Posts Tagged ‘movies’

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!

Old School New School on Film Monthly

February 8, 2017

Old School New School review at filmmonthly.com

herman-leonard-diane-davison-steven-fischer-at-opening-of-jazz-at-lincoln-center-nyc-oct-2009_photo-by-rick-edwards

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.

steven_fischer_kathleen_monroe_Baltimore_Maryland

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

What People Are Saying About Old School New School

February 23, 2012

Here are some comments from audience members who’ve seen Old School New School. Take a moment to watch the movie, and share your thoughts on the comment section above OSNS at Snag Films.

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“A striking, provocative, and terribly important documentary.”

Rick Kogan, WGN Radio 720, Chicago

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Steven, Your film 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… Thanks so much for sharing such an inspiring documentary.

Donna C., Chicago, IL

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Steven, I enjoyed your film! Your thought provoking look at creativity through various media and live conversation is really raising the bar. CONGRATULATIONS!

Russ M., Baltimore, MD

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A terrific documentary….with a cast of brilliant minds. Better than a $2500 creativity workshop.

George L., Los Angeles, CA

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I watch your film Old School New School. It was really helpful. I watch it at least once a day. It fires my creative synapses. I shared it on my facebook with my friends. I has help me in creating my first doc project. We are in the process of writing a grant and we are almost done I am excited. Once again I want to thank you for the film.

Jermaine T., Kansas City, MO

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I love the personalities in this film, Steven, it was really a great group of people. Sage wisdom for any artist at any level. Very enjoyable!

Dawn Y., Richmond, VA

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Hi Steven Fischer,
I enjoyed your documentary, love Brian Cox and found it to be truthful, heartening for me and the choices I have made as an actress/singer and will post to my fb page, if you like!

Thank you,
Beka, Chicago, IL

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I’ve just finished watching your inspiring film, Old School New School. It is illuminating and engrossing. Thanks!

Terry E., Chicago, IL

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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. Keep at it, we will do same.

Our very best,

Tracey 0., Hearst Corporation

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Steven–Great film, great interviews–what interesting people and ideas.

Wendy, Washington, DC

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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. I was also interested in what the interviewees were NOT saying—but were perhaps implying with their body language, eyes, etc. I think half of what drives a creative person, and indeed, what drives the creative process cannot adequately be expressed in language. Ironically, some of those things can only be expressed or understood after a *proper* exposure to the creation itself (but still cannot be expressed properly with language). The problem is, we are so distracted and numb most of the time, we don’t often get a *proper* exposure to the creation—even when we are right in front of it.

I’ve often thought about the crossroads between the arts, aesthetics and brain-related science… (cognition, etc). I agree with that line from Social Network when the Zuckerburg character says, “just like fashion, Facebook will never be done”; meaning that culture, knowledge, status quo, meaning, etc., is always shifting and in motion (waxing and waning might be a better way to put it). The way we interpret the world we experience is usually drawn upon existing lines or analogy pathways from previous lessons (that is to say symbols that bare meaning). In that way, the value we place on things changes from moment to moment and what is creatively valuable is always in flux.

I think that’s why smart, creative, healthy people place such high importance on trying things, reading, trial-and-error, improving one’s self, and asking a lot of questions…

Ryon B., Salt Lake City, Utah

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I thought this film 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., Albany, Oregon

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Dear Steven,

Hello! I took the leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles a little over 3 months ago … Overall, things are going well.

Success in the arts comes from within and believing in one’s goals, no matter what anybody else says. “Security vs.risk”. Personally, if somebody loves something, they find a way to do it, no matter what. My life revolves around the arts, acting, music, and medicine. My personal juggling skills of the arts and my medical career would have seemed difficult, or at best impossible to others. But I have done it for years.

Thank you for sharing and creating this great documentary. I wish you much continued success in your upcoming projects!

Sincerely,
Lora B., Los Angeles, CA

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Steven,
Congratulations on your documentary! I just finished watching it. I love this subject and it is very close to my heart … I applaud your tenacity on your latest production. Thanks for sharing.

Sincerely,
Phil C., Falls Church, VA

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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. I think that, sometimes, when creative efforts, or goals, fall short for people, it can be rooted squarely in the premise of having the wrong motivation. People can find tremendous creative success (or any kind of success) for themselves if they can be really honest about WHY they are doing something and WHAT they want to do. Now that kind honesty isn’t always easy to know, it can be hidden or tucked away. It can be all mangled up in the hypnotic glitter, bells and whistles of fame or noteriety. Or sunk deep in the quagmire of abuse, neglect, ridicule or apapthy.

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.

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This 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.

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I really enjoyed your film and the exploration of questions around creativity and creative fulfillment. As a woman, my wish would have been for you to interview a few more women.

Isabelle R.

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Interesting topic and approach. I especially connected to and took a lot from Dr. Ragan’s story and message. I keep thinking about how inspirational the entire film is and how I want to show clips to our school’s aspiring artists!

Jamie G., Evanston, IL

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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., Washington, DC

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This film is terrific. Love the wide range of subjects selected (Brian Cox AND McCoy Tyner?) to speak about creativity and how it is woven into the fabric of our lives—including social class. I think anyone who creates art or seeks to understand those who create it will profit from seeing it, but I’d love to see Old School, New School disseminated widely in schools and other venues that could reach artists early in their careers. It captures the joys and vicissitudes of the creative process in a way that would benefit young artists.

Richard B., Catonsville, MD

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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 warm up, this is it!

