassination Tapes tells its tragic story cinematically in which a complicated buffet of archival elements including television reports, stills, Super8 film, 911 calls and so on are all skillfully edited to create this compelling story that plays out like a movie. Another example from Jennings that we covered in my newsletter is The Challenger Disaster

Many networks and SVOD platforms are pursuing this ‘Tom Jennings style’ of storytelling, usually for events that are associated with anniversaries, like the upcoming 2017 Princess Di anniversary. The media buzz of an anniversary gives a huge lift to a network’s relatively limited promotion budget.

FN: Have you seen any new editorial formats?
PH: Amazon just announced a big plunge with its 13-part series on Hugh Hefner based on the Hefner archive. SVOD is the home of binge scripted viewing: no doubt that there will be further commitments to multi-episode documentary series. Other recent examples are Netflix’s Making a Murderer and the clip-based series The Sixties and The Seventies

There are also ‘Eighties-style hosted and voice-of-God narrative docs in the mix. The Beatles film is a good example, where incredible Beatles found footage was supplemented by fascinating contemporary interviews with Paul and Ringo, with additional context provided by talking-heads including Malcolm Gladwell and Whoopi Goldberg.  

FN: Are there any tech breakthroughs behind the return of archive production?
PH: Yes. The first is the use of 4K conversions to capture in Matt White’s words “the gorgeous detail” of the Beatles archive. The richness of 4K allows directors to tell extended stories out of relatively small pieces of footage by creating movement, for example by zooming in and panning across the frame, and so on. A great example is Every Face Has A Name. SVT Sweden prized its footage of the first refugees from Nazi concentration camps as they disembarked in Malmo in 1945. A 4K conversion unlocked the power and value of this precious archive. 

A second technical factor is that social media allows a massive escalation of the power and reach of the search process. For example, the producers of the Beatles film invested in a social media campaign to uncover tens of thousands of archive items that were captured or saved by Beatles’ fans in the 1960s. These discoveries were integrated with the Beatles’ own archive plus other professional sources to create an absorbing, fresh look at the Beatlemania phenomenon.

Major archive libraries like ITN Source are using increasingly sophisticated customer interfaces with search and download tools to support their clients. Also, new players have entered the market to facilitate access to public domain footage. And, of course, aggregators like and even YouTube make footage research exponentially more efficient.

Third, colorization is a big factor. Radical improvements in colorization processes – plus a commitment to excellence -- helped create the most successful archive-based programming brand in recent years. Beginning with Apocalypse World War 1 (2009), CC&C’s “Apocalypse” franchise has dominated unscripted ratings in France for two decades and has been sold around the world.  CC&C set a new standard for colorization. 

FN: Are producers who are newcomers welcome to pitch the channels with their archive-based projects? 
PH: There’s little room for newbie and mid-scale doc creatives, unless the film has broken through at a major festival, or unless you control access to a stunning archive. The big signature productions are typically packaged by agents, include A-List talent, and are sold to the nets in advance. That is definitely a trend. 

Peter followed up with Tom Jennings about the swing back to the archive.

Peter Hamilton: It’s all well and good to say that the pendulum is swinging back to the archive. But it’s never that easy for producers. What are the challenges for archive-specialist producers who work with the networks? 

Tom Jennings: It’s great to find unseen archival material, but getting the rights can often be a nightmare.  Networks want all media, worldwide, in perpetuity, but archive vendors have gotten wise to the explosion in archive shows.  The more rights you want, the more they are going to charge.  So producers get stuck in the middle: networks want all rights and won’t accept a show (usually) without them.  Vendors charge premium rates for those rights.  Producers are often squeezed in an untenable position.

Just about every network we are working with will not accept archive-based shows unless we can say the images have never before been seen. There is tremendous pressure to do this.  Obviously, the image and sounds have been seen at least once if they were broadcast.  We have to look far beyond the usual images that an audience remembers to try and find the moments that live outside our collective consciousness.  If we can’t say “unseen” many times we lose the sale.

Despite the resurgence of archive shows, the networks are still deathly afraid of black and white.  There’s still that “Hitler Channel” concept attached to anything black and white.  Even when we are doing a program that features mostly black and white images because of the time when the event occurred, they always ask if there is anything in color.  Or can we at least lead the program with some kind of color.

