Robert E. Frye is an Emmy award winning producer and director of documentaries and network news programs for over four decades. His recently completed documentary “In My Lifetime: A presentation of The Nuclear World Project tells the story of the sixty five year struggle to find solutions on how to dispose of and reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.
Frye has been an independent documentary producer and director since 1988. Before that he spent two decades as a producer in network news in the United States and Canada. In 2008 he was commissioned to produce and direct a short documentary entitled Freedom without Walls commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009. The film distributed on DVD was awarded a Gold Plaque from the Chicago International Film Festival’s INTERCOM competition.
The Freedom without Walls’ commission came as a result of The Berlin Trilogy, a three DVD set that comprised all the documentary work Frye had produced and directed covering the story of both Berlin and Germany as a whole. The last film in the trilogy was a feature length documentary Berlin Metamorphoses focusing on the story of reunification, reconciliation and rebuilding in the city considered to be the epicenter of the Cold War. The documentary was shown at the Hamptons Film Festival and broadcast on public television via the American Program Service in 2003. Ironically Frye had begun production on the film just four days before 9/11, which became part of the story.
The Berlin Trilogy was the culmination of several other documentaries that he produced on the complex story of Germany in the 20th century. The first one, Kristallnacht: The Journey from 1938 to 1988 was a one-hour documentary on “The night of the breaking glass”, the night the Jews of Germany and Austria saw virtually all their centers of worship destroyed. This one- hour award-winning documentary was broadcast on PBS to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event. As a result of this production, Frye was asked to produce a film in 1994 on the formal withdrawal of the occupying allies from Berlin. This one- hour film was entitled Berlin: Journey of a City and told the story of a city emerging from the allied occupation after the devastation wrought by the Nazis during World War II and the aftermath of a divided city at the heart of the Cold War. It was broadcast both on public television stations in the United States, and by the world wide Armed Forces Television Network.
In 1997 Frye went back to Berlin to produce a film for the 50th anniversary of what was called by the Berliner’s the Luftbrucke, it resulted in The Berlin Airlift a one hour documentary broadcast on PBS in July 1998. Because of Frye’s considerable knowledge of Germany during this period he was approached to produce and direct a film related to the story in Czechoslovakia.
In 1991 Bob Frye went to Prague and Terezin to produce and direct the story of the Holocaust survivors who had gathered for the 50th year reunion to remember those who perished during their imprisonment in the Ghetto at Terezin, called Theresienstadt by the German occupiers.
It resulted in the documentary The Journey of Butterfly, another award winning one-hour film, this time featuring survivor’s stories interwoven with the art of those incarcerated in Terezin and music composed by Charles Davidson and performed by The American Boychoir; music based on the prose and poetry of the prisoners of the ghetto.
The film was broadcast on public television throughout the United States for over a decade. It was also recognized by the Book of the Month Club and was in the Holocaust Museum video catalog the same year as Schindlers List as one of only one of five film selections for that year’s catalog. Other projects Frye has produced and directed include a one-hour documentary Russia: Facing the Future commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The film became part of a one year study of the emerging Russia at the time Vladimir Putin took over from Boris Yeltsin. The documentary was filmed in Russia and the United States and released in 2001.
Prior to becoming an independent producer Frye had been at ABC News for fourteen years, which led to projects with ABC News. In 1989 he was commissioned to produce programs for ABC News Productions. The first project was a twenty six part series entitled Heroes, profiling recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. The series was aired in primetime on A&E in 1991. The next project was entitled In Search of the Dream, a six part one hour series on the African-American experience which was filmed on location in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The series was aired on A&E in primetime in 1992. Also in the mid nineties Frye produced and directed a one-hour film on the actor, James Cagney: City Boy, Country Gentleman, which was aired as part of the A&E Biography series.
