Jeff Feuerzeig

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Jeff Feuerzeig
Born1964 (age 54–55)
Alma materNew York University
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter

Jeff Feuerzeig (born 1964) is an American film director and screenwriter best known for The Devil and Daniel Johnston, his profile of cult musician and outsider artist Daniel Johnston, for which he was awarded the Directing prize for Documentary at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and which was released theatrically in March 2006 by Sony Pictures Classics.


Feuerzeig grew up in Hazlet, New Jersey and the Morganville section of Marlboro Township.[1] He came of age just in time to receive the full impact of the punk rock wave and its attendant do-it-yourself aesthetic, an influence that dominates his approach and subject matter to the present. He graduated with honors from Trenton State College in 1986 and immediately enrolled in New York University's six-month Intensive Filmmaking Program, where he studied under Thierry Pathé.[2] He has spent 25 years directing commercials for a wide assortment of corporate clients, including IBM,[3] Delta Air Lines[4] and Budweiser.[5]

In 1990, he directed Jon Hendricks: The Freddie Sessions, a profile of the famed jazz singer and member of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. The half-hour film featured appearances by George Benson, Al Jarreau and Bobby McFerrin and was broadcast nationally on PBS.[6]

Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1994)[edit]

In 1993, marshaling his continuing interest in the outer limits of alternative music, Feuerzeig directed a 16mm feature documentary on brothers Jad and David Fair and their seminal proto-punk band Half Japanese, a passion project that was booked for an independent two-week run at Film Forum in New York and subsequently distributed by Tara Releasing in art-houses nationwide – often in conjunction with the band playing full concerts after the screening.[7]

"Half Japanese has the feel of a complete put-on,” wrote Stephen Holden in The New York Times.[8]

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2006)[edit]

Over a five-year period beginning in 2000, Feuerzeig created an innovative and sympathetic portrait of West Virginia-born cult singer-songwriter and outsider artist Daniel Johnston, whose early-20s onset of manic-depression and schizophrenia enabled him to create a nakedly confessional body of work unfiltered by the limitations of his contemporaries. Working from the conceit of clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (1993), and utilizing techniques from the New Journalism of the 1970s (the creation of first-person POV and internal monologue through audio cassette letters, journal entries, home movies, etc.), Feuerzeig documented the musician-artist’s struggles with his private demons – many of them quite literal in his own mind – elevating what might have been a footnote in rock history to world acclaim.[9]

New York Press film critic Matt Zoller Seitz said of Devil: “A true nonfiction film, a movie that tries to do with sound and image what journalists like Nick Tosches (Dino) and Norman Mailer (Armies of the Night) tried to do with prose, bending prose into poetry to find a more subjective route to truth.” [10]

The film appeared on many best of the decade lists.[11][12][13] It was named by Mojo Magazine one of the 10 best music documentaries of all time [14] and by Rolling Stone magazine one of the Top 25 music DVDs of all time.[15] On the strength of the film, Feuerzeig spent a year working with Albert Maysles,[16] where he created award-winning short-form documentaries for IBM. He is currently represented by Ridley Scott Associates (RSA) for commercial and television work.[17]

The Real Rocky (2011)[edit]

On October 25, 2011, the ESPN network broadcast The Real Rocky, an original one-hour documentary directed by Feuerzeig as part of its ongoing documentary showcase series, original titled 30 for 30, and more recently re-branded as “ESPN Films.” The film chronicles the ongoing controversy surrounding the true identity of the eponymous title character from the Sylvester Stallone Rocky franchise, which public opinion and folk wisdom has long held was based on New Jersey heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, “The Bayonne Bleeder,” whose chief claim was that he once went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali, even knocking him down in the ninth round (by, as it was later revealed, stepping on his foot).[18][19]

Using collage graphics somewhere between Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art confections and the ransom note typography of Jamie Reid's Sex Pistols album cover, the film spells out Rocky’s influence on Wepner’s personal life – much of it catastrophic, such as his descent into cocaine and a brief stint in federal prison. To provide both insider insight and period detail, Feuerzeig assembles a round table of sportswriters and Jersey stalwarts reminiscent of the Carnegie Deli regulars in Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.[18]

