January 24, 2019

Producer Steven Fischer in Hollywood, California, during production of “I am Max” for AMP Polska, Warsaw.

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Max Linder in the Pravda Report

January 9, 2019

Max Linder is in the news! The Russian news source PRAVDA.RU released today this article about our new movie, I am Max, directed by the very talented Edward Porembny at AMP Polska.

Read the full article below or at http://www.pravdareport.com/society/showbiz/07-01-2019/142162-i_am_max-0/ 

You can help us complete the movie for a 2019 release. Please donate finishing funds (link: https://www.documentary.org/film/i-am-max ) through our fiscal sponsor, The International Documentary Association and receive a tax deduction. Thank you!

The full article:

Max Linder, the comic genius, mentor to Charlie Chaplin, has largely been forgotten – but now the movie industry is bringing him back to life in I am Max.

Pravdareport is proud to print an interview with Steven Fischer, Producer of the movie I am Max, about the life of one of cinema’s geniuses, mentor to Charlie Chaplin.

Give a synopsis of the subject of the movie? 

SF: I am Max tells the story of Max Linder, widely considered the first international movie star. He was a comic genius and a major contributor to cinema history. He was mentor to Charlie Chaplin and achieved incalculable wealth and celebrity, yet he died by suicide at age 42. How can a man like this be forgotten today?

Who got the idea to make the movie and why?
SF: The movie was originated by Edward Porembny, the director and lead producer, who is a gifted and award-winning filmmaker in Warsaw, Poland. In fact, earlier this year [2018] Edward won the Cannes Lions for his documentary, To The Last Tree Standing, which he co-directed with Aia Asé who is also working with us on I Am Max. Edward can tell you his reasons for wanting to tell the story of Max Linder, but for me, I was intrigued because of how timely and relevant Max Linder’s life is today. In his lifetime, Linder survived death four times only to die by suicide at age 42. And the first time he survived death, he was an infant, roast in an oven. It was the doctor’s attempt to cure him of cholera. He survived so much and achieved so much, fame and fortune, yet it wasn’t enough to bring happiness. He became so emotionally desperate he felt the only escape was suicide. His story touches also on that fine line between mental illness and genius which I find fascinating. Mental illness, depression, suicide, they’re each timely topics today, especially in the United States. His story touches on issues we see with Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, Robin Williams…and it was all happening at the turn of the 20th Century. Also, the issue of celebrity and identity is relevant. Linder, who was born Gabriel Leuvielle, created this public persona called Max Linder. And then became Max Linder! This is a story of identity, and maybe even of personality disorder. Who was Max Linder? Who was Gabriel Leuvielle? And if they are two sides of the same person, then his life becomes a wonderful exploration into that complicated thing called the human psyche.

And in today’s world where social media makes everyone a Max Linder, that is to say a celebrity in their own world, a discussion what it means to have a healthy public life might be one that audiences would like. We’re excited to tour with our movie and have these discussions with audiences. I think it could be a helpful contribution to the public dialogue.

Now, on top of that, there’s the story of cinema history. Linder contributed so much to the history of comedy cinema by either inventing, innovating or at least making popular a lot of what became standard. The idea of a reoccurring character, for example. Before Chaplin developed his Tramp character, Linder was The Dandy, the bon vivant getting into all these jams and crazy adventures episode after episode. He was also Chaplin’s mentor. Chaplin admired his work greatly and considered Linder a teacher. The Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, so many cinema and television comics tip their hat to Linder’s influence. This in itself is worthy of a movie, but when you add onto that all the social aspects I mentioned, I think you have a story ripe with history, art, and social significance.

How things are going right now?

SF: We are in post production and preparing for a release in 2019, in time for the Venice Film Festival. Also, the movie will be distributed by Canal+ in France and air on TVP Poland, RTBF Belgium, BNT Bulgaria, RTV Slovenia, CT Czech Republic, SVT Sweden, and RTP Portugal.

 

What do you need?

SF: What we need is an angel investor to support us with finishing funds. Our fiscal sponsor is the International Documentary Association, a 501c3 organization in Los Angeles, California. This means that anyone who donates, gifts, or invests with us receives a tax deduction. We need about 200,000 Euros to ensure we complete on time. We are also seeking a well-known film figure to serve as Executive Producer. For this we have approached the office of Martin Scorsese. He would be ideal to present our movie given his dedication to cinema history and preservation.

