Sidney Lumet, acclaimed director of 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, and Tom Fontana, Emmy Award-winning producer and writer of St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life On The Street, and Oz, joined FOLCS to discuss their collaboration on Strip Search, an HBO film that depicts the moral and legal tensions between security and freedom in a post-9/11 world. They addressed the legal system as a recurrent theme in their creative work and the moral statement they have sought to convey by transforming fundamental notions of justice and injustice into art.
Sidney Lumet is a recognized master of cinema with more than 50 films to his name, including the critically acclaimed 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and Network (1976). He won an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005, for his “brilliant services to screenwriters, performers and the art of the motion picture.” Born in 1924 to parents who were performing artists, Lumet made his stage debut at the age of four at the Yiddish Art Theater in New York. He played many roles on Broadway in the 1930s and in 1947 he founded an off-Broadway group of actors including Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach. In the early 1950s Lumet moved behind the camera, becoming an important TV director. In 1957 he made his film debut. Over the course of the next 50 years, Lumet would earn a reputation as a director who had the rare combination of technical knowledge and a special skill for getting first-rate performances from actors (Al Pacino, Albert Finney, Faye Dunaway, and Ingrid Bergman are just some of the luminaries he has directed to Academy and Golden Globe Awards). His highly informative book Making Movies (1995) is considered a must-read for anyone interested in the art of filmmaking. His most recent film, Find Me Guilty, premiered in March to critical acclaim.
Tom Fontana has written and produced such groundbreaking television series as St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life On The Street, and Oz, for which he has received, among others, three Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three Writers’ Guild Awards, four Television Critics Association Awards, the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, and the first prize at the Cinema Tout Ecran Festival in Geneva. Fontana wrote the HBO film Strip Search, directed by Sidney Lumet, as well as contributing two pieces to the September 11th special “America: A Tribute to Heroes.” Fontana has had numerous plays produced in New York, where he lives, and at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Buffalo Studio Arena Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and McCarter Theatre Company. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Producers Guild of America, and the WGA, East, from which he received the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for lifetime achievement. His most recent TV production, The Bedford Diaries, premiered in March on the WB Network.