“Art of the Steal” Filmmakers Split

Details on Don Argott's and Lenny Feinberg's new projects

Photo-Illustration by Colin McSherry

Last year, Don Argott and Lenny Feinberg made a splash with “Art of the Steal,” their documentary about the Barnes’s contentious move. The much-vaunted museum finally locked its doors last month, and both men are once again hard at work—but not together.

Executive producer Feinberg says the pair had a dispute “over who did what,” i.e., the film’s credits. Director Argott won’t discuss the split but confirms he and Feinberg are “no longer in touch.” But neither is letting the bad blood spoil his own Oscar chances.

Feinberg, a 58-year-old Merionite, has found his next subject: Philadelphia’s daily newspapers. “It’s a great local story,” he promises. “It’s amazing, the diminishment, if not the demise, of the Broad Street newspapers.” (This as-yet-untitled documentary will yield his second IMDB entry.) Over the past year, with the papers’ circulation plummeting, Feinberg has captured their bankruptcy proceedings in federal court and interviewed everyone from gossipist Dan Gross to CEO Greg Osberg. “They’re hoping for a resurrection,” observes Feinberg, who expects to wrap production by the end of summer. “It could be a very interesting turnaround or a complete failure.”

Art Institute grad Argott debuted in 2005 with Rock School, a portrait of the Paul Green School of Rock and its hotheaded namesake. For his follow-up to Steal, the Rittenhouse cinematographer reverts to rock and roll, following drug-addled Pentagram vocalist Bobby Liebling on the unlikely road to recovery for Last Days Here, set for theatrical release this winter. But his next project, an untitled look at the communities surrounding nuclear plants, may have the biggest impact. Of the many nuclear documentaries currently in production, only Argott’s was under way prior to Japan’s recent disaster. “The rest only have the world as it existed after Fukushima, but we were there before,” boasts Argott. “We were the only cameras at all those empty NRC meetings in Washington. Now it’s a hot topic, and we intend to get out there first.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of
Philadelphia magazine.