We are in position to create an artful and entertaining docu-drama. We are using archival footage in a new and creative way. By manipulating archival films, Linder movies, and actuality footage we hope to give an immediacy, as though we are discovering Linder’s life as it happens. For instance, there’s a Linder movie where he is snow skiing and meets a pretty girl. We have put our own dialogue to that footage and re-cut it to look like we’ve captured the moment where Linder meets the woman who becomes his wife. In this way we are dramatizing his life.

What is the broader message the movie wants to give?

SF: In my opinion the movie warns about the trappings of celebrity: the excess and the danger of believing one’s own hype. It’s a story about identity and it questions us about the blurred lines between our public self and our private self. And it’s a movie that celebrates the art of a true comic genius who has sadly been forgotten. If there’s one message we want our movie to deliver it’s this: This is Max Linder!

Story filed by: Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravdareport

 

 

A Robert Redford Story

September 28, 2018
It’s 2010. I’m nearing completion of a movie called Old School New School, my personal study on creativity. In the movie, I travel the United States meeting with world-class artists to discover the nature of creativity, how they found their voice, and how they define success.  The cast was a veritable collection of Who’s Who: Emmy-winning actor Brian Cox, Grammy Award winner and jazz great McCoy Tyner, and Tony Award winner Emanuel Azenberg among many more outstanding world stage notables.

L-R: Fred Weil, Steven Fischer, Brian Cox, Chris Cassidy shooting Old School New School, New York City, June 2010. Photo by Ren.

Director of Photography Chris Cassidy, Director Steven Fischer, internationally acclaimed dancer Kirstie Simson, Camera Operator Phil Rosensteel shooting Old School New School, New York City, 2009.

 

June. I attend the annual summit of Americans for the Arts at the Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore, Maryland. To celebrate its 50th anniversary of advocating arts education, AftA engaged Robert Redford as a keynote speaker. He presents during Friday’s two-hour lunch break in the hotel’s large ballroom. Mr. Redford speaks about 15 minutes then exits the stage. Being such a significant arts advocate, and with such a stellar career in the arts, I knew he would make an ideal on-camera subject for Old School New School. I also figure he’s leaving the hotel and that this would be my only chance to invite him to be part of the movie. I slip out of the ballroom and wander the adjoining corridors, figuring I’d run into him eventually.
I was right.
I turn a corner and see him! He’s seated with his back to me in private conference with an AftA executive. Seeing two people in conversation, my instinct was to hesitate — but a spirited initiative pushes me forward. I approach and say to the executive, “Excuse me. I hate to interrupt…”
The executive’s response? A silent, livid stare.
Adrenaline is racing through my body. What have a just done? I’ve broken into a private meeting. I know my intrusion is inappropriate. I know this is not the preferred way to open discussion with an A-list movie star, but I also know that I have a responsibility to this movie. (And I figure if anyone would be sympathetic to the struggles of the small, indie movie producer, it would be Robert Redford.)
My legs feel like jelly, but I find the resolve and continue. “May I just have a couple minutes? I’d like to ask Mr. Redford a question.”
A muscular security guard steps in. “Sir, you can’t be here,” he says firmly. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Just two minutes?” I plead; “two minutes?” The executive stares with a look that says she’s ready to strangle me, but to his credit Mr. Redford holds out his hand as if to halt the security guard and says in a calm voice, “It’s alright. Let him speak.”
At this invitation I lock eyes with Mr. Redford, introduce myself, and tell him about Old School New School. I rattle off the list of subjects we’ve already photographed and on hearing the name John Bailey, Mr. Redford’s eye brows raise. (John Bailey was Redford’s Director of Photography on Ordinary People.) I hand him some printed Old School New School material and my card. “I’d love for you to appear on camera in the movie,” I say. “Give me a call and we’ll set it up.”
He took my information and carefully placed it in his shirt pocket saying he would check out the website.
His participation in the movie didn’t materialize, but he gave me a wonderful gift that day: the example he set responding to an interloper. Mr. Redford was a true gentleman. He engaged me, offered his full attention, and was gracious with the time. Thank you for that, Mr. Redford, for the example of how to be. I’ve used it as a guide ever since.

Old School New School was released the following year through Snag Films, and the touching appreciation for a movie that digs beneath the surface in search of understanding the nature of creativity has been overwhelming! I’m posting some of the responses below.

You can watch Old School New School for free: http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/old_school_new_school

Producer Steven Fischer at Paramount Studios in 2009 during the production of Old School New School.

