Davis Guggenheim made the kind of films that moved people enough to take action, whether through anger or inspiration. The Academy Award-winning director first gained attention for the eye-opening global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), and for directing the biopic, "A Mother's Promise: Barack Obama Bio Film," shown during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Touted by critics as the next Ken Burns with a style slightly reminiscent of another controversial documentarian, Michael Moore, Guggenheim made searing documentaries that simultaneously shed light on complicated national issues while keeping the stories of his subjects real and deeply personal. He raised consciousness about the plight of less-privileged children trying to get into better schools in the widely acclaimed documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman'" (2010). With his impressive storytelling skills, and a combination of clever animation and innovative filmmaking techniques, Guggenheim elevated "Waiting for 'Superman'" from just a factual tell-all into a touching yet tragic tale of bright kids whose educational fates depended on a school lottery system - a feat accomplished by an undeniably passionate and influential filmmaker.
Philip Davis Guggenheim was born on Nov. 3, 1963 in St. Louis, MO to award-winning documentary filmmaker, Charles Guggenheim, and actress Marion Guggenheim. After graduating from Brown University in 1986, Guggenheim started working in television, simultaneously taking on the roles of director and producer. Some of his earliest directing credits included a number of hit shows such as "NYPD Blue" (Fox, 1993-2005), "24" (Fox, 2001-2010), and "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06). In 2004, he was tapped to direct and produce the HBO Western drama series, "Deadwood" (2004-06), about the evolution of a small South Dakota town from a camp to a capitalist community. Guggenheim also directed and produced the pilot episode of the new "Melrose Place" (The CW, 2009-2010), a remake of the popular 1990s series that had originally starred Andrew Shue. Shue's sister was, coincidentally, actress Elisabeth Shue, whom Guggenheim married in 1994.
Guggenheim received critical acclaim for directing the 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," chronicling former vice-president Al Gore's campaign to educate the world about global warming using his slideshow presentations. He initially turned down the offer to make the documentary because he did not consider himself an environmentalist and he had doubts whether Gore was the right person to deliver the film's message, considering his political baggage. Only after watching over a thousand slideshow presentations did Guggenheim finally relent to doing the film. He then spent six months traveling the country in 2005 to chronicle the areas affected by drought, famine, and storms. Guggenheim won an Oscar in 2007 for Best Documentary, Features for his work in the controversial film that was both a commercial and critical success. The following year, he directed the biopic, "A Mother's Promise: Barack Obama Bio Film," which aired during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
After winning praise for his previous works of a more political nature, Guggenheim went on to direct the documentary, "It Might Get Loud" (2009), a thoughtful tribute to the electric guitar as seen through the eyes of rock musicians The Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White. In 2010, Guggenheim directed another thought-provoking piece, "Waiting for 'Superman'," a documentary about America's failing school system. When he set out to make the film, Guggenheim realized he wanted to do more than just shed light on America's flawed public education system - he wanted the film to start a national debate. So he started the "Take the Pledge" campaign, which he hoped inspired those who saw the film to come up with innovative solutions to help the nation's schoolchildren. Over the course of a year, Guggenheim and the film's producer, Lesley Chilcott, followed five families from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C. who were trying to get their children enrolled in better schools. Considerable buzz surrounded the movie shortly after it premiered, and the reviews were nothing short of brilliant. The documentary switched back and forth between two storylines; "The Folly of the Adults," which centered on how schools fail the children, and "The Kids," which focused on real-life children who are seeking a better education and have participated in a charter-school lottery.