Posts Tagged ‘steve and bluey’

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!

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!

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Try Your Hand at Cartooning at Waubonsee Community College

August 24, 2017

The Cartoon workshop is back!

Try Your Hand at Cartooning With an Emmy Nominated Filmmaker

Waubonsee Community College,
Sugar Grove Campus
Saturday, Sep 9, 2017

No drawing experience is necessary for this unique creativity workshop with the multi-talented Steven Fischer. Develop your original, personal story through drawing and generate ideas using a range of writing and drawing exercises. Along the way, explore the philosophy and psychology of inspiration, cartoon art, creativity and storytelling.

Sign up here!

Tickets are $29. A copy of Steven’s book The Wonderful, Happy, Cartoony World of Steve & Bluey is included.

 

Steven Fischer is a two-time Emmy nominated writer/producer/director/cartoonist/author and Fulbright recipient whose credits include film and commissioned work for PBS, DuPont, Martin Scorsese, Mariska Hargitay and others.

 

 

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

Where in the World Was I? Round two.

February 18, 2015

Round two of Where in the World Was I? now begins. Our promotional tour left the wilds of Dubai, and before we could say, “Get your copy of The Wonderful, Happy, Cartoony World of Steve & Bluey at steveandbluey.com“, we were here!

Where in the world was I? (Hint: Rihanna got in trouble at this place of worship.)

Post your answers in the comment section.

steven-fischer-IMG_4589

Where in the World Was I? Round One.

February 17, 2015

Hey, Folks. We’ve just completed a whirlwind world tour promoting the new Steve & Bluey book, The Wonderful, Happy, Cartoony World of Steve & Bluey. Over the next 7 days I’ll post a picture from 7 cities visited on the tour. Whoever correctly identifies all 7 wins an autographed copy of the book! (Although if you’d like to purchase one, we won’t object: http://www.steveandbluey.com )

No fair playing if you already knew our itinerary! Post your answers in the comment section.

Here we go. Where in the world was I? (Hint: The fountains are famous.)

steven-fischer

The Pajama Program seeks nurturing books and sleepwear for kids in need

January 20, 2015

The Pajama Program is a nationwide effort to help underprivileged kids in need by offering pajamas and books supplied by donors. Some of these children live in group homes, shelters, or are shuffled from one place to another. Many of them have been abandoned, abused or neglected.

We just donated copies of The Wonderful, Happy, Cartoony World of Steve & Bluey to the Pennsylvania branch, and hope you will help us by spreading the word about The Pajama Program.

Thanks!

Louis Mills, a creative master of sound

January 14, 2012

Baltimore’s Godfather of Sound, and dear friend, Louis Mills passed away Friday, January 13, 2012. Please read this touching tribute in the Baltimore Sun to a truly brilliant man.

“More Parks sausages, Mom. Please!”

Filmmaker Has Animated Presence in the Arts

August 4, 2008
steven_fischer_film-director_working_on_now_and_forever_yours_spotsylvani_virginia_photo_jim_choate_april-2007

Filmmaker Steven Fischer in Spotsylvania, Virginia, April 2007, during production of his Emmy-nominated Civil War drama Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier. Photo by Jim Choate.

steven_fischer_film-director_paramount-pictures_hollywood_california_2007

Producer-director Steven Fischer at Paramount Pictures, Hollywood, California (2007) while working on the film Old School New School with Brian Cox and McCoy Tyner.

From The Capital, Annapolis, Maryland. August 4, 2008.

By THERESA WINSLOW Staff Writer

The bookcases in Steven Fischer’s Annapolis home are a virtual smorgasbord of the humanities.

There are volumes on luminaries such as Leonardo da Vinci and the Bronte sisters, tomes about silent film stars Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, a biography of movie director Francis Ford Coppola and a series of books on the Civil War. He even has a book on Albert Einstein, for good measure, and that’s just a smattering of his reading material.Mr. Fischer is a man of eclectic tastes, but there’s a common theme that runs throughout his library and his life – the quest to better understand all aspects of the human condition.

