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Neil Berkeley: Beauty in the Weirdness

Documentaries that chronicle the overlooked



 



Storyteller Neil Berkeley specializes in documentaries about interesting people who fly just under the pop culture radar.
 


“I don’t really care about A-listers,” Berkeley explains. “Wayne White was the puppet maker on ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’; he wasn’t Pee-wee. Dan Harmon was the writer of ‘Community’; he wasn’t the Joel McHale. And Gilbert Gottfried is a comedian who’s just always been there in our lives. He’s like the wallpaper. It fascinates me that they don’t break through, or that they don’t want to break through.”

His subjects may be off the beaten path, but Berkeley’s films have garnered mainstream attention from the very beginning. His debut, Beauty is Embarrassing, premiered at South by Southwest, won awards across the country and made its TV debut as part of PBS’ Independent Lens series.

In Oklahoma, the film won Best Documentary Feature at the deadCenter Film Festival, and subject Wayne White was invited back to the OKC Museum of Art the following year to create an installation of massive cardboard puppets. All of the attention made Berkeley seem like an overnight success … but the truth about this Moore native and Oklahoma City University graduate was far more interesting.

“I met Wayne nine years before I started making a documentary about him,” Berkeley recalls.  

“We lived less than a mile away from each other. Everything he did was such a big part of my life. His art and influence were everywhere.”

At the time, Berkeley was launching his creative services company called BRKLY, which did design and graphic work, eventually getting into broadcast. Now they create Emmy-nominated video and promotional work for “Top Chef,” “Project Runway,” “Real Housewives” and HGTV’s “Property Brothers.”

“My design company was going well,” Berkeley continues, “but I wanted to make a movie, and I wanted to tell the story of Wayne White. So it all came together. They both collided nicely.”

Berkeley followed up Beauty is Embarrassing with another critical and festival favorite, Harmontown – about Dan Harmon, the creator of “Community,” who was then going on a podcast tour after being fired from the show he created. Berkeley’s latest film is about comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

“Before I made Harmontown, I wanted to do a movie about Gilbert Gottfried, even though I had never met him,” Berkeley says. “For years, I was talking to everyone I saw about making a movie about Gilbert Gottfried.”

Gilbert premiered last month at the Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews. Berkeley was praised for his ability to capture intimate moments and stories from the notoriously reclusive comedian.

“I don’t bring a crew of people. My process involves getting a camera by myself and casually talking to them until they finally break and start talking,” Berkeley says. “Gilbert did not talk to me for a long time. But I went to his house every day. Ultimately, two things happened: He forgot that the camera was there and it became a real conversation.”

Of his films, Berkeley explains, “Topically, they are all about weird, eccentric artists – but the way I approach each of them is different. Wayne’s was about his career, Dan’s was a moment in time and Gilbert’s is a big reveal about who he actually is.”

Neil Berkeley will be in OKC this month as a featured guest of the deadCenter Film Festival, June 8-11. He will be speaking on a panel about directing films, and presenting his latest documentary feature: Gilbert will screen at 8 p.m. June 9 at OKC Museum of Art, and at 9 p.m. June 11 at Harkins in Bricktown. For a full schedule and information about tickets, visit deadcenterfilm.org.

 

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Calendar

January 2019

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

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Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
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Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

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Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

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Celebrate during MLK weekend with fun! From Saturday 1/19 through Monday 1/21, experience our Winter Fun Pass for just $19.95! This pass includes unlimited laser tag, bumper cars, frog hopper, kidz...

Cost: 19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate during MLK weekend with fun! From Saturday 1/19 through Monday 1/21, experience our Winter Fun Pass for just $19.95! This pass includes unlimited laser tag, bumper cars, frog hopper, kidz...

Cost: 19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Presented By Painted Sky Opera By Leonard Bernstein Sam and Dinah may appear to be the picture of 1950s suburban marital bliss in this jazz-influenced opera by the composer of West Side...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall - City Space
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

The 8th annual “A Perfect Finish” will feature a night of wine & beer tasting, an auction, food and fun benefiting the OKC RIVERSPORT Junior Crew.  The proceeds from this...

Cost: $75

Where:
McClendon Whitewater Center
800 Riversport Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
View map »


Sponsor: RIVERSPORT OKC
Telephone: 405.552.4040
Contact Name: Luke Reynolds
Website »

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Presented By OKC Philharmonic Alexander Mickelthwate, conductor Yolanda Kondonassis, harp Bernstein - On the Town: Three Dance Episodes Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent) Higdon - Concerto for...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Phil
Telephone: 405.842.5387
Website »

More information

Presented By Painted Sky Opera By Leonard Bernstein Sam and Dinah may appear to be the picture of 1950s suburban marital bliss in this jazz-influenced opera by the composer of West Side...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall - City Space
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Website »

More information

Show More...
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