According to Variety’s Brian Lowry, “[F]or anyone familiar with boxing or even just the “Rocky” franchise, “The Real Rocky” – shot partly in black and white to heighten its cinematic feel, and featuring boxing reporters as a sort of Greek chorus – is the genuine article.”[20]

Other Projects[edit]

In 2009, Feuerzeig began production on a proposed feature documentary about artist Shepard Fairey, the lawsuit brought against him by the Associated Press and his Fair Use defense in creating the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster during the 2008 presidential election. To be called The Boy Who Cried Hope, the film was postponed indefinitely following revelations that Fairey had lied about the photographic source material for the poster.[21][22]

In April 2011, Feuerzeig directed The Dude, an 18-minute documentary profile of Jeff “The Dude” Dowd, a long-time producer’s rep for independent films and putative inspiration for the Coen BrothersThe Big Lebowski.[23] The short was broadcast on the USA Network as part of its “Character” series.[24]

On 9 April 2013, called into The Best Show to discuss his "Piano Van" [25] film project on the musician Chris Stroffolino.

For his 2016 documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, Feuerzeig received a nomination for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay at the 69th Writers Guild of America Awards.[26]

Upcoming Projects[edit]

Feuerzeig has completed the screenplay for God Bless Tiny Tim with filmmaker/playwright Julien Nitzberg. This portrait of the latterday crooner and accidental cultural icon is currently in development.[27] He is also slated to direct The Bleeder, a biopic of boxer Chuck Wepner, whose life story inspired (and was in turn affected by) the Sylvester Stallone film Rocky. Feuerzeig co-wrote the script with Jerry Stahl, and the film is set to star Liev Schreiber as Wepner.[28][29]


  • Jon Hendricks: The Freddie Sessions (1990)
  • Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1994)
  • The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2006)
  • The Dude (2011)
  • The Real Rocky (2011)
  • Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016)
  • Chuck (2016) - Writer


  1. ^ Falkenstein, Michelle. "From Maplewood To Sundance", The New York Times, January 30, 2005. Accessed August 10, 2012. "In 1988, Daniel Johnston, a songwriter, gave a legendary concert in Pier Platters, an independent Hoboken record store. He had a mental breakdown during the concert and ran amok for two weeks, said Jeff Feuerzeig, who grew up in Hazlet and Morganville and attended Trenton State College."
  2. ^ "Wildfilm Productions - News/Information". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ [3][dead link]
  6. ^ FEATHER, LEONARD (29 December 1990). "TV Reviews : Hendricks' Take on 'Freddie Freeloader'". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  7. ^ THOMAS, KEVIN (28 March 1994). "'Half Japanese' Looks at a Fringe Band". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Review/Film; Sound (and Reality) Check For an Underground Band". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  9. ^ "The Devil and Daniel Johnston". 8 October 2010. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  10. ^ [4]
  11. ^ "The 25 Best Documentaries of the Decade (2000-2009)". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  12. ^ "The Documentary Blog » The Documentary Blog's Top 50 Documentaries of the Decade". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  13. ^ [5]
  14. ^ [6]
  15. ^ "Rolling Stone". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  16. ^ dennyvibes (8 March 2007). "Fresh Samantha Beard Net Commercial". YouTube. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  17. ^ "RSA Films". RSA Films. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  18. ^ a b "ESPN Films: 'The Real Rocky'". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Ali vs. Wepner - Boxing Photos". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  20. ^ [7]
  21. ^ [8]
  22. ^ "RSA Films". RSA Films. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  23. ^ Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, Kasia (August 28, 2012). "The Dude Who Inspired 'The Dude' in the Coen Brothers' 'The Big Lebowski'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  24. ^ "Jeff Feuerzeig - Director / Writer". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  25. ^ "The Piano - History and Such". The Piano. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  26. ^ Littleton, Cynthia; McNary, Dave (19 February 2017). "WGA Awards: 'Moonlight,' 'Arrival' Win For Best Screenplay, 'Atlanta' Wins Twice". Variety. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Answers - The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  28. ^ Rosenberg, Adam; "EXCLUSIVE: Liev Schreiber Wants to Tell Real-Life 'Rocky' Story Next, Director Named" [9],, February 10, 2006
  29. ^ "RSA Films". RSA Films. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2018.

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