Roger Sherman

Speech Topics

We are all tellers of stories. Our best emails, tweets, sales pitches, marketing strategies, books and movies only work when they are great stories. It’s a challenge to move an audience of one or thousands. Roger reveals his personal process, integrating clips from his award-winning films, making it easier for others to craft a better story.

Creativity can take many different forms, as participants will learn in Roger’s talk. Alexander Calder, the inventor of the mobile, began each day painting; he made thousands. Tom Wolfe told Roger that writing is so painful, “I’ll do anything to avoid it.” Richard Rodgers never composed for fun. Broadway’s most prolific composer only sat down at his piano when he was writing a musical. Showing clips from his films and sharing stories, stories, Roger will paint a picture of the way his creativity flows – it’s a never ending challenge – as well as artists he’s known and profiled in his award winning films.

The best documentary films seamlessly integrate beautiful cinematography, captivating interviews, subtle narration, dramatic music, innovative graphics, creating a story arc that sweeps the audience along for a magical ride. If any one element overpowers, viewers can become distracted and lose Interest. Through well-chosen clips of his award-winning films, Roger tells stories of challenging and successful situations through out his long career.

Roger reveals the singular journey to his upcoming PBS special; a portrait of the Israeli people told through food. With film clips and stills he shows what most Americans do not know: People from more than 70 cultures from all over the world brought their traditions and others who’ve lived there for centuries maintained theirs so that now Israel has one of the hottest food scenes in the world. 350 boutique wineries are winning international awards and acclaim. Remarkable cheese is being made that compares to France and Italy. With all they face, Israelis have been rated some of the happiest people in the world. Roger’s talk explores the roots of Israeli cuisine, how it developed, why only recently has it begun to gain momentum, and is now itself is being exported around the world.

Roger is available to screen a select amount of his acclaimed documentaries. Each screening is followed by a Q&A.

Alexander Calder, which Charlie Rose called “an American masterpiece,” is the definitive film about the inventor of an art form, the mobile. It won an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and aired on PBS as an American Masters special. After screening the film, Roger talks about the challenges of filming art, especially sculpture, and overcoming obstacles to making a successful film: How did he convince playwright Arthur Miller to agree to be interviewed after being rebuffed for two years? Hint: he played to Miller’s ego. And, what did the filmmaker do to get around some of the most powerful art curators so that he could film Calder’s work the way the artist would have wanted it. The screening will be followed by a Q&A.

The Restaurateur is a portrait of Danny Meyer, heads an empire of of award-winning restaurants such as Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, The Modern, and Shake Shake. One of the most successful restaurateurs in America, Meyer bares all as he tries to create not one but two world-class restaurants at the same time. The three month construction schedule is delayed over and over for eleven months proves even a successful journey is never easy: The chef of Eleven Madison Park is fired just three weeks before opening. “I thought I’d made the worst mistake of my life,” Danny tells the filmmaker after Tabla and Eleven Madison Park finally open. Tabla earns three New York Times stars and Eleven Madison Park four. Viewers learn how they do it, and get inside Meyer’s difficult business decisions along the way. The award-winning film is widely used as a business and restaurant case study. The screening will be followed by a Q&A.

Real Heroes: The Medal of Honor is the highest medal for valor in combat that our nation bestows. Most soldiers who receive it die in the line of duty. Recipients of the Medal do such unimaginable acts of heroism, that if written as a Hollywood screenplay, they’d be rejected as impossible. Roger shows clips from his acclaimed Medal of Honor film, in which he interviewed twelve living recipients. Participants will quickly understand that this kind of heroism not as a cliche. The screening will be followed by a Q&A.


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Roger Sherman, founded Florentine Films with Ken Burns after they graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He’s been making award winning documentaries for decades. A producer, director, cinematographer, still photographer, and author, Roger’s films have won an Emmy, a Peabody and two Academy Award nominations. The diverse subject matter includes art and history, science and social issues, music, the environment, and food.

Roger’s latest film is In Search of Israeli Cuisine, a portrait of the Israeli people told through food. The feature length documentary puts a face on the culture of Israel, profiling chefs, home cooks, vintners, cheese-makers, farmers, street food vendors, drawn from the more than 100 cultures that make up Israel today – Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Druze. A rich and human story of the people emerges. Released in January 2016, the film booked in over 55 film festivals around the world. It will open theatrically in the fall and air on PBS in 2016. One review asked “Is this the best food film of 2016?” Another said it’s “For anyone interested in the complex history of the country.”

Among his many films is The RESTAURATEUR (PBS)––James Beard Award, best documentary––which follows Danny Meyer, one of the most successful restaurateurs in America – Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, The Modern, Maialino, Marta, Shake Shack – and his team through the hellish creation of not one but two world class restaurants: Eleven Madison Park and Tabla. The film won the James Beard Award for Best Documentary, the Sonoma International Film Festival, the Big Apple Film Festival, and the Double Feature Film Festival. Winner of three festivals, Kat Kinsman writing for CNN’s said, “Beg, borrow as needed, but do yourself a favor and see Roger Sherman’s documentary.” Fellow restaurateur Drew Nieporent – Nobu, Tribecca Grill, Corton – said, “A brilliant time capsule and achievement. It gave me goose bumps.” The Restaurateur is available to view online.

