MTV and the music video medium were brand new and revolutionizing the culture of pop music as Torgoff entered the world of film and video production in 1983, and like others, the world of music provided a wonderful opportunity for him to cut his teeth as a filmmaker. He would direct a number of music videos, most notably Stevie Wonder’s “It’s Wrong (Apartheid)” from In Square Circle. Wonder’s music had just been banned from South Africa at the time. Produced for a Cinemax “Album Flash” that Torgoff was writing and directing, the song was never released as a single in the US but the video was bootlegged and released underground in South African townships struggling against the apartheid regime. 

For the most part, however, Torgoff became a well known practitioner of what was being called “the long form”: documentary and performance pieces in which he was able to use the camera to tell vivid stories about artists and the music they were creating. One of his specialties was to document the creative process of an artist in the studio over the course of the making of an album in a way that revealed the artist’s very musical essence, and he became so good at it that record companies began hiring him to create EPKs (electronic press kits), which were then just being developed as promotional tools. 

Working through production companies like Limelight in Los Angeles and Picturevision in New York, Torgoff’s work from 1983-89 as a writer and director ran the musical gamut from Prince to Ravi Shankar, and included some of the biggest artists and groups in the world, many at critical personal junctures and creative transitional phases: John Mellecamp reclaiming his name and making Pink Houses; Teddy Pendergrass coming back as a paraplegic after the car accident that had disabled him; Stevie Wonder taking on the government of South Africa; Billy Joel working with his idol, Ray Charles; Luther Vandross after losing over a hundred pounds. In 1987-88, Torgoff wrote Julio Iglesias Non Stop, a TV special filmed throughout Asia and Australia for CBS International, and was asked to be the writer for an authorized musical documentary on Prince. All of these experiences would lead to Torgoff working as the New York-based producer for CNN’s music show, Worldbeat, from 2000-2002.

Billy Joel

Stevie Wonder

John Mellencamp

Teddy Pendergrass

Ravi Shankar

Luther Vandross

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