Back to Arcosanti

Many years ago I worked in a record store  where I spent a lot of my time flipping through the inventory to see what I was missing. One day I came across an LP I had not seen before.

Sound Effects Death & Horror
Front cover.

 

Sound Effects Death & Horror
Track listing on back.

 

At the time I thought this was the funniest, cheesiest, most bizarre album I had ever seen. I wasn’t making films or audio dramas and I did not foresee any use for it, but still I had to have it. Plus, it was cheap, what with my employee discount and all. I brought it up to the cashier and with a laugh I said to whoever rang me up, “Who would BUY this?” As I took the money out of my wallet a lightening bolt of self-awareness struck me! I would buy it, that’s who!

Flash forward about 20 years and the release of Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, a film he shot in the jungles of Thailand.  At this point I am an admirer of Herzog and am particularly captivated by Fitzcarraldo and its companion, Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, a documentary chronicling the making of Fitzcarraldo. For the purposes of this post, you need only know that Herzog had a very difficult time shooting this film on location in the Amazon jungle.

Here’s a famous clip from Burden of Dreams wherein Herzog goes all Herzogian about the Amazon.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ze9-ARjL-ZA[/youtube]

Leaving the theater after Rescue Dawn, I turned to my movie-going companion and said, “It’s amazing, Herzog finally gets a decent budget and big name Hollywood actors, and what does he do? Right back into the jungle! Crazy.”

And last month I thought about what I had said as I booked a flight to Arizona upon receiving news about my income tax refund. So tomorrow (Tuesday, April 14, 2015),  cinematographer Andy Bowley and I will be back in the Sonoran Desert shooting Arcosanti and conducting a follow-up interview with Jeff Stein, AIA, successor to Paolo Soleri and president of the Cosanti Foundation. I know, I know, I’ve said production is over about ten times. But this is it. This shoot is for the ending of the film and very very necessary. So to the desert we go.

I expect they’ll be a post when I return, maybe some photos, and eventually some footage, too.

Stay tuned.

Tourist Eyes – Jeff Stein, AIA

I recently emailed an update on A Life’s Work to Jeff Stein, AIA, president of the Cosanti Foundation.

Part of his reply was the following —

PS: I gave a presentation at a recent AIA/American Institute of Architects convention in Santa Fe. I rode my motorcycle there Thursday, talk and panel discussion Friday and Saturday, back to Arcosanti on Sunday. On the return trip I dodged storms to the south until in the late afternoon I turned off Interstate 17 onto the Arcosanti road, and here was the view: a double rainbow.

and this image —

Photo by Jeff Stein
Photo by Jeff Stein, AIA

 

Thanks for sharing, Jeff, and allowing me to post it here. Hope to see you in April.

Related: Six Questions for Jeff Stein

Six Questions for Jeff Stein, President of Cosanti

In July 2012  the Cosanti Foundation, the organization that oversees Arcosanti, announced Paolo Soleri’s retirement as President, and the appointment of his successor, Jeff Stein, I was quite surprised. I’m not an Arcosanti insider by any means, but still, I just couldn’t imagine Soleri handing over the reins. But he did.

Despite having declared the end of production for A Life’s Work, my instinct was to hop on a plane to Arizona and interview Soleri and Stein. I didn’t, for various reasons. But I was recently put in contact with Stein and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions. But first, his bio.  

Jeff Stein, AIA and President, Cosanti Foundation

Award-winning architect, writer, educator, Jeff Stein, AIA, is president of Cosanti Foundation.  His first construction workshop at Arcosanti was in 1975. Since then he has spent time on the Cosanti staff; taught architecture in the Career Discovery program of the Harvard GSD; headed the department of architecture at Wentworth Institute in Boston; and was Dean of the Boston Architectural College for the past seven years. He has taught at architecture schools in the US and at the Technicum Winterthur, Zurich, and Ecole d’Architecture Languedoc-Rousillon, in Montpellier, France. Mr. Stein has written for Architecture Boston magazine and was for ten years architecture critic for the New England newspaper, Banker + Tradesman. He lectures widely about Arcosanti, energy and urban design, including at the recent Tel Aviv-Yafo Centennial Conference on Urban Sustainability, this past fall in Montreal at the 9th World EcoCities Congress and this spring at the Santa Fe Institute.