Howard E., Exeter, UK

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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., United Kingdom

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Lots of good insight in this film. One line stood out to me was something Fraker said: “live by the decisions you make, right or wrong…”

Many times when out in the field you are forced to make decisions on the spot, that can be scary, but the truth is, you just have to go for it and trust your instinct at that moment.

Thea M., Los Angeles, CA

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This documentary 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., Washington, DC

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Steven is exactly right with his opening comments…if he wanted answers to these important questions, others would too. This film was an insightful exploration of the creative process and spans a variety of disciplines. I think we can all give Steve a congratulations and thanks for allowing us to be the other person in the room for these very personal, comfortable conversations.

Gregg L., Baltimore, MD

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Steven Fischer takes us on an inward journey in OLD SCHOOL NEW SCHOOL to wrestle with THE fundamental concept of a successful artist: vulnerable truth. You will enjoy hearing the reflections of experience in these interviews that extol the virtues of an honest creative voice. Enjoy the film, it is a worthwhile view for any artist – old or new!

Winston S., Camp Lejeune, NC

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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 :-)))

Larry C., Corpus Christi, TX

****

Well done, and thank 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 “inspirational messages”. I enjoyed it, and will pass it along to those in my circle.

Carl B., New York, NY

****

This Has something for every artist from Dance and poetry to jazz and photography a must see.

Lt. Norsal, Chicago, IL

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I am so glad you made this documentary, this topic is something that I spend many hours debating and obsessing over in my head. I think the answer, that there is no answer in terms of the right pathway is correct. Finding your voice, to me, is what matters, once that voice is found, the individual can then go about orchestrating there means of satisfying it, and I firmly believe, that if their creative voice is important enough to them, they will find them means of satisfaction, no matter what their situation. Which to me is true success, finding your voice and then satisfying it. Thank-you for making this!

Angela B.

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I liked it a lot. 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. Artistic professions are different from business or science because success cannot be measured by quantitative means such as money or data. Being an “artist” really requires being true, especially to one’s self. Great film.

Ze

****

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

Christina G.

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Fantastic film—handles questions I have thought about e.g what is success. I see a lot of people buying lotttery tickets every week. It is certain that someone will win the jackpot and call himself/herself successful. But really it was just luck.. yet seeig this many neighbors will emulate and buy even more lottery tickets.

How much of career success is just statistical chance? luck of the draw..we all like to think hard work pays because of our reference group. If we were not at least partially successful, you wouldnt be engaging in high-brow chatter….

Paul

OSNS in Chicago Artist Resource

January 4, 2012

Chicago Artist Resource recently published a first-person article about the making of Old School New School. Click here to read.

Steven Fischer on Old School New School Podcast

July 11, 2011

The Old School New School podcast in Seattle, Washington, recently interviewed Old School New School movie director Steven Fischer about his documentary on creativity.

Listen to the episode here. The interview begins at 14:20.

OSNS on OSNS

June 23, 2011

Steven Fischer, producer of Old School New School the movie, will be appearing on Old School New School the podcast on Thursday, July 7 2011 at 6.30pm PST. More details to come.

OSNS Photographer Wins Award

July 11, 2009

Stuart Dahne is has been shooting promotional photos for Old School New School. One shot of the movie’s director, Steven Fischer, just won Digital Image Cafe’s Photo of the Day. See it here.

Stuart’s work is fantastic! Check out stuartdahnephotography.com.

Congrats, Stuart!

OSNS on Film Cast Live

June 29, 2009

Film Cast Live posted a review of the OSNS screening in Hollywood, June 20th. The writer’s name is George Leon and he had some great words to share!

Click here to check it out!

Thanks for the kudos, George!

OSNS panel discussion, Los Angeles, CA, June 2009

OSNS panel discussion, Los Angeles, CA, June 2009 (L-R) Brett Paesel, Mark Goffman, Steven Fischer, Steve Melendez, Mike Polcino

Hollywood Screening

May 29, 2009

Did I mention that Kimberley Browning is one of planet Earth’s most beautiful people? She is the heart and soul behind Hollywood Shorts, and many months ago made the generous offer to coordinate and present a work-in-progress screening of Old School, New School, a study on the nature of creativity.

That day is nearly here. Mark your calendars!

Saturday, June 20, 2009
The Hotel Cafe
1623 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
4.30pm – 6.30pm
FREE

This work-in-progress screening is intended for a target audience focus group (art students and those interested in developing their creativity). Confirmed guests for the post screening discussion include 6-time Oscar nominee (and OSNS subject) William Fraker and Michael Polcino, director of The Simpsons and Family Guy animated series. The discussion continues the dialogue from the movie about taking risks, finding your own voice, defining success in the arts, and, in general, how to “make it” in the arts.

More panel guests to be announced. The best way to keep in formed is to join the OSNS Facebook page.

Many thanks to The Hotel Cafe and Kimberley Browning for making this screening a reality.

A Study on Genius and Success in the Arts

May 7, 2009

The experimental filmmaker Fred Worden sent me a really great video today. Malcolm Gladwell discusses success in the arts and how musicians he’s studied have come to make their masterpiece. He’s concluded that every “genius” reaches genius status my completing 10,000 hours of preparation. He notes that The Beatles performed about 12,000 times together before their big Ed Sullivan success, and that Fleetwood Mac released about 12 albums before Rumors was released.

It’s a fascinating study that, to me, touches on lot of truth. Check it out here.