Will Shortz, New York Times puzzlemaster and connoisseur of word-based brain-teasers, is the primary subject of Patrick Creadon‘s accommplished and acclaimed documentary, “Wordplay.” Creadon investigates what it takes to create a crossword puzzle for the Times, while also highlighting a number of contestants at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The Sundance Film Festival, where the film debuted in competition this year, described the film as “an engrossing, yet lighthearted portrait of an American institution…and its masterful execution produces the same satisfaction as completing a particularly ingenuous and challenging puzzle.” The film kicks off its theatrical run today, including a debut showing at the IFC Center in New York City.
Patrick Creadon recently responded to indieWIRE’s email questionnaire, his answers to our questions are published below.
Please tell us about yourself…:
Day job (if you have one) and former jobs? Documentary cameraman and editor
Where you were born? Where you grew up? Born in Chicago. Grew up in Riverside, IL. A western Chicago suburb.
Where you live? Los Angeles, CA. An area called Los Feliz.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
Right out of college got my first job on a PBS show called “The 90’s”. I started as an intern and eventually I was submitting my own stories to the show. It was a great way to learn how to tell a good story. I was hands on, shooting, cutting and producing my own segments.
What other creative outlets do you explore (music/painting/writing etc.)?
I play guitar. My true musical passion is karaoke.
Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking?
I got my MFA at The American Film Institute. One of the highlights of being a student of AFI is that many of the lectures and discussions are given by the top filmmakers in the industry. It was an incredible opportunity.
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
My wife (Christine O’Malley, who is the producer of the film) and I love doing the puzzle. We started doing it years ago and for us, it is kind of a wind down at the end of the day. We were looking for a topic for our first documentary as a filmmaking team and this just seemed like a good fit. We are huge fans of Will Shortz and The NY Times crossword puzzle and we wanted to know more about that world.
What are your biggest creative influences (this could include other filmmakers or films)?
Ken Burns, “Hoop Dreams”, “The 90’s”.
What were some of the biggest! challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?
We started the project in January of 2005. We shot the bulk of it through the spring with a few of the celebrity interviews trickling in throughout the summer. By the end of July when we were about to start cutting, a friend advised us NOT to miss the Sundance deadline of Sept. 30. We had 90 hours of footage and we were not sure we could make it. We hired a terrific editor, Doug Blush, and we set our sights on that date and we just focused on the movie in an effort to get it done on time. Which we did :)
How did you finance the film?
We took out some loans. That got us started but in order to survive (and finish the film) we re-financed our house and made good use of our credit cards. Classic independent film story.
What is your definition of ‘independent film’?
An independent film is a film that is made against all odds.
What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why?
“Goodfellas”. “The Insider”. “The Civil War”.
What are some of your recent favorite films?
“Capote”. “Enron”. Anything with Will Ferrell.
What are your interests outside of film?
Hanging out with my two young daughters and our dog.
How do you define success as a filmmaker?
Having your film seen by people that are not related to you or indebted to you in anyway.
What are your personal goals as a filmmaker?
To continue to find great stories to tell and be lucky enough to be the one to tell them.