 

Just finished watching [Old School New School] for the first time (it won’t be the last time I assure you). Thanks for making an important film for all of us involved with creative work…

Joe I., Winnipeg, Canada

 

Steven, I am watching your documentary and learning so much from it. Thank for sharing this with me.

Larry M., Boston, MA

 

A fascinating movie about the creative potential we all possess! Enjoy and learn!

Dr. Robert M., Australia

 

Wonderful! Steven Fischer’s movie is a must-view. An extraordinary, inspirational distillation of artists’ wisdom and insight, with nothing getting in the way. If you want a daily warmup, this is it!

Howard E., United Kingdom

 

Steven, [Old School New School] was outstanding, and such a tribute for anyone doubting their own dreams for success, especially in the arts. It is one I will watch more than just once. I felt as though it was made for me…the midwestern working mom of 4 boys with a passion for writing and a dream of bringing my words to the next level. Someone like myself doesn’t really know where to begin. But, I’ll keep working at it and investigating what I need to do to see the words “based on a book by Donna Marie” someday. Thanks so much for sharing such an inspiring documentary.

Donna M., Chicago, IL

 

I watch your film Old School New School at least once a day. It fires my creative synapses. I want to thank you for the film. 

Jermaine T., Kansas City, MO

 

Steven….I just watched your film…I love this…the heart…the soul of the piece is evident..
every artist WILL want to see this….not simply for motivation but there lies within the film, a sense of wonder…or passion that is not always present in other examination works….thank you for the good dreams…..

Michael S., Washington, DC

 

A very insightful and well made short documentary. Well worth half an hour of anyone’s time, not just those interested in creative arts.

Gareth C., UK

 

I thought [Old School New School] was very inspirational. For anyone working or striving to work in the arts i think you’ll really enjoy it. You may find it just as inspirational no matter what career or field you are in. Nice job Steven,  

Paul H., Portland, OR

 

Thank you, Steven, for the insights presented in your film. Excellent questions! I love it when people put into a piece of work, things that I have asked myself. It’s validating. “I am not alone.” I loved one line from Ben Jones,…”what, and act in his head?”, when talking about a creative taking a “secure” job. Lol! This is helping me reevaluate my own path and choices. Thank you! Also, it was great meeting you in Three Oaks, Mi. Well worth the journey! Blessings!

Meghan D., Chicago, IL

 

Pretty cool movie. I love Kirstie Simson’s big green eyes. Intense person. Nice tour-de-force of some heady thought…should be watched with Linklater’s “Waking Life”…matter of fact, you should animate this film. ok, ok just an idea…thanks.

Robin M., Pleasant Hill, CA 

 

Great! Steven Fischer, you ROCK! So simple, yet so profound! Thanks for this inspiring documentary!

Christina, Denver, CO

 

Steven: Well done, and thank you for sharing! Your doc is actually a great “tool” for those considering a “life in the arts”, and for those already in pursuit of that life, with some good, honest “inspirational messages”. We enjoyed it, and will pass along to those in our circle, and beyond.

Tracey A., Hearst Corporation

 

I just watched “Old School New School”. I appreciate very much the honesty, heart, wisdom and confidence in being vulnerable the project and subjects share about their “success”, process and experiences as artists and humans-being… Thanks for your work and your gift Steven :-))).
peace+blessings,

Larry C., Corpus Christi, TX

 

Steven, GREAT film. I wish it had been twice as long. Always fascinating to hear the deep thoughts of creative people. I’m on such a journey myself; one of the breakthroughs for me was to realize that I have to have an honest, true REASON for what I do.  What is so compelling about your film is that it’s one honest way (of many) to dig those reasons out of hiding.

Thanks again and look forward to more work from you.

Scott R.

 

I enjoyed the film. I really loved seeing my friend and mentor Billy Fraker.He was a master! He taught me a lot.

Darla R.

 

[Old School New School] is a great film, Steven! I can feel it in my gut when I’m veering away from what my soul wants. This film was an awesome reminders for us creative types who sometimes get bogged down by the “should do’s” in life to keep going, follow your bliss and do what nature intended for you to do. Very nice work. Shared this one!

Jennifer W.

 

I just watched your documentary and I really enjoyed it. Very nice work. You’re asking some tough questions and the responses were really fascinating.

Ryon B., Columbia, MD

 

Wow! Just finished watching it. GREAT interviews!! This is a special piece. Watch it and share it. All of the interviews were amazing! You did a super job of getting carefully thought out and deeply held ideas from all of these tremendously successful and creative people. Thanks so much, Steve!