As mentioned Frye produced broadcasts for ABC News and other networks over the course of twenty years. He was the founding Executive Producer of ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings in 1983; during the time of this assignment he commissioned a ten part series entitled The US-USSR: A Balance of Powers reporting on the relationship between the two superpowers in 1983. Prior to that he was the Executive Producer of Good Morning America, News, and the creator of World News This Morning an early morning one hour broadcast which premiered in 1982. From 1978 to 1982 Frye was the Senior Producer, World News Tonight based in London. During his time in London he traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East, as well as, taking on special projects including the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1982. It was also during this time that he was the co-Executive Producer of a three hour prime time documentary entitled The Secret Negotiations, whichat the time of its broadcast, on ABC in 1981, told the exclusive story behind the release of the American hostages in Iran. In 1982, Frye was co-Senior Producer of the ABC News a three-hour prime time documentary entitled FDR, broadcast on the centennial of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's birth. This award winning documentary showed the impact of FDR on the world of the 20th century.
During his fourteen years at ABC News he received other assignments which included a tour in Washington D.C. as producer of the ABC Evening News with Barbara Walters and Harry Reasoner from 1976 to 1978 prior to his being assigned to the London bureau. He was also in New York and produced the broadcast with Harry Reasoner.
From 1967 to 1969, during another stint with ABC News he was an associate producer in New York responsible for editing the news stories sent in from around the United States and overseas which appeared on the ABC Evening News. On June 5, 1968 Frye was called on to produce twelve hours of continuous live coverage by ABC News of the aftermath of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. On June 8, 1968 he produced ten minute homage to RFK, which received an Emmy nomination.
In 1969 Frye moved to Toronto to become a Senior Producer for the CBC Weekend, a weekly news magazine program, which was broadcast nationwide in Canada Sunday evenings at 10pm. After his assignment in Canada he moved to Washington to become the producer of Newsroom, a Ford Foundation funded innovative program at the public television station WETA in Washington. While there he was assigned to be the producer of Martin Agronsky's Evening Edition which was transmitted to public television stations via the Eastern Educational Network. Evening Edition was a precursor to the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour.
He left television journalism for a short time in 1972 to become the head of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s public affairs program in Washington. D.C. During this time he was responsible for creating a satellite and computer based project and worked with several government agencies in Washington and throughout the Appalachian region. The intent of the project was to use the new satellite and computer technology to advance programming in education and health. He left this government appointment to become the Washington Bureau Chief and helped to establish a news syndication service Television News Inc (TVN) which was a forerunner of CNN. This was a time of great upheaval in the United States and the bureau was responsible for breaking stories related to Watergate, the resignation of Vice President Spiro, and the resignation of Richard Nixon. In the fall of 1974 Frye returned to ABC News as the Producer of News for ABC’s new morning program AM America, which became Good Morning America in 1975.
Frye began his career as a page at NBC and moved on to NBC News as the researcher to Frank McGee and the NBC Instant Specials unit, during which time the stories he covered included the assassination of JFK and the overthrow of Nikita Khrushchev. He was assigned the job of researching possible successors to Khrushchev and ultimately put together a complete report, which predicted who the successors would be, Leonid Brezhnev and Alexis Kosygin. He received the only researcher credit on the first three hour primetime documentary broadcast entitled The American Revolution of 1963 which told the story of the civil rights moment during this tumultuous time in the early 1960’s.
Among the awards Robert E. Frye has received for his work over the course of his career are an Emmy, two Dupont-Columbia Silver Batons, a Peabody, the Polk, a Christopher, a Rockie from the Banff Film Festival, a Golden Hugo from The Chicago International Film Festival, a Headliner, the IRE (Investigative Reporters) and a CINE Golden Eagles, as well as Gold and Silver Plaques from the Chicago International Film Festival’s INTERCOM.
He was appointed a Fellow (1998-1999) at the Media Studies Center of the Freedom Forum in New York City. From 2001 to 2008 he was a Fellow at the Division of Global Affairs, Rutgers University in Newark where he created and taught a series of seminars entitled “Culture, Conflict and the Media”.
In 1986, between producing network news and embarking on a career as an independent documentary filmmaker, Frye became the President and CEO of Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers in North America. Phillips at the time was the third largest auction house in the world, after Sotheby’s and Christies.