|Written by|| Philip Shane|
|Studio|| Submarine Deluxe|
Constance Marks Productions
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey is a documentary film about the life and career of Kevin Clash. The film was directed by Constance Marks and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2011.
Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the documentary features archival footage, including Clash puppeteering as a teenager with his own handmade puppets, as well as interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O'Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney, Caroll Spinney, Fran Brill, Marty Robinson, and Bill Barretta.
The Park City premiere of the film was sold out weeks before the screening. It was attended by Kevin Clash, Elmo, Carol-Lynn Parente and the filmmakers. It was followed by a Q&A session with Clash, Elmo, and Tau Bennett, an 8-year old puppeteer that Clash is mentoring. Brian Muehl was in attendance as well, surprising Clash after the Q&A, who in return pointed out to those still in the auditorium that this was "the original Elmo."
At the Sundance Awards Ceremony on January 29, 2011, the film received the Special Jury Prize: Documentary "For creating a documentary for ALL ages." The award was presented by Jess Search, of the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation.
After the screening, Constance Marks revealed to the remaining audience that a Caroll Spinney documentary was in the works, but disclaimed involvement.
The film aired on PBS on April 5, 2012, with an encore presentation airing on April 9th. (Some PBS stations aired the special on the 9th, with a repeat on the 16th.) It was released on DVD on April 3.
Produced by Constance Marks Productions, Inc.
- Director: Constance Marks
- Producer: Constance Marks, James Miller and Corinne LaPook
- Composer: Joel Goodman
- Cinematographer: James Miller
- Editor: Philip Shane and Justin Weinstein
- Assistant Editor: Roger Matthews
- Codirector: Philip Shane
- Distributed by New Video/Docuramafilms
- ISBN 1422996093
- Catalogue # NNVG264041
- Special Features
- Sundance Premiere Q&A with Kevin and the Filmakers (8 min)
- Some Thoughts from the Filmmakers (14 min)
- Tau Performs in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (4 min)
- Interview with John Tartaglia (6 min)
- Roger Ebert: We...learn a lot of the tricks behind giving the muppets such distinctive personality. (Review)
- Reuters: "With six years in production, veteran doc filmmaker Marks was able to expertly weave together the strands of Clash's career, combining archival sources and generous interviews with the performer and his many admirers. Whoopi Goldberg provides suitably sparse, incisive narration, while the priceless footage of Clash performing Elmo on TV and for live audiences gets to the core of the effusive enjoyment he takes performing for youngsters. Although the filmmakers could have provided more background on how the character of Elmo was developed and his integral role on Sesame Street, the little monster does a pretty good job of speaking for himself... "Being Elmo" is a rare documentary that will connect across generations and cultures to delight viewers worldwide for years to come."
- New York Post: "One of the chief pleasures of Sundance is wandering into a movie that you think couldn't possibly amount to anything much and being knocked out by it. The documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," which should make Kevin Clash a household name, is an inspiring and joyous celebration of art, skill, determination and making kids happy... Clash is a remarkable talent, a true master of his field, and the importance of what he does is considerable. Sick children apparently have asked to meet Elmo as their dying wish. If you can watch one such encounter without crying, you're a stronger man than I. Clash, pro that he is, doesn't cry. Because where there is Elmo, there must be happiness."
- Look at OKC: "As director Constance Marks proves in her detailed and surprisingly emotional documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey,” Clash's love of the art form eventually led him to create one of the most popular characters in children's television."
- The Sentinel: "Being Elmo is not a sappy kiddiefest; in fact, it may not appeal to the very young. It’s an object lesson, as critic Marc Savlof says, “in the ultimate power of believing in oneself and persevering against long odds and ridicule from others."
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 3 stars out of 4 (good)
- Exclaim: "Other than his childhood and his guilt about his daughter, Being Elmo is devoid of personal details, concentrating only on the fluffy puppets and dream world of Jim Henson. But this is no puff piece. Strong themes of talent, ambition, mentorship and righteous decency instilled by Jim Henson's legacy run through every experience of Clash's. Being Elmo, which is wholly entertaining and inspiring, provides us with the same genuine warm fuzzies and good feelings we would get from a hug from Elmo, which makes the film just about everything we want it to be."
- Sundance Film Festival 2011, Park City UT, January 23-29, 2011
- SXSW Film Festival 2011, Austin TX, March 12-19, 2011
- Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham NC, April 14-17, 2011
- Dallas Film Festival, Dallas TX, March 31, 2011
- Independent Film Festival, Boston MA, April 27, 2011
- Hot Docs Film Festival, Toronto ON, May 8, 2011 (interview on App Central)
- Seattle International Film Festival, June 3 and 5, 2011
- Nantucket Film Festival, June 24, 2011
- Nantucket Film Festival, June 26, 2011
- My Life as a Furry Red Monster by Kevin Clash
- Official: Website, Facebook, Twitter
- Sundance Film Festival page about the film
- Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers: “Being: A Puppeteer’s Journey” Director Constance Marks, IndieWire, January 4, 2011.
- Anthony Breznican, "Sundance: 'Being Elmo' reveals big-hearted man behind the fur", Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 2011.