PH: What’s the secret to the “No Narration” style of story-telling?

TJ: The no-narration, no-interview approach is by far the hardest and is not often done.  But when this style works it really pops because instead of having talking heads telling viewers what they are seeing, the audience just lives it.  It’s as if they are watching a movie, but all the images are real.  It’s as if we went out to shoot an historic event like a feature film director, but our Directors of Photography and sound recordists were dozens, if not hundreds of people, who we never met.  We rely on their work from decades ago to not only rediscover their work, but fashion it in a way they would never have dreamed of.  I mention this because our style has very good resonance with young people, because they don’t feel like their watching a doc, but a straight-up film.  Our Challenger show for Nat Geo earlier this year is a good example.  People called it “seamless.” In closing, do you expect this trend to continue and potentially pull in younger viewers? 
PH:  I do. The editorial and technical developments that we described allow archive-based films to satisfy young viewers’ preference for compelling story-telling. The shift to online viewing means that they can learn about and view these programs whenever they want. But we’re in the early days of a historic shift in the viewing experience. Radically different and unexpected formats will emerge. And there will be an increasing if niche role for the archive in tomorrow’s mix.

StormStock Founder to Wrap on New Documentary about Storms

Filmmaker, and veteran storm chaser, Martin Lisius has announced that the sequel to his 1995 award-winning documentary “The Chasers of Tornado Alley” will be completed this year. Three years in the making, the doc (working title “TCOTA2”), will focus on the wonder of storms and the people who study them to improve public safety.
“It was twenty years ago that I began working on the original, and I felt it was time to produce a sequel to reflect on the changes we’ve seen in our discipline” Lisius said. “Both technology and the public’s perception of storm chasers have evolved significantly since the mid-1990’s. I want to reveal that despite the difference in how we handle data, the majority of the people behind it are the same; responsible and serious individuals dedicated to mitigating severe weather risks. If you told someone you’re a storm chaser in 2016, they would think you were a crazy, loud, reckless person. But, the reality is most storm chasers are not that way at all. And, many are making huge contributions to the community,” he said.
The new documentary is a production of Texas-based Prairie Pictures, and is being shot on DCI 4K. No specific distribution channel has been determined, but according to Lisius, a television, Internet or theatrical release are all options.

Montage of Heck: An Innovative Documentary Born from the Archives of Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck traces the life of the Nirvana frontman from his early childhood in Aberdeen, Washington to his death by suicide at the age of 27. Challenged from the start by the relative dearth of archival footage of Cobain, director Brett Morgen utilized a variety of innovative visual and audio elements to convey the essential themes of Cobain’s short life and powerful artistic output. “Based on art, music, journals, super 8 films and audio montages provided by the family of Kurt Cobain,” the film captures his raw creative energy; the tension between his driving ambition and unease with fame; his alienation from his family; and, ultimately, his self destruction.

As with his past films, including The Kid Stays in the Picture, Chicago 10 and Crossfire Hurricane, Morgen’s experience with the archival source material was fundamental to the development of the film’s narrative structure. 

“I always write the scripts after I’ve evaluated all the material I have to work with,” said Morgen. “With a film like Montage of Heck, the bulk of the material came from Kurt’s storage facility. And when I went in to evaluate it, I had no idea what story I was going to tell. I knew I was doing a Kurt Cobain film and I knew it would sort of take place within the context of his life, but I didn’t know what that story would be. And the story emerged from, revealed itself through my experience with the archives.”

For Morgen, documentary filmmaking and archival research are interdependent skills. 

“I’ve made five or six films that are entirely archive based, and when working in that realm, you’re really limited by what material you’re able to collect,” he said. “And so I look at each piece of archival material as a letter, and a couple of pieces as a word and several pieces make a sentence. My ability to successfully direct a film can’t be separated from my ability to track down archival. It’s one and the same for me.”

But while Cobain’s private archive proved to be a rich trove of source materials, there turned out to be relatively little archival footage of Cobain himself to work with, a significant challenge for a film of this nature.

