Don't Miss: Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

©Gregory Crewdson

I posted about filmmaker Ben Shapiro's documentary, Brief Encounters, when it was first released. I have finally gotten a chance to see it and wanted to make sure as many of you as possible did, too.

For those of you not familiar with photographer Gregory Crewdson's work, he meticulously creates his photographs on an epic scale. For instance, that photo above is completely staged—and lit. As in, they lit the whole freakin' street scene.

Below, the film's trailer, an extended clip, and how to catch this worthwhile documentary in its cross-country, limited-release tour.


The Ultimate BTS

Long story short, if you are reading this site, you should find a way to get to see this movie. It's the ultimate behind-the-scenes film. And at an hour and 17 minutes, is able to go much more in depth that you are used to seeing on the 'net.

Ben Shapiro spent some serious time with Crewdson in making Brief Encounters, and the resulting portrait is deep and layered. You'll not only see the technical BTS stuff, but also get a look at the thought process behind his amazing, evocative photos. And most important, you'll see the dedication with which he approaches the production of his large-scale (and large format) images.

The Trailer

Below is the official trailer, which gives you a pretty good indication of the scope and feel of the film. If you enjoy the trailer, you'll like the movie. (Michael Bay and J. J. Abrams could take a note in this area . . .)

A Two-Minute Clip

Director Ben Shapiro called to say that a clip from the film had been made available:

Just like speedlights at sunset, right? Only on a much, much bigger scale.

What the heck, here's another one. Like to build sets? So do they:

Where to See It

The bad news: It is not getting a wide release, nor one timed to a certain date. In fact, it's already out in the wild, existing largely below the radar.

Hopefully, it'll eventually wind up on Netflix or some other doc channel where it can be seen easily by many. But as for now you have to keep an eye out to know when it can be seen in your area. And for those of you not in the US, it looks like you will still have to wait.

The good news: It is actually getting a lot of (admittedly, brief) showings around the US. Below is a listing of upcoming locations. But be warned: some are coming up very soon and almost all are one- or two-day events. You snooze, you lose.

Upcoming locations include:

Phoenix AZ, Los Angeles CA, Rohnert Park CA, Denver CO, Wilmington DE, Honolulu HI, Chicago IL, Evanston IL, Rockland ME, Provincetown MA, Detroit MI, Three Rivers MI, Santa Fe NM, Taos NM, Huntington NY, Ithaca NY, New York NY, Cleveland OH, Columbus OH, Bend OR, Portland OR, Philadelphia PA, Memphis TN, Austin TX, Ft. Worth TX, Houston TX, Madison WI, Milwaukee WI

You can find the full (and frequently changing) screening location info page here.

Should You See It?

If it is in your city and you read this site: no-brainer, go see it. It is probably not going to be exactly what you expect, but as a photographer I found it both compelling and valuable, as well as beautiful.

How far should you drive to see it? Depends on how into this kind of stuff you are. If you are an art photographer with a technical bent and want an amazing case study to explore, yeah, I'd suggest driving an hour to see it. Hook up with another local photog to lighten the journey. Make an evening out of it.

But one way or another, I'd recommend the film to all within earshot. It is not often we get this kind of opportunity to go under the hood with a photographer like this.


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Blogger Sara said...

I just spoke to Ben Shapiro two days ago and am excited to finally be checking out this documentary on Sunday in Toronto, ON. I also encourage everyone to check out this film and will be doing a write up about it next week.

December 20, 2012 10:12 AM  
Blogger Tom Legrady said...

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto Ontario showing it several times over Christmas, starting Friday, Mayans allowing:

December 20, 2012 10:14 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I also encourage everyone to check out this film. I spoke to Ben Shapiro earlier this week and am grateful that Toronto finally is showcasing this film starting tomorrow. I'll be checking it out on Sunday and writing a review shortly afterwards. Been a huge fan of Gregory Crewdson's work for a long time now and am intrigued to find out more about his process outside of books and interviews.

December 20, 2012 10:16 AM  
Blogger ken said...

Saw it over the summer with a surprisingly (to me) small crowd at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It's pretty incredible. I wish someone had done this for Jeff Wall back in the day...

I also saw Crewdson give a talk for the Beneath The Roses book tour . It was essentially this documentary without all of the visual aids. He was winding down the project & being a talk, no video.

That guy is amazing

December 20, 2012 10:28 AM  
Blogger hht420 said...

Cool! And it's actually showing in a city near me (Ithaca, NY).

Thanks for the heads-up!

December 20, 2012 10:31 AM  
Blogger Jay Grabiec said...

really really wanting to go see this. 2.5 hour drive to Chicago though. Still mulling it over.

December 20, 2012 10:42 AM  
Blogger gregory said...

why not immediately onto itunes? probably make the same money for him as a ticket

December 20, 2012 12:02 PM  
Blogger Michael R pdx said...

Thanks! I'm among the fortunate - it will come to mytown Portland, Ore. Twice. So I've a choice of venues.

December 20, 2012 12:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew Wagg said...

This isn't meant with any disrespect to the huge efforts they put in but isn't he more of a stills director rather than a photographer as he doesn't do any actual photography.

December 20, 2012 12:40 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Following that logic, I would credit all of my photos to my right index finger as the rest of me was really just along for the ride.

December 20, 2012 12:50 PM  
Blogger The Duck said...

Recently, while a photography student at Hallmark, I presented a piece comparing Crewdson to Heisler. Saw two of Crewdson's pieces at the William's College art museum (call ahead first) and one at Gagosian (his agent showed it to me). Missed the screening in VT where I live. Need to see it. Wish I could study with him at Yale.