Les O.

 

I am so glad you made [Old School New School], this topic is something that I spend many hours debating and obsessing over in my head. Thank-you for making this!

 Angela B.

 

The interviews are insightful and the whole idea behind this documentary is noteworthy. I have heard a great deal of lectures on “how to be successful” or “what define being successful” but something as specific as being successful in the “art” I rarely heard, and I’m glad it is brought up. Great film.

Ze 

 

Fantastic film—handles questions I have thought about e.g what is success.

paul 

 

[Old School New School] is very unique and so true to life! It is real and tells it how it is.
Thanks for a creative and excellent film.

 Jani B.

 

Creativity on SeaDream’s Ultra Luxury Mega Yacht

April 24, 2018

Thank you, SeaDream Yacht Club , for inviting me as your guest speaker across the Atlantic. It was an honor to share insights about creative writing to a fully engaged audience. We may have created fantastic stories in our interactive creativity workshop, but you helped us all create cherished memories of the sweet life. Thank you for that!

Cartoonist and writer Steven Fischer with Captain Torbjørn Lund aboard SeaDream I, April 2018.

 

Steven Fischer presents lectures and workshops on creativity and cartoon storytelling aboard SeaDream I during their April 2018 Transatlantic crossing.

Steven Fischer (bottom of frame) presents lectures on creativity and cartoon storytelling aboard SeaDream I, April 2018.

Baltimore Homecoming!

March 15, 2018

Thank you, Baltimore Homecoming, for the delicious invitation to participate in 2018’s inaugural homecoming. It’s an honor and a real treat! I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Award-winning writer/producer/director Steven Fischer is one of 150 Baltimore ex-pats to receive an invitation to Baltimore Homecoming 2018.

 

 

The Importance of Going Within

March 13, 2018

Winnetka Living recently published this article by Steven Fischer on creativity.

A Writer’s Journal – Creativity and Screenplays

February 15, 2018

Recently, someone asked me for a personal example of what a writer goes through to write a script for TV or for the cinema. In answering the question I re-discovered these excerpts from a production diary I kept while writing and directing Urban Paradise (originally called The National Arboretum) for Maryland Public Television/PBS. The 8-minute movie was a segment for the Emmy-winning series Outdoors’ Maryland, a narration-driven look at Maryland’s outdoor life. It premiered June 21, 2011.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how one writer tackles the challenges of creating a new story.

~Steven Fischer

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The script for The National Arboretum, like most scripts, is the result of many months of questioning and exploring and deliberating.

When I was first introduced to the Arboretum in October 2010 and given a tour by Gardens Unit Leader Scott Aker, the immediate impression was how motherly the public garden was. But it was more than just the garden’s obvious relationship to Mother Nature. I could not define it completely, nor could I shake the interpretation, so I continued to explore it as the project developed. As I collected facts, stories, and relevant information for the script, everyone I interviewed about the arboretum agreed that there was a connection between the arboretum and something matronly. With that encouragement I established “motherhood” as the central theme, basing all my creative decisions about scenes, stories, photography, lighting, narration, and perspective around motherhood and all things motherhood represented to me: strength, dignity, protection, nurture, beauty, unconditional love, etc.

This was a tremendous help in writing the script, but the process, as always, was a labor of trial and error, questioning and experimenting with answers. I was still at the beginning of a long journey.

In my early research of arboretums I discovered the writing of Laura Barton. Laura is an English writer on staff at The Guardian. Her work, especially on the Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury, England, was instantly inspiring. She is a natural writer and clearly in love with words. Her poetic description of Westonbirt, cut to the thoughtful cinematography of Felix Clay, influenced the poetic direction I intuitively wanted to go.

For further influence  I returned to two sources that never fail: Charlotte Brontë and Shelby Foote. Passages from Jane Eyre always leave me breathless while Foote’s mastery of the historical narrative is a model – and the early versions of the Arboretum script were filled with many stories from its very interesting history.

As time went on and I began collecting on-camera interviews and editing the beauty shots of the gardens, it became apparent that the original structure I had wanted to follow (interweaving history and stories with the research unit, the social value of the arboretum, and beauty shots) was producing a work much longer than the 8-minute run time we were assigned.

