Academy Award and Peabody Award winner, DeWitt Sage’s films have engaged theatrical and television audiences in subjects as diverse as severe mental illness; crises of conscience in post-revolution Czechoslovakia and Poland; the plight of the poorest in the hills and hollers of West Virginia; and an Italian tenor’s spectacular China Tour shortly before the massacre at Tiananmen . The style of Sage’s films is non-narrated, strands woven together, but the “style” is ultimately decided by the story and by listening to the film itself as it is assembled and edited.
When Winter Dreams, a film he wrote and directed for PBS’ series American Masters, won The Peabody…the citation said :
“Sage weaves person and place into the rich tapestry of American culture. The film chronicles the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald , one of America’s greatest novelists, in images and ideas as lyrical and inventive as Fitzgerald’s prose.”
Sage’s documentary, A Place for Madness, was nominated for the 1995 Robert Kennedy Journalism Award and Broken Minds, about treatments and mistreatment of schizophrenia was cited by the New York Times for
“…setting a network benchmark with it’s provocative exploration of social policy through moving human story.”
Distant Harmony, a portrait of opera star Luciano Pavarotti’s epic trip to China, was widely praised for its lyricism, humor and seamless structure . It was an audience favorite at Sundance, Toronto and Cork. Pinto, a dramatic screenplay about the criminal prosecution of the Ford Motor Company for reckless homicide was written for Warner Brothers in 1986 and Sage’s CBS, won the feature documentary about three families who escape across the Iron Curtain, won the Chicago Film Festival as Best (made-for) Television Feature and The San Francisco Festival as Best Documentary Film. His 1993 film, Faith Under Fire, with Vaclav Havel, explored the successes and grave failures of the church before, during and after the cascading revolutions of 1989.
Earlier in his career Sage wrote, produced or directed Oceans the Silent Crisis for ABC News; Princeton…a Search for Answers which won an Academy Award and was recently shown at MOMA’s Oscar Docs; Art Is…a short film with a big cast including the New York City Ballet, Jerome Robbins, the Paper Bag Players and Leonard Bernstein. (Academy Award Nomination); Opening Night, the making of a grand opera; First Edition, directed by Helen Whitney, a (composite) frantic day in the life of a big city newspaper. His script for American Masters’ Ernest Hemingway Rivers to the Sea was nominated for an Emmy.
Sage was frequently on the losing end of documentary film proposals that died and at least two major (dramatic) screenplays that never raised a single cent.
Filmmaker Julian Krainin and Producer Catherine Collins were complicit in many of the….successes.
Sage is a member of the Academy’s Documentary-Feature branch and teaches a master class at the Maine Media Workshops.