By Beth Kissileff/

Click photo to download. Caption: American folk musician Sixto Díaz Rodríguez in Simon Chinn’s Oscar-winning documentary, “Searching for Sugar Man.” Credit: Hal Wilson.

The career of British-Jewish film producer Simon Chinn, who has
received two Academy Awards in the Best Documentary category, might have taken
a very different direction if not for the death of a journalist in the line of

Chinn, who won Oscars in 2009 for producing “Man on Wire”
and in 2013 for “Searching for Sugar Man,” was initially interested in a career
in journalism. But a sniper in El Salvador killed war correspondent David
Blundy, the father of one of Chinn’s friends, in November 1989 while Blundy was
working for London’s Sunday Correspondent.

Though impressed by Blundy when he met him, Chinn said in an
interview with that after
reading Blundy’s obituaries, he understood that he “did not want [Blundy’s]
life, a perpetually unsettled life.” It was a life Blundy “thrived on,” but
Chinn realized that he could have a reasonable facsimile of the war
correspondent’s experience–but with more stability and less danger–by getting
involved in documentary films, where one “parachutes into situations, has
adventures, and leaves.”

Chinn recalled that for years he worked on documentaries for
British television–on “Zimbabwe, the Balkans, South Africa, Serbia, Iraq after
Saddam was captured. ” Once he married and had children, however, Chinn said he
wanted to “stop that” and “not go to hairy places.” Not that Chinn’s current
line of work is risk-free. He said he has been involved in a project on the
narcotics wars in Mexico through which he has been “helping a director who is
putting himself at considerable risk.”

Click photo to download. Caption: Oscar-winning British-Jewish producer Simon Chinn. Credit: Courtesy Simon Chinn.

Click photo to download. Caption: Oscar-winning British-Jewish producer Simon Chinn. Credit: Courtesy Simon Chinn.

a producer is “sort of a black art,” Chinn told He explained that there are “many
things involved,” but that he mainly “originates
projects” and is the “person who has the first vision of the film, creative and financial.” Chinn said he must
figure out “how to get the resources to
make the film we want to make, how to get the work out in a way that will maximize its potential.”

the producer, Chinn said he is “where the buck stops” because he is
ultimately responsible for bringing a film in on time and on budget. But it is a fundamentally creative role,
because he is also enabling the directors
he works with to realize their ambitions to make the films they want to make.

How does Chinn decide which projects to take on? He said the
types of movies he is interested in making are “those with bigger themes,” that
are concerned with human dramas set in a human context.” He cited as an example
his work on “Project Nim,” a film adaptation of a book on an experiment done in
the 1970s involving having a chimpanzee raised in a human family. Chinn said
this “animal biography” is something “not seen on film,” and that what appealed
to him was that the story “generates huge ideas, who we …read more


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