Alexander Calder (PBS)––Emmy Award, Peabody Award––is the first definitive biography of the inventor of the mobile, a co-production with American Masters. It won the prestigious Peabody Award and was part of American Masters season winning Emmy for Outstanding Series. People made it “Pick-of-the-Week,” Entertainment Weekly gave it an ‘A’. Sherman discussed the film on Charlie Rose, who called it “an extraordinary American masterpiece.” Susan Lacy, the creator and executive producer of American Masters described it simply as “the best artist portrait I’ve ever seen.” Alexander Calder is available to view online.

Medal of Honor, (PBS) is history of the highest medal for bravery that our nation bestows. It takes viewers from the battlefield in Iraq back to the Civil War. Writing in The New York Post, Linda Stasi said, “This special is so awe-inspiring, if I could, I would award it four Medals of Honor. It is that good and that honest.” L.A. Times Tony Perry wrote, “Embedded in ‘Medal’ are gem-like mini-profiles.” And MSNBC said, “Yes, there’s a lot of junk on TV. But the medium can also rise to the occasion quite beautifully. The richly drawn stories will stay with you for a long time after you turn off the set.” The Medal of Honor is available to view online.

Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds (PBS), is a two-hour American Masters profile of Broadway’s most prolific composer. Newsday’s Noel Holston put it on his 10 Best films of the year list writing, “As memorable and moving as any musical drama you will see and hear anywhere, Broadway included.” Tom Shales declared in the Washington Post, “One of the most edifying television events of the year.” And, Dorothy Rabinowitz writing in The Wall Street Journal said it’s “An extraordinary film biography, perhaps the best ever produced in the American Masters series.” With Julie Andrews, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Billy Taylor, Diahann Carroll, Celeste Holm, Shirley Jones, Trevor Nunn, Mary Rodgers.

 The Rhythm of My Soul (PBS) is the story of country, bluegrass, mountain and gospel music in a small area of Eastern Kentucky, a place from where more famous country stars hail than any other part of America. It features musicians who live the music: 72 year old Lee Sexton, probably the last great mountain banjo picker, 10 and 12 year old Josh and Staci Carriere, who play fiddles and sing like angels with their mom, Angie. The Tri-City Messengers are a group of retired African-American coal miners, who sing their hearts out for God, and others. The Rhythm of My Soul is available to view online.

Beyond Black & White (The Learning Channel), probed the African-American perspective of the criminal justice system. Using the O.J. Simpson Trial as a touchstone, the filmmaker asked the question: why did so many blacks stand up and cheer at Simpson’s not guilty verdict, while many whites were aghast? The program won the NAMIC Vision award for cultural diversity in Cable programming, as well as a Gold Medal at the New York Festivals.

The American Brew (A&E) is American history told through beer. “To understand America,” Dick Kreck, wrote in The Denver Post, “one must know beer, not baseball. ‘The American Brew’ explains with wit and insight our infatuation with beer in its infinite variety.” The Pilgrims weren’t supposed to land at Plymouth Rock. Louis Pasteur worked on beer long before turning his attention to milk. As historian Greg Smith says, “We probably would have studied harder in school if we’d known this stuff.” The American Brew is available to view online.

CHEVY 100: An American Story (Velocity) is a two-hour ride through Chevrolet’s amazing 100 years on the road. It’s told by drivers, collectors, restorers, designers, race car drivers, and journalists, people who live and breathe fabulous cars. Automotive News wrote “For anyone with even a passing interest in the auto industry – or American history, for that matter – it’s worth watching.”

Among the women’s topics, Don’t Divorce the Children (Lifetime Television) reveals the firsthand effects of divorce on children. Scenes poignantly illuminate how children can suffer. Stories are told from their point of view. The film became mandatory viewing in court systems in a dozen states. Couples with children seeking divorce were required to watch it in court-ordered workshops.

Sherman is currently finishing The Search for Israeli Cuisine (PBS), a portrait of the Israeli people told through food. It was shot at over 100 locations all over Israel.

As a photographer, Sherman’s work has appeared in Town & Country, Town & Country Travel, Saveur, Garden Design, Budget Travel, MetHome, and Newsweek. He photographed The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes by Stephanie Pierson (Andrews McMeel, 2011).

Sherman’s books include Ready, Steady, Shoot: A Pro’s Guide to Smartphone Video. It’s aimed at the millions of people who could use serious help shooting videos of  vacations, family events, nights out with friends. The enhanced eBook contains easy to follow teaching videos to get shooters quickly thinking like filmmakers. It was preceded by the successful Ready, Steady, Shoot: The Guide to Great Home Video (Andrews McMeel, 2011).

For more information on Roger Sherman’s films, to see film clips and photography, visit website:

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