Posts Tagged ‘independent films’

Fusion International Film Festivals Interview with Steven Fischer

August 16, 2019

Thank you, Dan Hickford and The Fusion International Film Festivals, for the honor of being the inaugural subject of The Green Room!

Click here to see the full interview with photos! https://www.fusionfilmfestivals.com/the-green-room/01-steven-fischer/

As part of our ever growing platform of content we wanted to add a new dimension, whereby we explore professionals within the industry from across the world that may not be able to join us at our festivals but still have a wonderful story to tell.

First up is one of our newest Jury Members Steven Fischer.  Festival Co-Director Dan Hickford is asking the questions!

DAN HICKFORD: Steven you are certainly a man of many talents but it all had to start somewhere! Your career began at 17…but when did you first pick up a pencil and begin drawing?
STEVEN FISCHER: Thank you. I created my first cartoon book at age 6 or 7. It was a take-off on the Peanuts characters. Age 6, 7 (laughs). You can imagine what it looks like: typing paper sandwiched between cardboard covers. Stapled. I still have it.

DH: And did you know from that moment what your path might be?
SF: Not consciously at first, but cartoons were a constant my whole childhood. I took solace in cartooning after a hard day at school dealing with all the bullies. And it’s where I would go simply for the joy of having a fanciful adventure. I remember at 17 a realization took over, the realization that the routine of school was ending and that I might actually have to do something with my life. That, combined with my dissatisfaction with what I saw as society’s poor values and mixed up priorities, compelled me to want to contribute to something uplifting. And with that I gravitated to my strengths and interests which was cartoons.

DH: As a film festival we get to see so many different types of films with many being documentaries! You’re own project, ‘Old School New School,’ was very personal to you. How do you feel about it when you look back now, did you get the truth and honesty you were looking for?
SF: I think we did. Like many people, I would talk about big ideas with friends over coffee. I always thought it would be great to record those private conversations which were so real and honest. One of the main challenges of the movie was to see if I could make a conversation-driven movie with no b-roll interesting. I wanted the discussion in the spotlight. It’s challenging enough to make a movie that keeps an audience engaged, now I’m throwing into the mix an intellectual discourse with no visual flash and glitter. It was tough.

DH: What inspired you?
SF: I was inspired by Louis Malle’s Place de la Republique and Jon Fauer’s courageous and beautifully photographed Cinematographer Style which is also an interview-only movie. We intentionally used a minimal crew at each location, sometimes just three of us. The DPs (Chris Cassidy, Phil Rosensteel, and Scott Uhlfelder) were challenged to use only available light. We used no production lights except on my in-studio hosted segments. No make up. No boom mike. And in most cases no tripods. We aimed to be as unobtrusive as possible in efforts to capture the most real and honest conversation. Of course we know that’s impossible. You know you’re being recorded, you know this is a movie, you know it will be public. You’ll never capture a subject completely unguarded. But still, we set the conditions as best we could so the subjects could be uninhibited, and I think we captured some essential truths.

DH: Do you think you’d get the same response today?
SF: I think so. Sure. Maybe even more. Is it too naïve to say that society is more conditioned to cameras out and recording? How many young people today are, in a sense, growing up on-camera? I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. But I’ll tell you one thing, to this day I still hear from people thanking me for Old School New School. And the most common response is: “This is just what I needed and wasn’t getting.” People want to talk about big ideas. Why are we here? Who am I? How can I tap into my full potential? And they’re just not getting it. And I think it’s because way too many of us live on the surface of life and never take the effort to search for understanding. That’s why I make movies. That’s why I tell stories, to search for understanding.

DH: Talk to us about Steve & Bluey?
SF: They’re doing great! They’ve been my life for my entire life. The first published production was their comic strip in 1990, but I’ve been writing Steve & Bluey stories since 1981.

DH: How do you describe them?
SF: Steve and Bluey are a modern day comedy team and they educate through entertainment, you know? Not educate in a formal sense, but through example… by celebrating the child within and using their life as cartoon entertainers to reflect on who we are and why people do what they do. It goes back to me at age 17, dissatisfied with society’s priorities and wondering why the class bully had to be so cruel.

