Getting Back to Abnormal

PBS Premiere: July 14, 2014Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Bio

Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Peter Odabashian and Paul Stekler

Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Peter Odabashian and Paul Stekler have worked together on and off for almost three decades on documentaries about American life, culture and politics. Some combination of the four have had films on POV in all four decades of the series: American Tongues (the very first film on POV in 1988), Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics (1992), Last Man Standing: Politics, Texas Style (2004) and now Getting Back to Abnormal.

For Alvarez, Kolker and Stekler (Odabashian is a lifelong New Yorker), making Getting Back to Abnormal marked a return to their Louisiana roots. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kolker and Alvarez were part of a wave of young activist video makers exploring the culture of New Orleans and Louisiana with such documentaries as Yeah You Rite!, a now-classic portrait of the city's accents, and The Ends of the Earth, about the political changes in conservative rural Plaquemines Parish. Stekler was teaching Southern politics at Tulane and running political campaigns in the city. He turned to filmmaking with Among Brothers: Politics in New Orleans, after his reform candidate for mayor, William J. Jefferson, lost in 1986.

Alvarez, Kolker and Stekler first collaborated on Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics, a look at the state's freewheeling political culture. The film earned the team its first Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for broadcast journalism. Four years later, joined by Odabashian, they made the four-hour Vote for Me: Politics in America, which won a George Foster Peabody Award as well as a second duPont-Columbia Award for the team. Alvarez, Kolker and Odabashian's other credits include Moms (1999), People Like Us: Social Class in America (2001), Sex: Female (2003) and The Anti-Americans (2007). They are also the creators of the 3D history game Past/Present.

Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker's professional partnership dates back to 1975. Their film American Tongues, revealing our attitudes about the way other people speak, premiered on POV in 1988. Thanks to a Fulbright fellowship, they subsequently lived in Japan while making The Japanese Version (1991), a provocative look at how Japanese popular culture appropriates Western images and concepts to create something uniquely Japanese. Alvarez, who grew up in Milwaukee, received his bachelor's degree in radio, television and film from the University of Wisconsin. Kolker received his bachelor's degree in film from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Alvarez and Kolker live in New York City.

Peter Odabashian was a sound editor on more than 17 feature films directed by Sidney Lumet, Brian De Palma, Warren Beatty, Spike Lee and Paul Newman, among others, and he was sound editor for Robert Benton's Places in the Heart, which won a Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award. He has edited more than 20 documentaries that have appeared on American Experience, Nova, Frontline and other PBS series. He won an Emmy Award for Best Documentary Editing for Vote For Me, and that began his relationship with Kolker, Alvarez and Stekler. Odabashian is currently working on his first solo project, a documentary about friendship, growing older and the grace, beauty and frailty of humankind.

Paul Stekler's work for PBS includes George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire, winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and a 2001 Emmy, and Last Stand at Little Big Horn, both of which aired on American Experience; Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style, which aired on POV in 2004; and two segments of the 1990 Eyes on the Prize II series on the history of civil rights. For Frontline, he co-produced and wrote The Choice 2008, about the Obama-McCain election, with director Michael Kirk. He has a doctorate in government from Harvard University, was a New Orleans political pollster and is chair of the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been a professor since 1997.