EDITORS NOTE: This interview was first published in January profiling first-time feature directors who had films screening at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Amy Redford’s “The Guitar” opens in limited edition via Lightning Media November 7.
Amy Redford, who has acted in such films as “The Music Inside” as well as Sundance 2008 offering “Sunshine Cleaning,” and is also he daughter of Robert Redford, will premiere her first feature film, “The Guitar,” at Sundance. What the festival’s Geoffrey Gilmore calls a “whimsical fairy tale,” “The Guitar” follows Mel (Saffron Borrows), a unfortunate young woman who loses her job and boyfriend and finds out she has terminal cancer all on the same morning. Instead of giving in she embarks on a journey that Gilmore claims has the “kind of self-indulgent wish fulfillment that
we have all fantasized about.” Based on a true story adapted by Amos Poe, “The Guitar” is “overflowing with an energy and vitality that belie the initial darkness of its narrative.”
Please introduce yourself…
I am Amy Redford. My current job is getting this film out of the nest and gearing up for the next one. I have been an actress professionally in theatre, film and television for the last decade. I grew up in New York City, schooled in Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco and London. I now live in downtown New York City.
What lead you to become a filmmaker?
As a kid I witnessed the process of my dad [Robert Redford] making films and the extraordinary cast of characters that came together to make it happen… I found myself drawn to the nomadic and creative life that that implied. I have explored many different areas of the industry, including acting, and knew that I ultimately wanted to begin directing. What led me to actually having the opportunity to do it was a combination of luck, timing, and stubbornness.
Throughout high school and college I developed a strong interest in photography. I began taking pictures in grade school and started printing in college. I still take a lot of photographs. I am trying to make the switch to digital, and failing.
How did you learn the filmmaking craft?
My first hands-on-experience in filmmaking was “pulling cable” for a film shot in Tuba City, Arizona. The rest of my practical experience has been as an actress and having the opportunity to observe… many times learning as much from my disasters as from the succeses.
What prompted the idea for “The Guitar” and how did it evolve?
I was introduced to Amos Poe by the writer Nicole Burdette who thought I might have interest in a script he had written. Amos told me the story that it was based on and then sent me the script. I knew it was a great part but I kept firing myself and hiring other actress’s in my mind. The idea of helping an actress go on that ride was exciting to me. I realized I didn’t want to be in it, I wanted to tell the story. It was optioned at the time. Then when the option became available I jumped. Amos agreed.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.
I suppose my number one concern was to have the capacity to hire a really great crew. I made myself a producer so that I could do that. Being a first time filmmaker I knew I was on a steep learning curve, and I knew it was going to be important to be able to communicate conceptually, if I was limited technically. I couldn’t have been in better company. As far as casting is concerned Avy Kaufman came on board as the casting director. When Saffron Burrows came up as a possibility, Avy had nothing but great things to say about her. Saffron and I had a great meeting and I knew she was my Mel.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
My biggest challenge was navigating the financing. I was very fortunate that John Sloss and Sarah Lash from Cinetic Media got behind the film after seeing an early cut. I knew that if they were on board I could tell incoming investors to breathe a little easier. Then I found a couple of angels who helped me out.
Please share your thoughts on the state of independent film today.
It seems that the approach of Indie films has shown its practical viability in the last few years. Making films that are beholden to the story and the characters and trusting the filmmakers… Many independent filmmakers have learned the currency of using inventiveness to problem solve. It’s a pretty good model for success as far as I am concerned.
What are some of your all-time favorite films?
This sounds like a cop out, but I like films that fulfill their promise… I was raised on films ranging from “High Anxiety” to “High Noon“. In addition, I got to witness the dignity and compassion in my father’s films. I appreciated all of them because they delivered on their promises, no matter how varied their intent might be. I think there is a lot of room for many different kinds of films. I know I need to be entertained on a variety of levels. I still tear up in “Bambi“.
How do you define success as a filmmaker?
I suppose it goes back to the idea that I accomplish the task that I set out to achieve. Making this film taught me that it is important for me to really believe in the story that I am telling. Sometimes when the chips are down that is your only sustenance.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I am working on a project called “Face Value” about Hedy Lamar, George Antheil and their mind-blowing accomplishments in Hollywood in the early 1940’s. Also, I have a television series that is in the early stages of development, a musical film and I am involved in the development of the story of Eva Cassidy.
indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2008 Sundance FIlm Festival is available in iW’s special Park City section.
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