Posts Tagged ‘director’

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.

 

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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.

 

 

Opening Night, Chicago International Children’s Film Fest, October 27!

October 28, 2017

Writer/producer Steven Fischer, Jury Chair, animated shorts category attends the opening of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, 27 October 2017.

Discover Norris Mini Courses at Northwestern University!

March 8, 2017

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Aine Dougherty, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Northwestern offers lots of interesting classes for its students, but if your class schedule is full and you’re still itching to learn, look no further than Mini Courses at Norris University Center. Open to all undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and community members, Mini Courses give participants the chance to learn new skills in just a few short weeks.

Courses cover a wide variety of topics, from cooking to dancing to drinking, so no matter what your interests are, you’ll be able to find a Mini Course that suits your needs. Or, you’ll get the chance to discover a new passion. Some of the most popular courses include Ceramics, Cherokee, Latin Ballroom Dance, and Wine Appreciation (for those over 21). The Spring 2017 program will offer these choices as well as many others, including Baking, Belly Dancing, Public Speaking, and Mixology.

Acting & Character Creation with Steven Fischer

Aspiring Brad Pitts and Angelina Jolies need look no further than Steven Fischer’s Acting and Character Creation class, where they can learn from an two-time Emmy-nominated instructor who has 25 years of work experience as a director, writer, animator, and actor in live-action and animated films. Fischer, a Mini Courses instructor since 2012, says that a typical session of his acting class involves “a lot of acting exercises and improv games” that help students generate performance ideas they can then use outside of class. Fischer affirms that his course is a safe place to create because there are no right or wrong ideas, and he says that participants can make the most out of their experience “simply by being open to something new.”

Film director-producer Steven Fischer works with actors at Northwestern University.

According to Fischer, all of the Mini Courses participants are “the best of the best … They are all ready to work; they are ready to share and give of themselves; they are open. They’re just terrific people.” Don’t you want to be one of them? Sign up today!

Early registration is open now and lasts until March 29 – sign up during that time to save $8. Regular registration lasts until April 16, and courses begin during the third week of April, meeting on weekday evenings for around six weeks. Find more information on the Mini Courses web page, and sign up for the class of your choice at www.nbo.northwestern.edu

 

Two Fascinating Voices

February 8, 2017

The Chicago Creative Coalition has long been an important haven for creative people in all disciplines, from graphic arts to photography, design, animation and beyond. This article from their Summer 2014 magazine highlights an example of the varied educational programming they offer members.

A big thank you to TJ Hine, George Berlin, Stephen Starr, and C3 members for including me numerous times in their quest to enrich and inspire each other.

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Film director-producer and cartoonist Steven Fischer talks creativity at Chicago Creative Coalition, 2014.

Old School New School review on Snaptwig

February 8, 2017

A blast from the past — Snaptwig review of Old School New School, a study on creativity. Quite thorough. If anyone knows the author, please let me know!

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

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

Old School, New School: The inspiring documentary by film-maker Steven Fischer

Steven Fischer’s recent documentary, Old School, New School is a triumphant view of how artists fuel their creativity and drive to bring their creative inspirations to fruition, and the challenges involved. The film brings to the light what inspirations professionals have, and provides vindication for current creative professionals in that their thinking is universal. The documentary provides a resounding echo of all of the shared thoughts of artists from around the world which creates a sense of community. The film accomplishes this through bringing together experts in all genres of art and entertainment in interviews about their perception of inspiration, drive to succeed in the arts, and the challenges involved.

The interviews in the film include Emmy winning actor Brian Cox, Tony award winning producer, Emanuel Azenberg, Oscar nominated cinematographer William Fraker, Grammy winning jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, accomplished actor Tomas Arana, renowned cinematographer John Bailey, accomplished actor Ben Jones, acclaimed theater director and actor Sam McCready, distinguished poet James Ragan, and award winning improvisational dancer Kirstie Simson.

Steven Fischer, the director, writer, and producer of Old School, New School, credits the many conversations with friends and colleagues over the years, as well as the 1974 documentary, “Place de la Republique” by Louis Malle for the inspiration to make the documentary. Fischer explains the inspiration, “I was so interested in that concept, that idea of a movie that is driven by a running conversation. I’d like to try that, to make a movie that’s just one running conversation. That’s a challenge for me. You combine that with at the same time doing these experiments, recording these conversations about creativity, about the arts. It all gets mixed together, and evolves into what became Old School New School.”

Finding the people willing to be interviewed for the documentary was another challenge to overcome for Fischer. True to form, he never gave up and followed every opportunity to find the wonderful artists who appear in the film and readily give their insight, and advice for artists in every medium on creativity, the creative process, and drive to follow through with one’s dreams.

One such opportunity came while premiering his animated documentary, Freedom Dance with Mariska Hargitay, which was shown at a festival in Washington D.C. in 2008. Fischer met a woman from Kodak of New York, and her interest in his idea for Old School, New School so inspired her that she introduced Fischer to Lisa Muldowney from a Los Angeles PR firm. This introduction led to assistance in finding artists and film makers willing to participate in the project.

Of the challenging experience of finding the willing professionals Fischer explains his drive and inspiration, “I have no idea how these things happen, but I think part of it has to do with the bravery and courage to go after something, and to get the wheels in motion, and to start producing your project. By going through the motion, and by generating activity, I think then somehow activity begets more activity, and things start to happen…, but there’s such serendipity in that, and that I would never dare to guess how that happens, but I wish that there was a way to provoke it. I think I’ve found that for me there are three aspects to this. One is to know what you want. Two is to have a plan. And three is to trust your instincts. I find repeatedly, when I follow that, for me, things seem to – well, I guess quote unquote, luck seems to happen, and obviously it’s not luck. (Of finding the professionals to be interviewed) It is the result of a lot of effort, and being prepared, and just being tenacious.”

