Susan Froemke, Filmmaker

Susan Froemke is a non-fiction filmmaker with over thirty documentary films to her credit from the classic Grey Gardens (1976) to Lalee’s Kin (2001), an HBO film on poverty that was nominated for an Academy Award, to Wagner’s Dream (2012), which opened theatrically in the US and aired on PBS. Most recently, Froemke co-directed Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare, with Matthew Heineman, which premiered at Sundance and was broadcast on CNN Films in 2013.

A four-time Emmy winner, Froemke was the principal filmmaker at legendary Maysles Films in New York for over two decade. Commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in 2008, she was in production on Wagner’s Dream for over four years, filming in New York, Montreal and Quebec City. Previously for the Metropolitan Opera, Froemke produced and directed James Levine: America’s Maestro, an American Masters presentation on PBS in 2011, and The Audition (2010), an in-depth look at the Met’s National Council Auditions, which follows the dramatic journey of the 2007 finalists as they compete to sing on the Met stage before the country’s leading opera administrators.

For HBO, Froemke co-produced two special event series: Momentum In Science: The Alzheimer’s Project (2009) and Addiction (2007), an unprecedented 14-part documentary series about drug and alcohol addiction, which won the 2007 Emmys Governors’ Award for Special Programming.

Before starting her own production company in 2003, Froemke was the principal filmmaker at Maysles Films in New York following the death of David Maysles. She has long been a disciple of “direct cin­ema,” a style of filmmaking pioneered in the 1960s by the Maysles Brothers. Like “cinema verité” in France, direct cinema presents the drama of real life as it unfolds before the camera with minimal intervention.

Froemke’s tremendous range as a filmmaker can be seen in the diversity of her subjects. She co-produced with Peter Gelb several co-productions between Maysles Films and Sony Classical, including: Ozawa (1985), Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic (1985), Horowitz Plays Mozart (1986), Soldiers of Music: Rostropovich Returns to Russia (1991), Baroque Duet (1992), and Recording The Producers: A Musical Romp With Mel Brooks (2001), which won a Grammy Award.

Froemke produced and co-directed Christo In Paris (1990), Karajan In Salzburg (1988), and–in the rock and roll arena–her updated version of The Beatles! The First U.S. Visit (1991), Conversations With The Rolling Stones (1994) and–for the J. Paul Getty Trust—Concert Of Wills: Making The Getty Center (1997) about the enormous Los Angeles arts complex, designed by renowned architect Richard Meier.

Previously, for HBO’s America Undercover, Froemke directed Abortion: Desperate Choices (1992), which earned her an Emmy, a Peabody Award, and a DuPont-Columbia Award. Also, for HBO, she produced and directed Letting Go: A Hospice Journey (1996) and Lalee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (2001), a powerful exploration of poverty and education in the Mississippi Delta. For Lifetime Television, Froemke directed 100 Years Of Women (1999) and Fear No More: Stop Violence Against Women (2001).