The 36-year-old first delved into this arena through cartooning, creating the characters Steve and Bluey, and now pursues the subject by making films. Just last year, he finished four movies, including the short Civil War docudrama “Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier,” and the animated documentary of an Hungarian artist who fled Communist Hungary called “Freedom Dance.” The film, which he worked on with Baltimore resident Craig Herron, was narrated by Mariska Hargitay of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

“I just think Steven is a brilliant young man who will go far, I hope,” said Judy Hilbert of Baltimore, whose late husband Edward was the focus of “Freedom Dance.””He’s very knowledgeable in whatever he’s doing.”

Mr. Fischer has garnered two Emmy nominations for his work, and won a host of other honors. His varied resume also includes “The Silence of Falling Leaves,” which is about the massacre of Polish POWs in 1940, a short documentary of Francis Scott Key, several music videos, commercials and promotional videos.

“I’m interested in everything,” Mr. Fischer said. “That’s a good thing in being a storyteller. You have to be excited by many things.”

Mr. Fischer’s latest project is “Old School, New School,” a documentary featuring in-depth interviews with noted figures in the arts that explores the nature of creativity. The subjects include poet James Ragan, producer and animator Bill Melendez (of “Peanuts” TV specials fame), and Irish playwright and professor Sam McCready.

Mr. Fischer hopes to have the documentary finished by sometime in 2009 and his hope is that by recording the insights of highly- accomplished people, their core values won’t be lost and the next generation of artists will have a valuable resource to draw on.

One of Mr. Fischer’s friends, Mike Zampi of Severna Park, said the filmmaker often discusses the “masters” that inspire him. But Mr. Zampi considers Mr. Fischer a “master himself – just undiscovered.”

Mr. Zampi is a recording engineer and musician who has worked with Mr. Fischer on many projects. “I wish there were more people in the world like him,” the musician said. “He cares deeply about what he does and he likes to be a positive influence in people’s lives.”

Mr. Melendez’s son, Steve, who has been a mentor of sorts to Mr. Fischer, added that the filmmaker’s work is constantly improving and he soaks up new information like a “sponge.”

“I enjoy him and I like his ideas,” said the younger Mr. Melendez, who followed in his father’s footsteps and resides in London. “He has an original approach to things He’s very tenacious.”

Career in focus

Mr. Fischer could always draw and began working on “Steve and Bluey” while still in high school.

“By the time I went out in the world, I really had the mind set that since I’d been creating stories since childhood, I was veteran,” he said.

Although he still carries around a sketchbook, Mr. Fischer’s primary focus is film. He transitioned fairly seamlessly from one to the other, studying movie-making at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

While the two mediums appear vastly different on the surface, Mr. Fischer said cartooning taught him a lot about characterization and how to work with actors to get the best possible work on camera.

“As an animator, you are the actor,” he said. “You have to understand motivation, performance and timing.”

In addition, animators, by their very nature, have to have an eye for detail, and that trait comes through in Mr. Fischer’s films, said Gregg Landry, owner of the Baltimore-based video company BlueRock Productions.

They’ve worked on a few projects together, and Mr. Landry said he’s always been impressed with Mr. Fischer’s work ethic and enthusiasm.

“He has an incredible attention to detail,” Mr. Landry said, “as well as a real passion for whatever subject matter he’s doing. It’s a pleasure to work with him and he’s not afraid to put in the homework to make a project outstanding.”

The term “homework” is especially apt, since Mr. Fischer definitely brings his work home with him. In fact, it’s hard for him to step away at all, admitting he’d probably be at it 24/7 if he could.

“I go and go until I crash,” he said. “But it never feels like work. Every part of (filmmaking) is my favorite part.”

Currently, Mr. Fischer is augmenting his own projects with a job by producing videos and documentaries at a Columbia think tank, so sleep is most definitely at a premium.

“What I want to do most is tell the stories I want to tell the way I want to tell them,” he said. “It’s not about being in the spotlight. It’s your opportunity to communicate to the public (and) to the community what’s important to you as an artist. That, to me, is a privilege.

(c) 2008 Capital (Annapolis). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.
Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/entertainment/1509620/local_filmmaker_has_animated_presence_in_the_arts/#s37pgGIgOCv2vJvO.99