“There is almost no verite footage in existence of Kurt Cobain,” said Morgen. “In fact, outside of the material we found in Kurt’s storage facility, I would go so far as to say that there probably is none. He never participated in any sort of cinema verite documentary. And he never allowed any news crews to follow him around…and he was around in the pre-paparazzi days. So there’s a scattering of interviews with Kurt and performance footage and that’s it. There is nothing else.”

Additionally, Cobain was generally a reluctant interview subject. 

“When Montage started, I thought that Kurt would be narrating the film, but I didn’t think there would be any on camera interviews,” said Morgen. “I figured it would be Kurt’s art, which I would contextualize through with pre-existing archival interviews with Kurt. And it was after I had secured and listened to all the existing Cobain interviews I decided to not use him in that role. And to employ his family to be the sort of Greek chorus if you will. And that decision was based on the fact that…I found Kurt to be so expressive and articulate in his art and in all these other mediums, but in interviews it felt like it was painful for him and so rather than have him do the heavy lifting, and have to deal with the monotony of getting from A to B, I figured let’s have these other people” play that role.
And while the lack of archival footage of Cobain was initially daunting, Morgen and his crew responded with creativity and innovation. 
“It’s important to remember when you’re making these kinds of films, that often times that which you do not have can be a blessing, rather than a curse,” said Morgen. “When you don’t have material, it sort of forces us to find of creative ways to present those ideas, or that narrative information we’re missing. And I think that’s where a lot of the innovation in the documentary realm over the last fifteen or twenty years has come from.”
Morgen did catch one very big break in the making of the film, when he discovered a large cache of audiotapes in Cobain’s storage facility. 

“I was aware that [the storage facility] housed his art and his other content but no one had informed me that there were 200 hours of unreleased audio that were housed there as well,” said Morgen. “And that audio ran the gamut of Nirvana rehearsals to spoken word poetry, sound collages, sound design, films scores, just a plethora of material, that would both inform Montage of Heck aesthetically as well as narratively. And I would say that that finding probably had the greatest impact on the film.”
Morgen worked with Stefan Nadelman and Hisko Hulsing to create animated sequences to accompany the archival audio and, as a result, was “able to build 47 minutes of the film with nothing but audio. And I’m not saying with audio interviews, but random pieces of audio, Kurt’s sound collages or music or spoken word.”  

