"Saturday Night Live" is a difficult subject for a documentary in 2015 because so much has been written and said about the comedy institution.
But director Bao Nguyen and producers Tom Broecker and JL Pomeroy believe "Live From New York!" to be a unique take on the enormity of "SNL's" 40 years.
"How is it reflecting American culture and society, and how has it impacted it," is how Nguyen puts the documentary's goal when it came to looking at the show.
The film, opening Friday, traces the show from 1975 through today through the prism of the various social and political movements and figures it satirized and influenced.
It touches on everything from Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford to John Goodman's Linda Tripp, the emotional first episode after 9/11, issues regarding gender and racial representations, the Lonely Island's rise synonymous with YouTube and more.
It's a big story, in other words. So how'd Nguyen get it down to a lean 82 minutes?
"The essence of any documentary is editing down this huge blob of clay and scuplting it to what we wanted to say," he says. "At first, when we were just dealing with the larger events of the last 40 years and looking at those events in terms of themes like racism, politics, pop culture, from that, that's how we decided to structure the film."
Nguyen amassed an extraordinary collection of interview subjects, dozens of them, including Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Chase, Goodman, Steve Martin, Dana Carvey, Amy Poehler, Jane Curtin and Jimmy Fallon. They are candid and reflective about their experience on the show and the larger question of what it all means.
"For the most part, we shot the interviews at Studio 8H, where they shoot the show, because we wanted to invoke a certain nostalgia, have the interview subjects really reminisce about their time in that space itself," Nguyen says.
The movie was made with Michaels' blessing -- Broecker is the show's costume designer -- but the "SNL" head honcho largely took a hands off approach. He first saw the movie at its Tribeca Film Festival premiere in April. "The entire time, I'm not sure we actually really watched the film," Broecker says of the premiere, as the producers tried to gauge Michaels' reaction, but fortunately the big boss approved.