1.What’s your history with Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri?

Pretty much my entire adult life – for the past 35 years – is wrapped up with Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri. In 1974 I purchased the big black book, City in the Image of Man. MIT Press, its publisher, had a 50% sale, and when I received it in the mail, I opened it right up and spread it out – 4 feet long – across the conference table of the architecture firm where I was interning in the Midwest.  That first big white page with the single sentence, “This book is about miniaturization,” started it all.

I came to Arcosanti the next year on a construction workshop and stayed for 7 years as part of the staff of Cosanti Foundation. I worked in the drafting room, built 2SUNS arcology models, made drawings to illustrate Paolo’s books, helped to put together several exhibitions, including one that travelled to 42 colleges and universities in the early 1980’s. I also helped produce the Arcosanti Festivals and conferences, including Teilhard and Metamorphosis in 1981.

 

The ceramics apse.

At that event, the architect, writer and editor Peter Blake, spoke. Blake was an early proponent and publisher of Paolo’s work. After his talk he and I sat out on a rock by Arcosanti’s Foundry Apse and watched the Arizona sunset. “You’ll need to find your own voice in architecture, you know,” he said. “You should come to Boston, to the BAC/Boston Architectural College. We can propel you into the mainstream of architectural practice.” He was head of that venerable school at the time, and several people around Arcosanti had continued their careers in Boston through study at the BAC. I had graduated from a couple colleges by then, but had yet to finish architecture school.

So my wife, 2-year-old son, and I moved to Boston, and I became a student again for a time. I graduated, was licensed as an architect, worked for a couple firms, became a professor, headed Wentworth Institute’s architecture program, taught courses about arcology, started my own architectural practice, and for the past seven years I have served as dean of the BAC. I imagined that certain things had come full circle when this happened at BAC; but now that I’m back at Arcosanti, the circle is even more vivid.

 

2. As president of the Cosanti Foundation, what are your duties and goals?

The work is on several levels at once. Of course the main thing is to set a direction for Arcosanti’s continued development; and help to insure that we have resources and staff to pursue it. Parallel to that, we want to move ahead with the continued discussion of the idea of Arcology – architecture and ecology – at the highest levels nationally and internationally. The question out there, near the end of cheap fossil fuels and also, apparently, near the end of unprecedented personal wealth across a broad middle class in America and Europe, is, “How shall we live?” on the Earth. What pattern of development makes sense for humans and for millions of other species on the planet? The work that has gone on here at Arcosanti for more than a generation has important ideas to add to that discussion.  There is also the business of the Soleri windbells and magnificent original art works that Paolo has created, and work that our craftspeople at Cosanti and Arcosanti continue to produce. And on a more personal level, I am here to support Paolo Soleri as he continues to develop ideas and make his own transitions.

I live at Arcosanti, and travel about one week each month, speaking publicly, pursuing opportunities on behalf Arcosanti.  I am also helping to establish partnerships with institutions and governmental bodies to help foster Arcosanti’s growth as a resource for education and development globally.

I have been a member of Cosanti Foundation’s Board of Directors for the past several years, so I am current with the work that has been going on and with the issues that confront the Foundation as we move forward in a larger culture that is changing as we speak.

Arcosanti from the mesa across the way.

3. You’re filling some pretty big shoes. Was there a moment when you thought maybe you didn’t want to take this position?

When the Cosanti Foundation board suggested to me, last summer, that I was their pick, I was surprised(!), and I did indeed think twice about what it would mean. I telephoned my wife, Emilie, a painter and landscape designer in Boston. She said, “This will be important work. You need to do it. We’ll make our personal lives work out around it.” And that’s what we are doing.

Before taking the position, I spoke to Paolo Soleri at some length. When it became clear to me that he was comfortable with the idea, I agreed to it; and here I am, typing this from my apartment at Arcosanti, 10 months into the job. Carrying on this work is indeed important to me. I am doing it in a beautiful landscape, around terrific architecture, surrounded by a group of smart people, and visited on a daily basis by dozens of folks from around the globe who want to learn more about it. No more second thoughts required: we are moving ahead!