He has a piece on view at the Berkshire Museum. Oddly, none on view at MOMA or any other NYC museum. The Whitney has one, but you have to call two weeks in advance to see it.

December 20, 2012 2:56 PM  
Blogger Southern Skies Coffee Roasters said...

Those photos are so haunting. It's so hard to even express how they resonate within me, but they touch me profoundly.

Edward Hopper's work really does it for me too.

December 20, 2012 4:54 PM  
Blogger Tattoo Al said...

It seems like a photo of this composition is intended to be viewed extremely large. Is this only doable with medium format?

December 20, 2012 5:30 PM  
Blogger michael anthony murphy said...


December 20, 2012 9:15 PM  
Blogger Kristoffer said...

The documentary is available at
(Swedish national TV) and is said to be available in all contries. It's open for another two days!

December 21, 2012 10:58 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Yep, but nope.

December 21, 2012 1:12 PM  
Blogger John F. Williams said...

The level of detail is amazing and the individual images are like an entire movie in one frame. Will do my best to catch the documentary.

December 21, 2012 6:19 PM  
Blogger Mike Riley said...

I cant see it on a big screen, I can download, I can't stream from anywhere - is it a myth? Where can those of us outside the US see / purchase this?

December 21, 2012 7:39 PM  
Blogger BitterSweet said...

Oh I'm so depressed, I missed it by one day. Please post another update should it be released on dvd!

December 21, 2012 11:32 PM  
Blogger Larry Vaughn said...

That reminds me of when I used to drive into Grand Forks ND from East Grand Forks at 6:30 during the winter.

December 22, 2012 9:41 PM  
Blogger ck said...

I agree: Why not on iTunes?

December 23, 2012 6:39 PM  
Blogger Dave_Reed said...


Did I see you on a recent episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? I was watching on Christmas Eve with my wife and thought I saw you eating a Braised Duck taco.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Dave Reed,

December 25, 2012 8:07 PM  
Blogger Tonia Mc Caskill-Johnson said...

Thank you for doing a post on Mr. Crewdson. I discovered him and his work a few years ago and have been completely enamored with his brilliance. He creates a perfect balance of theater and photography --the kind of balance I've been looking to find in my own work.

December 27, 2012 9:12 PM  
Blogger Phaethon said...

The making of this photo featured in part six of the BBC series Genius of Photography.

January 02, 2013 1:58 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey Collins said...

The maker of this film needs to go talk with Peter Broderick. He's the guru of marketing and distribution of independent films today. I'm glad it's coming to my town, but only a one day showing is kinda off in my book. Should have at least two showings in each town.

And to all you people ranting about it not being on itunes yet...get over it. It's called a Theatrical release. Your parents know about these things, why don't you.

January 02, 2013 1:55 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Am I alone in not really 'getting' these images? Sure, there's a lot of work gone into it, but the final product for me is a bit, well, dull. Maybe if you see them full size they have more impact? Technical skill doesn't necessarily make for an interesting image...

January 03, 2013 6:18 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Then the images aren't for you. They are for someone else. Crewdson has learned that appealing to everyone is not important. Rather it is appealing in a meaningful way to some people (including himself, I suspect) is what is important.

It is a concept I have been working to get for myself. And the proof is in the pudding: his prints regularly sell for six figures.

January 03, 2013 10:19 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

You're right of course David. That's the nature of art and design.

Keep up the good work! :)

January 03, 2013 12:54 PM  
Blogger Karen Bobotas said...

David, Took the drive to Salem to take in Brief Encounters tonight with a fellow photog's definitely worth seeing. A great body of work plus the walk around Salem was an added bonus. Thanks for sharing the tip.

January 07, 2013 10:52 PM  
Blogger Ben Hollingsworth said...

The resulting images reminded me almost immediately of the famous painting "Nighthawks."

I admire the technical prowess required to produce such a finely-tuned image, but it's not really my kind of image.

January 23, 2013 12:31 PM  
Blogger Roy Hakala said...

Amazing that all this promotion, including the 2-minute sort-of-a-preview, says next to nothing about the film except how wonderful the photographer (cinematographer?) is. Looks like a heavily-weighted hook intended to lie on the bottom and catch suckers.

February 05, 2013 9:51 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


If that is what you take away from this, you should definitely not see it.

February 05, 2013 10:39 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I saw it in Philly. I really enjoyed the film as it gives you even better understanding of what goes behind the scenes and where he is coming from as an artist.

February 27, 2013 3:04 PM  
Blogger Tim Kamppinen said...

This is now on Netflix streaming! Going to check it out.

May 22, 2013 5:36 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Awesome news, and thanks much for the heads-up. I'll drop a post in when i get home tonight to let everyone know. Thanks again!

May 22, 2013 8:39 PM  
Blogger Tim Kamppinen said...

Thank YOU for posting about it in the first place so that I recognized what it was when it showed up! Without that I would have probably just scrolled on past without a second thought on my current mission of rewatching the first three seasons of Arrested Development. :)

May 22, 2013 9:29 PM  
Blogger Cesar Barroso said...

Watched it on Netflix on Sunday night. Just loved it. Thanks for the lead, David.

July 24, 2013 4:37 PM  
Blogger Cesar Barroso said...

Say, David, is there any way, please, to photograph large format with a flash instead of continuous light?

July 24, 2013 4:40 PM  

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