Having the animation to support the archival audio allowed Morgen to include lengthy audio clips in their entirety. In one extended sequence, single cell animation is used to fully illustrate a story “in which [Cobain] talks about losing his virginity.” The story “was something that [Kurt] had recorded, and I have yet to find anyone who had ever heard it, so for all practical purposes I know he recorded this tape, threw it into a box and there it sat until 2013 when we came across it,” said Morgen.
“This is archaeology work,” he said. “And part of the joy of doing a film like Montage of Heck is discovering this material that people haven’t heard in eons and sharing it with the world.”
The scarcity of archival footage of Cobain himself notwithstanding, Montage of Heck turned out to be an extremely complex archival project for both Morgen and Jessica Berman-Bogdan, who served as archival producer on the film. 
“For a band whose commercial lifespan really only lasted four years, it was amazing to see how much material was available,” said Berman-Bogdan. “We collected a staggering amount of footage and photos. In the end we ended up using materials from over 100 different sources.”
Joining the project in its early stages, Berman-Bogdan was able to conduct an especially deep and comprehensive archival excavation, mining both the big commercial archives as well as private collections, and assembling the bulk of the film’s internal archive in advance of Morgen’s production work.  
“Fortunately, Brett understands the research process,” said Berman-Bogdan. “I was brought on in pre-production and by the time the production team was fully assembled we had amassed a ton of footage and photos.” 
“My goal was to contact every single journalist/reporter who ever interviewed Kurt and see if they still had their original audiotapes,” she said.  “Surprisingly, many of these individuals still had this material.”
Because much of the archival material was in the hands of individuals, many of whom had close personal ties with Cobain, “the issue of trust was unique to this film,” said Berman-Bogdan. “A good deal of archival footage and photos came from people who had personal video or photos of Nirvana from back in the day.  My biggest challenge was not only to locate these individuals but more importantly to gain their trust. It was amazing and somewhat unexpected to see how protective everyone was of Kurt.  Most people felt Kurt had been so wronged in some way, especially in the media, and they had to be convinced that Montage of Heck was going to be different and treat Kurt fairly.”
“With films like Chicago 10, and Crossfire Hurricane, and more so with Montage of Heck, Jessica and I take a two tiered approach [to archival research],” said Morgen. “Which is, there’s the mainstream archives, then there’s the grassroots archives.  It’s like an air war and a ground war.  And obviously the air war is much easier to navigate then the ground war.”
Morgen and Berman-Bogdan have worked together on archive-based films since 2002, and their strong working relationship was essential to the success of an archival research project of this scope. Assembling the films complete internal archive was critical to Morgen’s production process, because he typically won’t start screening the archival materials until everything is in place.  
As archival producer, “it’s my job to make sure Brett gets everything he needs and asks for,” said Berman-Bogdan. “The best way to do that is to understand what’s driving the film creatively and to have a firm grasp on the production’s time line.  Let’s not underestimate the value of a long-term relationship. I’ve worked with Brett since The Kid Stays in the Picture back in 2002. By now I have a feel for how he works and what he expects. Staying ahead of, or at least on top of his expectations is key.” 
“On Montage of Heck I had Jessica come on board almost a year before we were planning to start screening,” said Morgen. “And then I usually take six to nine months to collect material, and once it’s collected it goes to the assistant editor who gets it into the system. Once everything is in the system then I sit down with the editor and we screen material chronologically. I find when you screen chronologically, certain themes get eliminated and reveal themselves. And I sort of refuse to start screening until I know everything is in there. It frustrates me to no end if I start screening and suddenly new footage comes in from a date which I’ve already passed and cleared. I’m very literal minded in that way.” 
Access to archival material has become something of a prerequisite for Morgen when he is considering a new documentary project.
“Over the course of the last fifteen years I’ve gotten to the point where when I’m approached about a subject, and generally these are high-profile subjects, I won’t engage in any meaningful conversations until I’ve done my own sort of initial footage search,” said Morgen. “To see what’s out there in the mainstream, the air war if you will. And then obviously in my initial meetings I’m inquiring about what material we will have to build this film from.”
One of the biggest shifts for Morgen’s archival filmmaking practice was the emergence of YouTube as an archival research tool. 
“My relationship with archive has changed since the advent of YouTube,” he said. “I started making archival films pre-YouTube.  And I think that it really changed the game quite a bit.”
“I look at YouTube in a way as a kind of lowest common denominator, meaning it's a great place to look when you are starting a project to see what’s out there” he said. “And I would say that probably without digging hard, you know 80% of what you’re ultimately going to find on a general subject you’re going to find on YouTube. Depending on the subject, but with entertainment subjects it’s crazy how much stuff is out there. And what it’s also useful for is when I get to a certain stage it is almost a way for me to do checks and balances with Jessica [Berman-Bogdan], where I can go and say okay did we make sure we located this piece? You’re able to become aware of its existence, and make sure that you’ve tracked it all down.”
That said, the presence of so much archival footage on sites like YouTube means that very little footage remains rare or unreleased - a real problem for a documentary filmmaker as “there is still an inherent pressure on a filmmaker to deliver new material when you are doing any sort of definitive portrait of a subject,” said Morgen.
“We were fortunate enough with Montage of Heck that most of the material came from Kurt’s own storage facility. And the bulk of that hadn’t been seen so it wasn’t as much of an issue for us as it was on Crossfire Hurricane,” Morgen’s portrait of the Rolling Stones.
Overall, this process of discovery, or media archaeology, is fundamental to Morgen’s passion for his work.
“I can’t think of a better job, because in essence as documentary filmmakers, as archivists, we have a sort of all access pass to these cultures, societies and events that we are personally so fascinated by. As I said, I grew up as a fan of the Rolling Stones, and next thing I know I’m holding [the master recording of] Brown Sugar in my hand. I never lose sight of the fact that we are incredibly privileged to work in this field and go off on these expeditions.”