An innovator in the Direct Cinema style of documentary filmmaking, also known as cinéma vérité, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker got his start in the 1950s, making experimental films. He went on to make his name as one of the premier documentarians of the latter half of the 20th century, focusing his lens on subjects as diverse as Norman Mailer, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Bill Clinton.
A native of Evanston, IL, Pennebaker served a stint in the Navy, worked as an engineer, and founded Electronics Engineering (the makers of the first computerized airline reservation system) before beginning his film career. Following his directorial debut, a 1953 film called Daybreak Express that featured a score by Duke Ellington, Pennebaker joined the Filmmakers' Co-op in 1959. Working with other young filmmakers, he began making Direct Cinema documentaries, starting with his 1960 film Primary. A behind-the-scenes look at the Wisconsin Democratic Primary between Presidential candidates Kennedy and Humphrey, the documentary was the first to take a candid look at the everyday goings-on of a Presidential race. Years later, Pennebaker would use this approach to observe the various antics behind the 1992 Presidential candidacy, resulting in the critically lauded The War Room.