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Jeffrey Schwarz is an American Emmy Award-winning producer and director known for an extensive body of documentary work. His feature documentaries include The Fabulous Allan Carr, Tab Hunter Confidential, I Am Divine, Vito, Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon and Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story.
A New York native, Schwarz is a graduate of the SUNY Purchase Film Department. His senior thesis documentary was Al Lewis in the Flesh, a short film profiling Al Lewis, famous for playing Grandpa on the television series The Munsters. The film observes Lewis as he interacts with the public at his Bleecker Street restaurant, Grampa’s Bella Gente, and judges a low-rent Halloween costume contest at a corporate event. The documentary, which observed the American pastime of celebrity adulation, led to Schwarz's on-going interest in producing films about popular culture and Americana.
His first job in the film industry was as an apprentice editor on The Celluloid Closet, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's film adaptation of Vito Russo's seminal book. Schwarz’s work on this project would later bridge into the development of his own documentary about Russo, titled simply Vito.
Schwarz spent the late 1990s working in the low budget feature world, editing movies and trailers for directors such as Gary Graver, Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau. In 1998, Schwarz was hired to edit a documentary about the making of Gus Van Sant’s controversial remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Psycho Path was included on the Universal Pictures Home Entertainment DVD release of Psycho, and was Schwarz’s first foray into the burgeoning world of DVD bonus features, also known as value added material (VAM).
As the DVD format was introduced to the public, all the major studios began offering making-of featurettes and audio commentaries on their discs as an incentive to consumers to replace movies they already owned on VHS or laserdisc. Schwarz capitalized on this moment to segue into producing original bonus content, and soon became one of the leading producers in this field.
As assignments from the studios began to proliferate, Schwarz founded the Koreatown, Los Angeles based Automat Pictures in 2000 to keep up with the demand. Schwarz and a team of skilled producers created content for over 100 major DVD and Blu-ray studio releases, and soon expanded into the production of studio EPKs (electronic press kits) and original television programming.
Some notable DVD releases produced by Schwarz include Raging Bull, The Silence of the Lambs, Blue Velvet, This Is Spinal Tap, Philadelphia, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Rent, Menace II Society, When Harry Met Sally, Footloose, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Fargo, Basic Instinct, Hairspray, Friday, and all six films in the Resident Evil franchise. Schwarz produced documentaries and audio commentaries for a range of notable filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Wes Craven, Rob Reiner, Joe Dante, Barry Sonnenfeld, Paul Verhoeven, Larry Cohen, John Carpenter, Chris Columbus, Roger Corman, Nora Ephron, Sidney Lumet, and the Coen Brothers.
Schwarz’s television productions include Starz's Sex and the Cinema, a look at sexuality on film; In the Gutter, a history of the gross-out movie; Hitchcocked!, a tribute to the artistry of Alfred Hitchcock; and Shooting the Police: Cops on Film. For IFC he produced Reservoir Dogs Revisited, a celebration of Quentin Tarantino's classic, and Still Swingin', a tribute to the indie classic Swingers[disambiguation needed]. Schwarz also produced several episodes of HBO First Look.
In 2007, Schwarz began to segue into producing independent documentary features, the first being Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story about cult filmmaker William Castle. This set into motion a series of award-winning independent documentaries, and as the proliferation of bonus content began to wane with the advent of streaming, Automat Pictures shifted its focus to feature film production.
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story is a biographical documentary about legendary Hollywood showman William Castle, who specialized in producing low-budget shockers. Featuring interviews with Castle’s daughter Terry, John Waters, Joe Dante, John Landis, Leonard Maltin, Roger Corman, John Badham, Diane Baker, and Marcel Marceau, among others, the film premiered at the 2007 American Film Institute's AFI Fest and was awarded the Audience Award for Best Documentary. It received many other festival honors and was released as part of the William Castle box set in 2009 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. In 2011 the film was released as a stand-alone Special Edition DVD and is currently streaming on Vimeo. It has aired on The Documentary Channel and TCM.
Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon
In 2008, Schwarz directed the feature documentary Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, which focused on the life and career of porn star Jack Wrangler, who became a superstar in both the gay and straight markets before marrying singer Margaret Whiting and retiring from the business. The film features Wrangler as well as a host of notable golden age porn figures such as Samantha Fox, Gloria Leonard, Jamie Gillis, Al Goldstein, Joe Gage, Sharon Mitchell and Candida Royalle. Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon would go on to win a GayVNAward in 2009 for Best Alternative Release, air on the Logo TV, and debut on DVD through TLA Releasing. Jack Wrangler lived long enough  to see the film just before its premiere, and passed away soon after its launch on the festival circuit in 2009.
For his next feature, Schwarz focused on the life of Vito Russo - gay activist, film scholar, author of The Celluloid Closet, and major figure in the fight against AIDS. The film, executive produced by Bryan Singer and produced for HBO Documentary Films, premiered at the 2011 New York Film Festival and made its television debut on HBO in July 2012. Vito received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Research at the 2013 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, as well as a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. Critically well-received, Vito was hailed by Time Magazine as a document that shows how civil rights and entertainment are “deeply connected.” Based on rejuvenated interest in Russo’s life and work, Schwarz edited two volumes of Vito’s writing entitled Out Spoken: A Vito Russo Reader.
I Am Divine
In 2013, Schwarz turned his lens to famed Baltimore drag performer Divine with the celebratory documentary, I Am Divine. Featuring extensive interviews with contemporaries and admirers including Divine’s mother Frances Milstead, John Waters, Mink Stole, Tab Hunter, Bruce Vilanch, Susan Lowe, Peaches Christ, and Ricki Lake, to name a few. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival, and garnered much critical praise and audience good will. It was released on DVD by Wolfe Video, who surprised critics with a chocolate turd along with their review copies.
Tab Hunter Confidential
Following Tab Hunter’s participation in I Am Divine, Schwarz was approached by Hunter’s partner, Allan Glaser, about adapting Hunter’s best-selling autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star (2005, co-written with Eddie Muller), into a documentary feature. The film features extensive interviews with Tab Hunter, as well as friends and associates such as John Waters, Debbie Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, and George Takei. It had its World Premiere at the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival, and went on to screen at festivals around the world to great acclaim. Tab, Allan, and Jeffrey traveled the globe meeting old fans and new, spreading Tab’s message of self-acceptance and gratitude.
The Fabulous Allan Carr
Schwarz' latest film is a documentary about flamboyant Hollywood producer Allan Carr, famous for producing Grease, Can’t Stop the Music, La Cage Aux Folles, and the notorious 1989 Academy Awards. It made its debut at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). It features interviews with Patricia Birch, Maxwell Caulfield, Steve Guttenberg, Randy Jones[disambiguation needed], Randal Kleiser, Sherry Lansing, Lorna Luft, Michael Musto, Robert Osborne, Brett Ratner, Connie Stevens, Alana Stewart, Marlo Thomas, Bruce Vilanch and more.
Upcoming Projects (2017 and beyond)
Currently in development are feature documentaries about the making of Paul Verhoeven’s misunderstood masterpiece Showgirls, Gloria Swanson’s attempts to mount a musical version of Sunset Boulevard starring herself, and the protests that erupted during the filming of William Friedkin’s 1980 thriller, Cruising.
On June 20, 2015 San Francisco’s Frameline Film Festival presented Jeffrey with The Frameline Award. The award is designed to honor those who have made a major contribution to LGBT representation in film, television, or the media arts. Vito Russo was the first recipient in 1986, and other honorees include Divine, Rob Epstein, Marlon Riggs, Christine Vachon, Barbara Hammer, Isaac Julien, Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato, Rose Troche, Gregg Araki, Francois Ozon, George and Mike Kuchar, Margaret Cho, and George Takei. A link to Jeffrey Schwarz' award presentation is available here.