We have a strong connection to London, as you know. In the 1990s we lived there and were guided by producer Steve Melendez at Melendez Films, back then on Gresse Street. We spent 12 years searching for a commission for a fully animated TV series, and I am forever grateful to the Melendez family for their generosity and support serving as co-producer of the effort. There were a few close calls, but we never got the big commission; however, in the U.S., Phillip Guthrie at TCI Communications of Baltimore accepted the show in 1996 and we produced a series of animatics which ran as interstitials for three years on TCI TV. A really good introduction to Steve & Bluey is the book The Wonderful, Happy, Cartoony World of Steve & Bluey, because the book take us with such intimacy into their professional and private lives.

DH: You promoted that book with an amazing World tour, didn’t you?
SF: The 2014 re-release we did. The original was released in 2001, 2002. But I re-vamped the book — which is a collection of behind-the-scenes adventures about life in animated show business — and, yes, the tour took me across the U.S., Puerto Rico, England, Hungary, the Middle East, Asia, Southeast Asia. I was invited as a special guest speaker aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and twice aboard an ultra luxury mega yacht called SeaDream for Transatlantic crossings. That was surreal! Like Cinderella at the ball. I spent years promoting it with lectures on the nature of creativity and with cartoon storytelling workshops. In fact I’m still promoting. I’m in discussion now with the City of Paducah for a residency as part of their UNESCO Creative Cities network connection.

DH: Director, Producer, Actor, Editor, Writer, Cinematographer, Animator…you do a lot!! Above animation which role do you enjoy the most?
SF: I don’t like it, this slash title world in which we live. But when you live the life of a working artist, being a Jack-of-all-trades can help… but I do feel I’m missing out on the rewards one gets from mastering one role. I try hard to simply be a good storyteller. If there’s one common denominator in all those titles it’s telling a story. Writer, I guess then would be the role I enjoy most. And producing. I love the team work, you know, the camaraderie, the coming together of many talents for a common goal. As aggravating as the sour apples in a group can be, collaborating with the good people and seeing an idea brought to life energizes me and brings so much pleasure. I’m still in love with it.

DH: You’re a working artist in perhaps the hardest industry in the world! Would you change anything?
SF: Ha! “Change anything.” About the world? About the industry? Or about being a working artist?

DH: Your choice.
SF: You know, I could be Zen about this and say, “Everything is happening as it should.”  I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned about being a working artist have to do with coming to terms with the words “compromise” and “control”, about the benefits of tenacity, and, as obvious as it sounds, of having something to say and using the arts to search for understanding. I don’t know if I’d phrase it as changing something so much as I see the responsibility we have as experienced professionals to share with others what we’ve learned. And the more I engage with people, all over the world, the more I see how crucial it is that people get off the surface of life. We are so conditioned to the conveniences of technology, and it’s numbing the human in us. Maybe that’s the thing I’d like to see changed, that people unplug from technology once in a while and go within to reflect. I’d like to see us build a stronger connection to instinct and to that little whisper inside which is how our characters speak to us. Too many people dismiss one another with cynicism and make no effort to find understanding about life, about human behavior.

You know, the first day of a rehearsal or a workshop or any creative endeavour I lead… here’s what I tell the artists: You are in the safest place you’ll ever be to create, because by my way of thinking there are no good ideas or bad ideas only ideas that reflect who you are and the level you’re at. And there is no right or wrong, there’s only effective or ineffective. If your idea is effective, great. It worked. If not then we work on it, we examine the motivation and objective of the character, and what you want to say, and we experiment until we make something that’s ineffective, effective.

And we do this by being open, in the moment, playful, spontaneous, curious … that’s the big one. Conditioning ourselves to be curious and inquisitive and to show interest in something other than self. I’ve listened to so many people talk, fixated on their own perspective — and I mean fixations that are narrow, limited, negative, bitter, unenlightened. And I want to ask them: have you ever engaged someone and just spent the time asking questions and listening? Just because you consider another point of view doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. It means you are open to something other than yourself. You’re asking what might be changed? How about we listen more than we speak, ask questions more than we make comments, and then combine the discoveries we make with our own point of view and let our work make the comment.

DH: Wow! That was…
SF: I know; I was appearing at Speakers’ Corner there for a moment.

DH: No, no. We like passion! One last question, what film still remains timeless for you?
SF: City Lights. Charlie Chaplin, 1931. Best last line of a movie ever, silent or sound.

DH: What a wonderful insight into your journey and career to date. Thank you, Steven Fischer, for being our inaugural subject in ‘The Green Room’. It has been a pleasure.
SF: It has pleasure for me, too. Thank you so much for the honour!