Tenacious would be an understatement of a description for this experienced producer and director. Persistent, inspiring, and driven are better adjectives to describe Steven Fischer; all of which are necessary to be successful the entertainment industry. Journalist, Tracy Saville, comments on Fischer in her April 16, 2012 article about Old School, New School, “His search for the essential truths, driven only by a passion to advance his own knowledge and understanding is why old school ideas like what it takes to be powerfully creative in today’s world stand the test of time.” (www.thepossibilityplace.com, 2012)

Fischer’s long time friend and lawyer, Diane Davison, assisted him in finding the talented professionals to be interviewed and became a producer for the film. Davison commends Fischer, “He (Fischer) is an amazingly multi-faceted artist in every sense of the word: art, animation, music, film. I don’t know if he dances too, but that would definitely not surprise me! Add talent, vision, tenacity and business acumen to that and you have someone who has successfully created Art with a capital “A” since of a young age.”

James Ragan, who was interviewed for the film, relays his impressions of working with Fischer on the film, “His ease in interviewing in front of the camera made the entire documentary a conversation rather than an academic thesis. It’s clear by the responses he received from each person interviewed that he’s genuinely interested in their careers and is a master at drawing out the anecdote that best defines his subject and their personalities.”

Chris Cassidy, one of the cinematographers who worked on the film, shares his involvement, “I think the documentary Old School, New School is really important. People want to know about ‘the process’ of where creativity comes from. Hearing from all these fantastic people makes the film an important and educational lesson. The project was very exciting to work on. Each subject had different things to say, and different approaches. Not only was it an exciting job, but I learned a lot too. That doesn’t always happen on a shoot.”

Fischer’s longtime friend, camera operator, and collaborator, Gregg Landry says,”Old School, New School is, I think, the perfect reflection of where Steven is with his artistry today. He has achieved a high level of achievement in the creative world but humbly seeks more insight, more knowledge, more wisdom. Old School, New School educates the audience in a very dynamic way.”

Fischer’s long time friend, colleague, and mentor Steven Melendez explains his involvement with the project, “I have known Steven since he was in high school in London, and we have become firm friends. Old School, New School is a very interesting film for me. Steven spent a number of years quizzing me about how I go about making a film,… One thing I think that Steven learned from making the film, is that one has to trust oneself, and believe in what you are trying to say, and then develop the skills to excite others to come on board your ship”.

The theme of this incredible documentary seems to resonate through all those involved and all those who view it, ‘Believe in yourself and what you have to say, seek out opportunities to perfect your craft and perform your craft, and define success for yourself.’ The documentary is currently used as an inspirational teaching tool at universities across the U.S., and can also be viewed on www.snagfilms.com

Freedom Dance at Fulbright Hungary’s 1956 Celebration

October 22, 2016

A big thank you to Karoly Jokay, Fulbright Hungary, and The Consulate General of Hungary in Chicago for including Freedom Dance (our movie with Mariska Hargitay retelling Ed and Judy Hilbert’s escape from Communist Hungary to the US during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution) in Hungary 1956 – Chicago 2016: A Day of Remembrance and Hope.

It was a honor to participate in the commemoration and a treat to meet fellow Fulbright alum!

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Fulbright Hungary Director Karoly Jokay and film director Steven Fischer at 1956 Hungarian Revolution commemoration and Fulbright alum celebration, Chicago, Illinois. October 21, 2016.

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Film director Steven Fischer introduces his movie Freedom Dance featuring Golden Globe winner Mariska Hargitay at the 1956 Hungarian Revolution commemoration and Fulbright alum celebration, Chicago, Illinois. October 21, 2016.

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Fulbright alum at the 1956 Hungarian Revolution commemoration and Fulbright alum celebration, Chicago, Illinois. October 21, 2016.

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Film producer-director Steven Thomas Fischer with Ambassador Ferenc Szebenyi, Consul General of Hungary, at the 1956 Hungarian Revolution commemoration and Fulbright alum celebration, Chicago, Illinois. October 21, 2016.

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TV Asia

September 23, 2016

One of the perks about shooting for TV Asia is that tea breaks come with the best Masala tea!

Producer Nalini Raja and Director, filmmaker Steven Fischer shooting for TV Asia in Chicago, Illinois in 2016

Tea break with producer Nalini Raja Patel and director Steven Fischer, shooting on location for TV Asia in Elmhurst, Illinois.

 

Click here for a home brew recipe.

A big shout out to Producer and National Correspondent Nalini Raja Patel for being so great to work with! Thanks for 8-years of adventure. Here’s to many more!

Producer Nalini Raja Patel and director Steven Fischer on location for TV Asia in Elmhurst, Illinois.

And now it’s off to India for the edit!

Second City Cartoon Workshop!

September 19, 2016

Many thanks to Tom Rosenak for these photos from my 2D Guide to Creating 3D Characters workshop at The Second City! And thanks so much to all in attendance. Your enthusiasm, openness to new ideas, and all-around-greatness made the day a real pleasure. (And thanks to Andy Eninger and Sheena Laird at Second City for the chance to collaborate on another adventure.)

Cartoonist and filmmaker Steven Fischer presents character creation workshop at Second City, Chicago. Sept. 17, 2016. Photo by Tom Rosenak.

Cartoonist and filmmaker Steven Fischer presents character creation workshop at Second City, Chicago. Sept. 17, 2016. Photo by Tom Rosenak.

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Cartoonist and filmmaker Steven Fischer presents character creation workshop at Second City, Chicago. Sept. 17, 2016. Photo by Tom Rosenak.