4. The times I’ve interviewed Soleri, he mentioned that he had hoped the pace of construction had been a little more rapid. At the same time, I feel like the construction of Arcosanti is very much about the journey and not the destination. Is there a way to move things along while keeping true to the idea that Arcosanti is a laboratory, a place that develops “organically.”

Arcosanti is more about process than product. It is important to the thousands of people who have helped build it so far because  – as you rightly point out – “the journey is more important than the destination.” We are indeed a laboratory, experimenting not just with building and urban form, but overlaying those forms with an understanding of “frugare” –frugality. The goal is not to build something that can gather the highest rents possible; rather it is to create architecture that produces energy and allows for a complex sociability that is accessible to all.

But a work of architecture is usually the most expensive thing anyone ever purchases: a family home, a corporate headquarters, a public government building, these things cost money. So does Arcosanti. And here we are attempting to demonstrate a way of organizing a new relationship with each other and with the earth, by means of constructing architecture rather than by just publishing books about it (though we are doing that, too – 3 new ones just this year, 2012.)

To do this costs money. Arcosanti has so far been self-funding; that is we have bootstrapped ourselves by tuition from our construction workshops, from the sale of books, from tourism, and – improbably – from the sale of the windbells. To build more, we remain interested in the prospects of serious philanthropy. And we are also interested in investors who can take on certain aspects of the project. And we are looking at our own capabilities: we are able to be design consultants to others who might be interested in this work: governments, trans-national corporations, outside interests who can already see that the ideas generated by the project could go a long way to solving serious issues of human habitat and land and energy use.

5. I’ve been struggling to find a way to phrase this question and the only way I seem to be able to do it is via an analogy. Medieval cathedrals that took generations to complete often deviated from the original plans. One can see newer elements of style and construction that were incorporated as the project progressed over the decades. Contrast this with Gaudi’s cathedral, which hasn’t deviated much from his original concept. Would you say Arcosanti leans in one of these directions more than another? (If the facts of my analogy are debatable, feel free to say so.)

I think Arcosanti leans in the in the direction of the Medieval Cathedral. You could even say it leans in the direction of a city, an entity that has a master plan, but also has plenty of room for others to add their understanding and design ideas to it over time. At Arcosanti we are constantly learning, and building as a result of that experience. And yet, the entire project is overlaid with frugality, exploring the power of architecture to perform. Here’s an example:

When tourists visit Arcosanti (and 30,000 people come here each year) among the first things they ask is, “Where are all the solar panels?” In part they ask this because the idea of making electricity from the sun is a good one on the face of it; and also because people are all using so much technology: for lighting, communications, air conditioning, entertainment, etc. that to use more of it in the form of solar panels just seems somehow natural. And while we do have some solar electricity production here, we don’t just rely on that. Instead we have tried to make our architecture work harder than yours does. The forms of our buildings are not just for beauty, though they are beautiful, too. They shade themselves in summer, and with large openings facing south, the connected buildings at Arcosanti gather light and heat in winter, when we need it the most.

We use about 1/6 the electricity of other institutions we have compared ourselves to. The needs are human comfort, light to work by, warmth in winter, cooler shade in summer. You can get that – pretty inefficiently, I must say – by making electricity; or as we do at Arcosanti, you can get it by giving buildings a form that displays itself to the sun in a way that really works.

Paolo Soleri laid the foundation for this work, this search; and he gave us the initial building forms to undertake it. As we live with these forms and learn more about how they actually work in this place, in this climate, there is a natural evolution to the architecture. New people will be able to add new discoveries to Arcosanti using new materials and techniques. But the basic ideas: architecture and ecology harnessed together, miniaturization and complexity at the heart of the urban experience, will remain the same.

What sunrise looks like at Arcosanti.

6. The question I have to ask: Do you think Arcosanti will be completed in your lifetime?

No, not in my lifetime. (And I plan to live for a long time, too!) Still, I don’t think Boston will be completed during my lifetime either, and it has been building for nearly 400 years. I do think Arcosanti, even in its current state – a fragment, really, of what it is meant to become – will begin to play a larger role in the International discussion of how we should live on the planet.