January 24, 2019

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

Closing Night, Chicago International Children’s Film Festival

November 6, 2017

Jenny Zumarraga, Analia Chavez, Jury Chair Steven Fischer, Amy Stern at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, closing night ceremony, November 5, 2017.

Cartoon Classes Galore!

March 3, 2017

Learn the art of cartoon storytelling at The Second City, that famed Chicago comedy Alma Mater of Bill Murray, John Candy, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, Harold Ramis and so many other brilliant, comedic minds.

Each course explores story breakdown, character development, page layout, the creative process, and studies from life. Students will create original characters and an original story based on personal experiences. No previous drawing experience required—if you can create a stick figure, you can succeed in these courses!

Sign up for:

Steven Fischer’s Intro to Cartoon Storytelling (for adults!)

Wednesdays, April 5-26, 2017 — 3-hour sessions starting at 7pm

 

The Wonderful, Happy, Cartoony Workshop (for ages 14-18)

Workshop: Saturday, April 15, 2017 (2-hours)

Four-session Class version:  Saturday, April 22-23 and 29-30, 2017 (2-hour sessions)

“Steve & Bluey” by Steven Fischer. Copyright 2014 Steven Fischer.

Cartoons at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts

February 24, 2017

Attention Annapolis! Learn the art of cartooning through two individual workshops or buy both workshops as a package.  Click here and sign up today!

Steven Fischer, a two-time Emmy® nominated filmmaker and cartoonist, takes us through his personal journey in cartoons that led to an award-winning career in the arts working on projects with such creative luminaries as Martin Scorsese, Brian Cox, Mariska Hargitay, and animation legend Bill Melendez. Fischer explores the philosophy and psychology of character creation, inspiration, creativity, and storytelling in ways that help aspiring storytellers effectively bring their characters and stories to life. Students may register for the Lecture/Q & A and Workshop separately or for both with the Cartooning Series Package.

Love Your Characters to Life: Lecture and Q & A
Wednesday, March 29 | 7-8 pm
Saturday, April 1 | 9:30 am-12:30 pm

Cartoon Class at Second City, begins April 5!

February 22, 2017

Many thanks to The Second City, Chicago, for offering Introduction to Cartoon Storytelling — 4 weeks of intense cartooning starting April 5. Get those pencils ready and sign up here.

Details:

Learn the art of cartoon storytelling, effective communication techniques, and develop personal expression. This course explores story breakdown, character development, page layout, and studies from life. Students will create original characters and an original story based on personal experiences. No previous drawing experience required—if you can create a stick figure, you can succeed in this course!3 hours, 4 weeks starting April 5, 2017.

About the instructor: Steven Fischer is a two-time Emmy nominated filmmaker and cartoonist. His credits include the Steve & Bluey cartoon series, the acclaimed animated documentary Freedom Dance (2007) with Mariska Hargitay, and Old School New School (2011) a personal study on creativity with celebrated actor Brian Cox and jazz legend McCoy Tyner among many other internationally acclaimed artists. Steven’s commissioned work includes projects for Maryland Public Television/PBS, TV Asia, Nextel, Bill Melendez Productions, and Screen Arts Animation. Steven is a Fulbright recipient and sought internationally to speak on creativity.

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Cartoonist and animation filmmaker Steven Fischer presents Cartoon Storytelling at The Second City in Chicago. Photo by Alicia Haywood.

Old School New School on Film Monthly

February 8, 2017

Old School New School review at filmmonthly.com

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Photographer Herman Leonard, attorney Diane Davison, film director Steven Fischer at opening of Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York City, October 2009. Photo by Rick Edwards.

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Director Steven Fischer with his cousin, Kathleen Monroe, Baltimore, Maryland.

