Conversation with Aimee Madsen, Director of “Paolo Soleri: Beyond Form”

In January 2012 I interviewed filmmaker Aimee Madsen for the blog. Aimee was conducting a Kickstarter campaign for her film, then titled Before Form. As she summarized it in that interview, “the film presents a fresh look at the legendary and multi-talented man Paolo Soleri, known as an artist, craftsman, architect, urban theorist, and finally a visionary, a term he’s not so fond of.  Although the philosophy behind Paolo’s work seem to be the driving force in his life, it will focus instead on Soleri as the form giver, rather than Soleri, the idea giver — hence the working title Before Form.” A lot has happened since 2012, including a title change. The film is now called Paolo Soleri: Beyond Form. Here ‘s our a follow-up conversation.

Last time we did this you were crowdfunding for post. How did that go?

We were successful, even with the cut-off date being near Christmas, I remember people were still wanting to donate up until the very end, that felt good! It was an excellent learning experience as far as making sure you budget your film to include all the facets of distribution, which we could have calculated a little better than we did, but it definitely helped us to finish the first cut and Iʼm grateful for that.

Beyond Form by Aimee MadsenSo the film is doing the festival rounds. You must be very pleased? Are you traveling with it?

Yes, itʼs been very encouraging to be able to show the film in Scottsdale AZ, Tucson, AZ, Florence, Italy, Bologna Italy, and making the selection for the very first Architectural Film Festival in Lisbon, Portugal was an exciting time. Our next screening will premiere in downtown LA at the Regal Theater for the La Femme Film Festival, Oct. 20th, 2013.

So in a sense Iʼm traveling with the film, itʼs going where people want it to go, without having to do much of the steering.

You left a Facebook comment that really struck a chord:

“It’s really a gift to have a chance to make a film that has another purpose, a larger purpose,larger than myself, larger than the filmmaker …”

Care to elaborate?

Because not only is this the case when you make a documentary, hopefully, but because this film involves a high profile person, who has a huge message that was made years ago and is very timely now. It seems people are finally ready to listen, even eager to take a closer look at Paolo Soleri. Also there are many people that this subject has touched since 1946 that are still moved by his work to this day and want to see his ideas continue and go even further. Generally the nature of documentaries are to enlighten, teach, move and inspire others to act or create. At least thatʼs what motivates me to make a film and the story of Soleri is quite the challenge, because it includes many diverse audiences from all over the world to target, or maybe thatʼs the gift. I have a feeling this is something you might be able to relate to. Am I right?

Yep. It’s a great joy when you discover that your film is doing something you didn’t expect or plan it to do. While I was making  Tango Octogenario I kind of  knew that it would appeal to a certain demographic. It was a romantic film with a positive message about enduring love and the curative powers of art. But after one of the first screenings, I went out to dinner and the waitress recognized me from the q&a. She was sort of a hipster in her early twenties and she said that it reminded her of her grandparents who used to go dancing on the weekends, and how she could smell their perfume while watching the film. I was stunned speechless. And since that screening, many people have come up to me and told me the film reminded them of their grandparents. They’re moved by it, I’m moved that they’re moved. It’s a beautiful moment. 

 Paolo Soleri died in April 2013. I was hoping I’d be able to show him a finished version of A Life’s Work. I’m still processing his death and wrote about it here. Were you able to show him Beyond Form before he died, and what affect did his passing have on you? 

The edit was done and the film was ready to have its first screening one week before he died, so that was a very bittersweet moment. He only got to see the trailer. I think if I wasnʼt holding a camera and filming Paolo up until the end, it would have been harder on me, his death, if I didnʼt witness him aging through the lens first. When he realized he was never going to be able to get around as he used to, that was a turning point for me and of course for everyone close to him. Just as he worked the earth with grace, he aged the same way, very naturally. A day or so before he died, I did have the chance to tell him thank you for allowing me to photograph him all those years … so that was an emotional time, very bittersweet to say the least …

Thanks, Aimee.

Look for Paolo Soleri: Beyond Form at a film festival near you.