Emmy nominee Steven Fischer wanted to make an educational film about creativity that was all talk and no b-roll. Like many other documentary filmmakers, he found inspiration in the films of Louis Malle. “Malle’s work is so personal and so deceptively simple. And those real conversations he engaged inon-camera never fail to inspire.” The documentary is a series of interviews with artists, talking about their creative process. The film is available to view now on SnagFilms (and below).
What it’s about: “‘Old School New School’ is a personal documentary. It’s my way of approaching the masters and asking how a person can grow creatively. Really, it’s about truth and honesty. I went out seeking some kind of truth in the matter. That’s why I chose to shoot minimally, using available light with a small crew, sometimes even without a tripod. I wanted to create an atmosphere that was as unobtrusive as possible to help provoke a real and natural conversation. I didn’t want standby answers and that façade some put up when they go into interview mode. I wanted to get past that if we could and really get to the heart of the matter.”
Director Steven Fischer says: “I have been writing and producing stories since childhood. Literally. I wrote my first book when I was six or seven. You can imagine what it looks like, childish drawings stapled together with a cardboard cover. When I was nine-years-old I wrote a radio play and produced it on cassette tape. I read all the voices myself, made all the sound effects. I still have the tape. I did it then because it was fun. I make movies now for the same reason. I enjoy it! I enjoy the process. I enjoy having something to say and sharing it with others. It makes me feel useful in society. It’s also, as you know, addictive. My first publicly released independent production was a book of cartoons in 1990. Seeing the pleasure people took in reading my work gave me pleasure. And then of course there’s the public attention that naturally comes when you release a work. That’s addictive, too.”
The biggest challenge: “One of the biggest challenges was cutting about 42 hours of footage into a 30-minute movie, impossible to do without sacrificing a lot of valuable insight. It’s always a painful task. That’s why part of the plan has always been to create a website that collects multiple clips from all the subjects photographed so that more of what each individual shared, especially those that didn’t make it into the final cut, can be available as a kind of on-line resource.”
What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie? “I think they respond to the universality of it all. Questioning how we can tap into our full potential is something that a lot of people are exploring. I want Old School New School to contribute to a larger national dialogue, one that nourishes us. I think we in America could use that kind of stimulation. From the response we’ve been getting so far, I can see a lot of people genuinely appreciate the running dialogue. People write all the time commenting on the movie and sharing their own thoughts on risk taking, or the definition of success. One person wrote thanking me for making the movie. Another said it was inspiring. Another said it was a gift! I can’t tell you how touching this is to me. I’m really grateful to SnagFilms for recognizing the social value of what we’re trying to do and including the movie in their catalog.”
What’s next: “I am writing a lot of material, features and shorts, original material and adaptations. We are touring with the movie now. I am speaking at conferences and universities all over the country and loving every minute of it. We’re looking for more venues too. Conservatories, universities, conferences, and arts education advocacy groups are all great venues for a discussion on creativity. I continue teaching cartoon storytelling, a course I developed in 2002. Northwestern University just picked it up. I start there in early 2012. I’ve also been in discussion for the last month with a production company in Europe that’s interested in having me write a feature length documentary.”
[Full Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]