Old School, New School

by Caress Thirus

We open on a common scene – a slightly flustered journalist making small talk with his interviewee as he prepares to ask his questions. Old School, New School is a documentary that follows Steven Fischer as he explores the different paths people take to develop their creative fingerprint, aka, their “voice”. A lot of people forget that documentaries are still films. Though they are informational, they’re meant for entertainment. There’s a sense of practical humor to this entire film, and key aspects are held from the audience so as to keep their interest. The first two minutes are sure to stir up a swirl of questions that Fisher and its interviewees answer during the film. “What is your voice, and how do you find it?” It’s a common question that anyone in an art-related career has asked themselves, time and time again. Though commonly asked, the answer is never straightforward. For some, the answer is simple; for others, not so much. This documentary compares and contrasts the answers given by different people in different careers, from dancers to cinematographers to musicians. The film is opinionated, but full of good opinions that are supported with logical reasoning. This is a film about voice, after all. How inappropriate would it be not to have an opinion or two? The entire documentary has a very honest feel to it; it’s realistic rather than rigged. Unfortunately, this causes it to drag in areas, but it always seems to pick back up. This movie is definitely in need of a soundtrack (and perhaps a more relevant title). It’s basic; there’s nothing unusual, and with all of the artistic people who were interviewed, it is upsetting to learn that none of their work is showcased in the film. Old School, New School sort of feels as if the filmmaker didn’t want to cut any of his interviews, and he left too many [unnecessary] clips in the film, making it too long. Still, the film feels organized and planned enough for the audience to keep watching. The viewer feels as if he or she is actually in the room with Fisher and the various people he interviews. It’s easy to get pulled into the stories they tell. In the end, the infamous question still stands. How does one go about defining their personal voice? Perhaps musician McCoy Tyner put it most simply when he said, “You found something you liked to do. It’s a matter of developing by doing it.”

Most information is derived from IMDB’s daily news, the Chicago dailies (Tribune and Sun Times), Entertainment Weekly, MSN.com, various sources as listed, and by just paying attention.

Caress Thirus is a student at Roosevelt University and a film enthusiast.

E-mail us at filmmonthly@gmail.com

Freedom Dance at The Embassy of Hungary

October 13, 2016

A very special thank you to Ambassador Reka Szemerkenyi, Cultural Attache David Singer and everyone at The Embassy of Hungary in Washington, DC, for including Freedom Dance in the Embassy’s 60th Anniversary Commemoration of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

For those who don’t know, Freedom Dance is an animated documentary that retells the adventure of a young couple, Edward and Judy Hilbert, escaping Hungary during the ’56 Revolution. Along the way, Edward kept a journal in cartoon form detailing their dramatic journey (which includes being robbed and nearly killed). The movie features Golden Globe winner Mariska Hargitay and is produced by Steven Fischer and Craig Herron.

Order your copy of DVD click here: http://www.freedomdancethemovie.com

 

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Ambassador Reka Szemerkenyi and film director Steven Fischer at The Embassy of Hungary, Washington, DC, October 2016.

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Cultural Attache Singer David and film director Steven Fischer at The Embassy of Hungary, Washington, DC, October 2016.

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Director Steven Fischer speaks at the Festival of Film & Culture celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight. (Hosted by the Embassy of Hungary in Washington, DC.) October 12, 2016

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Director Steven Fischer (left) and Cultural Attache Singer David (right) speak at the Festival of Film & Culture celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight. (Hosted by the Embassy of Hungary in Washington, DC.) October 12, 2016

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Some of the Freedom Dance team. L-R: Diane Leigh Davison, Steven Fischer, Gregg Landry, Craig Herron, Barbara Herron

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Arts Advocacy Day

March 24, 2015

Today, Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund celebrate National Arts Advocacy Day! Celebrate by clicking here to tell Congress that you support the arts.

And watch these fine artists in Old School New School talking about success in the arts and creativity! You’ll be supporting the arts and stimulating the brain all at once.

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Thank you!

Freedom Dance Hungarian premiere

October 14, 2014

Freedom Dance (2007, featuring Mariska Hargitay) screened publicly in Hungary for the first time Monday, October 13, 2014. The screening took place at the Center for Arts & Culture at the Central European University in Budapest. http://www.fulbright.hu/animated-documentary-director-steven-fischer-spoke-at-ceu/

Freedom Dance is an animated documentary by Steven Fischer and Craig Herron retelling the dramatic escape of Edward and Judy Hilbert from Communist Hungary to the United States amid the tumult of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Along the way, Edward, a cartoonist, kept a journal in cartoon form detailing his adventure.

Many thanks to Dr. Jókay Károly, Executive Director of the US-Hungary Fulbright Commission in Budapest, Lilla Földy Molnár, and Katalin Parti at CEU for making the screening a reality.

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Dr. Jókay Károly, Executive Director of the US-Hungary Fulbright Commission, and writer/director Steven Fischer at the October 2014 screening of Freedom Dance in Budapest. Photo by Annamaria Sas.

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(L-R) Karoly Jokay, Brigitta-Ivanyi-Bitter, Steven Fischer, Bekes Csaba. Photo by Annamaria Sas.