Eddie Schmidt (born August 29, 1970) is a director, producer, writer, commentator and satirist. He is perhaps best known for producing several feature documentaries that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, including the Oscar nominated Twist Of Faith (2005), the irreverent This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006), the Emmy-nominated Troubadours (2011) and the twice Emmy-nominated Valentine Road (2013). From 2009-2011, he served as President of the IDA (International Documentary Association), and was its interim Executive Director for the latter half of 2008.
Life and career
Schmidt attended Vassar College, where he received a BA in Drama/Film in 1992. Later, in 2005, he was named a "Vassar Innovator" by the school, placing him in a distinguished group of alumni from the college's history including Nickelodeon founder Geraldine Laybourne.
Schmidt emerged as a producer of feature documentaries with Chain Camera (2001), a groundbreaking look at urban teenage life in which video cameras were given to students at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles and passed around like chain letters, presaging YouTube and user-driven media by several years. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to air on Sundance Channel, BBC, and Cinemax, and had a multi-city theatrical run. In 2005, it was released on DVD with deleted scenes and filmmaker commentary.
Chain Camera began a long creative partnership between Schmidt and director Kirby Dick, that included Twist of Faith, the story of a man confronting the trauma of past sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. Nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 and largely shot by Schmidt himself, Twist Of Faith also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and is one of the all-time highest-rated films on film critic website Rotten Tomatoes, with a 100% positive rating.
The duo’s equally provocative follow-up, This Film Is Not Yet Rated (which Schmidt co-wrote), provided an irreverent investigation into the MPAA movie ratings system and American culture, marking the first time that the secretive industry organization had been exposed. The film was met with a standing ovation when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and was released theatrically that fall by IFC Films.
Schmidt returned to the Sundance Film Festival for the fourth time in 2011 with Troubadours, directed by music documentary vet Morgan Neville. Troubadours, released theatrically before airing on PBS’ "American Masters," tells the story of the ‘rise of the singer-songwriter’ in late 1960s/early 1970s Los Angeles, featuring Carole King, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, and many other luminaries. The film was later nominated for an Emmy for Nonfiction Cinematography and aired as part of PBS' Emmy-winning season of "American Masters."
In 2012, Schmidt was executive producer of the documentary Beauty Is Embarrassing, Neil Berkeley's colorful chronicle of the inspiring and irreverent visual artist Wayne White. Beauty premiered at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival and, following a theatrical release, made its broadcast premiere on PBS' Independent Lens, where it was nominated for an Emmy for graphic design.
2013 brought Schmidt back to the Sundance Film Festival for a fifth time with Valentine Road, a critically acclaimed documentary that followed the tragic events and aftermath of a school shooting in Oxnard, CA. As the film was nearing completion, the Sandy Hook, CT school shooting tragedy occurred, which was an especially saddening parallel for Schmidt, who spent his teenage years growing up there. Valentine Road was lauded for its complex portrayal of a community and later nominated for two News & Documentary Emmys.
Schmidt has worked frequently in television, producing, directing and writing both documentary and comedy series and specials. Notably, he was the executive producer of Season 2 of Bravo's Newlyweds, Co-Executive Producer of Season 2 of Catfish, and Supervising Producer of Season 1 Storage Wars: New York.
In 2012, Schmidt was asked to contribute a short film to Morgan Spurlock's "Focus Forward" series with GE & Cinelan. The film Schmidt directed, Good Bread, profiled Homeboy Bakery and premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
In recent years, Schmidt has appeared as a pop culture pundit, guesting several times on G4's Attack of the Show, as well as on MSNBC, IFC, and other cable outlets. He is featured in two documentaries directed by Jeffrey Schwarz for Starz/Encore, In the Gutter (2008) and Sex and the Cinema (2009). Schmidt often moderates panels at film festivals or events, conducting talks with other well-known filmmakers and making memorable appearances at awards shows and industry events.
He appears as himself, along with Ira Glass and his own parents, in a 2004 episode of National Public Radio's This American Life ("Family Legend"), which re-ran in 2005 and is available on iTunes.
In 2011, Schmidt was one of six documentary experts brought in as a program consultant to hash out Current TV’s final 50 Documentaries To See Before You Die, then counted down in a summer mini-series hosted by Morgan Spurlock. Schmidt also appears on-camera in the series discussing films like Truth or Dare, Dogtown, Z-Boys and Gasland.
Schmidt also orchestrated the distribution of Harry Shearer’s feature documentary The Big Uneasy.
Non-Profit and Public Works
In addition to his film and television career, Schmidt served as the Board President of the IDA (International Documentary Association), a major, nonprofit community and resource for nonfiction filmmakers, since 2009. For the latter half of 2008, Schmidt served as the organization's day-to-day interim Executive Director, overseeing its 2008 DocuWeeks Theatrical Showcase and the 2008 IDA Documentary Awards, hosted by Morgan Spurlock, and honoring Werner Herzog.
During his time with the organization, Schmidt has re-energized its advocacy base, lobbying lawmakers for filmmakers’ rights with regard to fair use and net neutrality, among others. During filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s battle with oil giant Chevron over all 600 hours of his film "Crude," Schmidt engineered an open letter signed by over 200 filmmakers, including 20 Oscar winners, as well as supplying amicus brief for Berlinger’s court case.
Most recently, Schmidt was part of a major IDA effort petitioning the IRS to affirm the notion of documentary filmmaking as a for-profit enterprise.
Author and Satirist
Schmidt, along with MJ Loheed and Matt Patterson, authored the book, The Finger: A Comprehensive Guide To Flipping Off (1998). A definitive look at the middle finger gesture and its place in popular culture, and featuring cameos from John Waters, Harry Shearer, Ice Cube, and Julie Delpy, the book quickly became a top-seller during the 1998/1999 holiday season, hitting #75 on amazon.com, receiving a nomination for an American Library Award, and being dubbed the literary "Pick of the Week" by the LA Weekly.
Schmidt, along with Patterson and Loheed, were pioneering internet satirists with the website ooze.com, one of the first digital humor publications to exist as early as 1993. Excerpts from ooze.com appeared in the McGraw-Hill book Internet Insider (1995), and the 'zine was hailed alongside the Onion in magazines such as Yahoo! Internet Life.
In the late 90s, ooze began to incorporate video into its satire, receiving worldwide attention for mocking Fundamentalist Christians with "The Force Is A Tool of Satan," a fake video and website purporting to represent zealous Fundamentalists offended by the Star Wars myth. In 1999, ooze signed a deal with Fox Broadcasting Company to produce a TV series. Although that did not materialize, during 2001–2007 the group continued to perform live and produce numerous video pranks targeting celebrities, PETA, tourism, and mainstream pornography, with total YouTube views of their stunts reaching over 500,000.