I also needed to keep in mind what would best serve the Outdoors’ Maryland series. The answer was: a focused piece on facts, the research unit, and the social value of the Arboretum. So I honed the script to meet that framework keeping in mind that every word of narration must reflect the central theme of motherhood. It was a matter of working and re-working the script.

Then there was a little matter of the ending. I could not find one of any real significance. The frustration was agonizing.

2.

At this point the structure was established and I had the sequence on the research unit next-to-last in the segment. To jump from the research unit to an ending that wrapped up everything was jarring and felt uncomfortable. It also didn’t make any sense.

We were now in January, 2011. The deadline was approaching fast, and a suitable ending was still elusive.

On a walk one January day, I pondered the problem of how to end the script when I asked suddenly an unexpected question: “What is the ideal ending?” That simple question sparked an inner response that stimulated the imagination!

The ideal ending, I reminded myself, thinking back to earlier ideas, was either a poetic line that made the audience feel good or a line that wrapped up the whole motherhood theme. The rest of that day was spent experimenting with those ideas. That session helped define the arboretum in human terms: the personality of the place, its usefulness to society, its qualities, etc. This led to a memory of lines spoken to me by Dr. Griesbach, a former Arboretum staff member I interview weeks before. I asked: “If the Arboretum was a person, how would you describe her?” Griesbach gave one of the best answers: She has many personalities: flaunty and gregarious like the Bonsai, refined and shy as the Asian garden…

The line had potential for the ending. I recorded a scratch track of it and, not fitting as well at the end as I imagined, found a useful place for it in the middle (which later had to be removed for time’s sake). But adding that line forced me to move a couple of other sequences around and that rearrangement, after living with it four more weeks, led to a discovery that has become the ending.

While in conversation with Dr. Margaret Pooler, head of the research unit, I mentioned that the Arboretum seemed to me a grandmother people go to for a hug. Pooler was struck by the line and commented on its sweetness. I agreed. It was a moment of epiphany. That was the line! That could be the final line of narration. I wasn’t sure how exactly, but I knew it was an important piece of the puzzle.

3.

The original line ending the script ran something like, The National Arboretum provides sanctuary for human and plant life alike. She might very well be the nation’s grandmother, offering those inner comforts that make visitors feel loved.

When I recorded the scratch track and played it back it sounded like, “love” instead of “loved”, so I amended the script, preferring the misinterpretation. Removing this one letter may not seem like a big deal, but it re-positioned my mindset for the next discovery that was about to come.

As the next couple of days went by I began thinking more in terms of the beauty of nature and the beauty of truth. This led me to the work of the poet Keats and then to my well-read edition of Philosophies of Art & Beauty edited by Albert Hofstadter and Richard Kuhns. The volume collects writings from all the major thinkers, from Plato to Heidegger, each answering the questions what is art? and what is beauty? As I read Ficino’s contribution I came across the second chapter of his treatise on Plato’s Symposium. The chapter title read: How Divine Beauty Inspires Love. That did it.

“Inspires love.” What a turn of words! That was the ending; the ending wasn’t “inner comforts that make visitors feel love”, but inner comforts that inspire love.

All of this came about in the past couple of days, exactly one month to the day I took that walk in January and posed that simple question to myself.

Tony Calder

January 5, 2018

In loving memory of Tony Calder who died 2 January 2018.

Film director Steven Fischer (far left) with record executive, producer, promoter and manager Tony Calder (far right) and Lauren Lorenzo and Steve Melendez in London, 2014.

Tony Calder’s work with #TheBeatles, #MarianneFaithfull, and the #RollingStones made for a storied career. I had the pleasure of working with him while directing a movie in London a few years ago. The photo is from one of our working lunches.

Thank you for your kindness, Tony, and our meaningful conversations.

Steven Fischer’s Sketchbook

December 15, 2017

Some illustrations from the sketchbook of Steven Fischer

Chalkboard drawing for Rocky Run Tap & Grill restaurant chain. copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Studies of male. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Studies of cafe patrons. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Invented man. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Invented woman. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Feet study. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Invented lady. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Study of child. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Cartoon Storytelling for Adults of All Ages at Northwestern University

November 30, 2017

Learn the basics of cartooning, storytelling, and creativity. Participants use cartooning to create original characters and personal stories. This course is ideal for anyone interested in the art of cartooning, learning effective visual communication skills, and those interested in taking their creativity to the next level. Our objective is to create and complete and original story with original characters. Make sure your pencils are sharpened; you’ll be drawing a lot!

Six weeks starting January 23, 2018!   Click here for details and sign up!