Cooperman

The New Yorker is a wonderful, enlightening, thoughtful magazine loved by many who rarely have the time to get all the way through an issue. The New Yorker Presents is your chance to glean the witty and informative experience found in the magazine in a tight half hour. The series adapts stories and articles from The New Yorker and uses them as inspiration  for short films that examines the world through the lens of countless characters. The myriad of emotion, information and colorful characters creates a dynamic blend of facts, fun, and feels.

I got a chance to sit down with Kahane Cooperman, a former Daily Show producer, The New Yorker Presents showrunner, and all-around awesome lady. She described her time at The Daily Show, her incredible knack for managing artists and why she loves The New Yorker.


MS: How did you end up working on this project?

KC: My actual background is filmmaking and documentary filmmaking. Specifically so, because of some of the films I had made and had been involved with, I got hired in 1996 as a field producer at this new show, The Daily Show.  It just evolved into this really force-of-nature of a show and it was an incredible, wonderful, amazing thing to be a part of, and also hard to leave in a way.  But it didn’t exercise all of my muscles. I did miss that storytelling, filmmaking part of myself. And the day that Jon Stewart announced on the air that he was leaving, Alex Gibney got in touch with me. I had met him a small number of times briefly, and I’m thrilled that he thought of me. He told me he had this extraordinary opportunity and asked if I wanted to talk to him about it. And I said yes, I would love to talk about it because I think I have an unusual hybrid of television production and storytelling filmmaking. So I pursued it and I went on my first job interviews in a really, really long time. I interviewed with Alex and another of his producers at Jigsaw and Amazon and Conde Nast and, finally, with David Remnick. I got the job and it’s been pretty incredible.

MS: How is this different from The Daily Show? I’m sure there are so many ways but what do these two like processes look like?

KC: The similarity, I think, is the integrity of it and focus on mission. You know the Daily Show had a point of view and comedy. [At The New Yorker Presents] we want our pieces, our films, to do justice to the great magazine that they originate from, and what those writers intended. The other similarity was actually that I modeled loosely the sort of structure of how we’ll get this done on you know the field departments, which is what at The Daily Show is responsible for all the correspondent  based-out-of-studio pieces. You were always managing and creatively supervising many different pieces in many different phases of production at once. And I kind of took that little idea and how to create it on steroids to make this happen because we were creating more that 50 pieces in a number of months at a really high-level with both in-house filmmakers and out-of-house filmmakers, so I had to build this like machine that could handle that and also manage the influx of passionate, caring voices from all of the entities that we were working with, and there’s a lot.

MS: I’m so curious to know how you feel about The Daily Show to be continued to be hosted by a man. I know there were rumors that maybe it would be handed off to a woman?

KC: I think that it’s not about a man or a woman at all. I just think it’s important to have a new voice, a fresh voice. You know Jon Stewart is a one of a kind person. I think if you’re looking for someone to just duplicate that then you’re going to fail. You just need a new voice and if I had time to watch the new show, which I haven't while creating this one, I could comment more. But I’m really excited about it. And I‘m equally excited about Samantha Bee’s show. [...] There is a lot of talented people working on it. I am psyched that there is a female voice in the late night world. I really am. But I never considered that  at the place where I came from, only hearing a male point of view. I never felt that way about that show.

MS: Would you describe yourself as a feminist?

KC: Oh, this is interesting. Yeah, I would.

MS: Do you feel like that has affected or played into your work as a documentary filmmaker or this project?

KC: What was incredibly important to me with this series is that there’s a diversity of voices represented. Not just in subject but in who’s creating the films. And we really have that. You know it’s female, male, all different kinds of people. What I’m really looking for is storytellers and that’s the primary thing. You just need to be a very strong and passionate storyteller. But it was important to me to have a lot of different voices. And we did make sure to have lots of different people in the mix who come from different perspectives because it’s not just that it’s important. It’s that we want to represent the world.

MS: Yeah and even in just the couple episodes I’ve seen you go from New York to Mexico like all over the place so I feel like you achieve it.

KC: There is always room for improvement, but it was very important to me.

MS: And with all of these different voices how have managed to keep such a succinct tone? I feel like with every episode I’ve seen has such a coherence about it.

KC: *Whispers in Excited Sue from SNL voice* God bless you. Thank you! That is one of the great sort of joys and challenges for me with this was that you know you have these, we created all these pieces first. I wanted to do it that way. It’s not always how things are done but I think it was really important to see what we had to work with before creating episodes out of them. It’s like when you put two colors together they might look different next to each other than they do next to another color. It’s the same thing with these pieces.  And they all evoke different emotions and so. Even though I know people will watch singular pieces, the episodes are created to be watched as a whole. So we had all these pieces that are so different. They are different in tone. They’re different in subject. They’re by different filmmakers. So they’re different in style and that’s wonderful, but because they’re in these episodes they needed to feel like even though they are so different they are all of the same universe. I thought 'well, the universe is the source' which is the New Yorker Magazine. But then also the city that The New Yorker is an icon of. So that to me gave us permission and license to explore New York.  And I like the idea that in every edition of the New Yorker, there are many stories that you can be taken on a journey through, many different worlds and realities. There are a million buildings with a million windows and doors. Behind every window and every door, someone is living a life who has a story with something going on. I felt like 'wouldn’t it be great if we can kind of like drop in behind these doors and behind these windows with these interstitials sort of connect everything?' Because really that is what these longer-form ones are too. They were just looking through a window or behind a door into another person’s world. That’s the connection sort of between everything.

MS: You can really tell the passion behind every story. So the episodes feel so loved to me in the way that The New Yorker feels so loved.

KC: It was beloved. I’m not kidding, I’m not just saying this like the way stars who work on the movies say they loved each other so much. It’s like everyone just cared so much about this and it just shows, I think. But everyone, it didn’t matter what your job was or whether you’re like the most acclaimed filmmaker or if you’re like a production assistant, I think because our starting point was The New Yorker magazine, everyone just brought their a-game and they were into it. I think the results show that people just really cared.

MS: Yeah, it’s really beautiful. What do you personally love about The New Yorker?

KC: I love the integrity of it, and the variety of it, and the fact that if you are that rare person who can actually get through an entire edition of it, you will be guaranteed an in-depth, factually accurate, immersive,  just strong experience through a lot of different worlds. You can have that by the way, in just one cartoon in The New Yorker or poetry or a 10,000-word piece, a quick talk of the town and you know I just love that magazine for that.

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The New Yorker Presents is available to stream on Amazon now!

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Maggie is a slightly visually impaired bookworm and consuer of fine Ranch Dressings. Her hobbies include looking at pictures of puppies on instagram and squealing, rewatching episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and perfecting her scarily accurate impression of a chicken. See what she is musing about at @maggiesmusingz

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