Arcosanti is here, it is not just an idea; it exists, you can visit it and stay overnight in its guestrooms, eat organic produce from its solar greenhouses, hike the high desert wilderness that it’s contained masterplan intends to preserve. And think about what its presence might mean for your own community, for your own life on Earth. Arcosanti’s presence poses some “What if?” questions:

What if we weren’t tied to cars as appliances? What if we could get to work, to school, to a grocery store without driving there, without spending that time and energy, without changing minerals into atmosphere by burning fossil fuels? Arcosanti means to demonstrate possibilities beyond the current culture; it means to allow humans to utilize space in a clearer more complex way. It means to show that, when we do reach the end of fossil fuels, when we do finally imagine that being separated as hermits in our single family houses is not the best way to live on the planet after all, that there is indeed a better, more sustainable, more fun alternative. Come visit us, I’ll show you.

Photographs courtesy of Jeff Stein.

Giant thanks to Jeff Stein for taking the time participate in this interview, special thanks to Sue Kirsch for making it happen.  

 
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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]

I Need More Archival Footage!

A little context: I’m working on a Soleri clip wherein he is critical of hyperconsumption and suburban sprawl — and how sprawl creates a reliance on cars. I’m using interview footage of Soleri and Jeff Stein, AIA, as well as a lecture we shot of Soleri speaking to an audience at the New School here in NYC.

Okay, where to begin?

The first thing I did was set some parameters. What am I looking for? (Images that say suburbs and consumerism.) What decade am I looking for? (1950s and 1960s, this is when Soleri begins coming into his own as a thinker.) Black and white or color? (Both.) Commercials, industrials, home movies, b-movies, or something else? (Commercials and industrial.) I’m especially excited to use commercials. The hucksterism of commercials from that era makes us laugh now (and that’s welcome) but the message is the same. Buying stuff you don’t need or want will make you happy, successful, sexy, etc.

Great, I head over to the Internet Archive, and search “consumerism” and presto-change-o! An embarrassment of riches. Ads for appliances featuring ballroom dancers. Images from the 1950s of housewives in evening gowns. I like that, it echoes what Jill Tarter said about the gender bias she had to deal with growing up in the 50s and 60s. A nice layer. I’ll use some of that.

Search for “suburbia.” More goodies. Lots of white picket fences, middle class families, children playing in yards with trees. A really wonderful industrial made for Redbook is chockfull of images, including people shopping at malls. A banner that reads

Easy Living”! Good stuff in there.

Search for “car commercials.” And here, jackpot.

Take a look at this commercial (one and a half minutes). This suburban housewife felt like a prisoner in her home, until they bought a second car. Now her life is awesome!

The prisoner line and the “it’s a whole new way of life” are perfect.

I found another great industrial about the 1956’s new GM cars that will work nicely with Soleri’s riff on the American Dream, and other images of consumerism will be used, but this commercial will be the centerpiece of that section.

Now to edit it together and have it all make sense. That’s the really difficult part.

To see how editor Cabot Philbrick expertly did that in another clip, click here.

What About Death? Ask the Filmmaker

It’s time for another installment of “Ask the Filmmaker!”

JC asked this on the A Life’s Work Facebook page.

Dear Filmmaker: Just wondering how Paolo Soleri dying will affect your very interesting film A Lifes Work?

 

Paolo Soleri discussing the plans.
Paolo Soleri discussing the plans.

Soleri’s death in April, 2013 saddened me a great deal, but life, and the film, goes on.  And since the film is about WORK that people won’t see completed in their lifetime, Soleri’s death concretizes this idea in a very real and dramatic way. I hope that doesn’t sound cold, but that’s what I’m left with given the circumstances.

jeff_stein_interview
Jeff Stein answers a question.

It also makes Soleri’s successor, Jeff Stein, AIA, a more prominent figure in the film. I always thought a major theme was “standing on the shoulders of giants,”  and now I have the opportunity to show that. I had a feeling when I interviewed Stein in December, 2012  that he would play an important part in the film. Now I’m sure of it. Which is not to say I know at this point how to use his interview most effectively. I’m still trying to work that out.

Thanks for the question, JC. And thanks for your support.

David

(a.k.a. the Filmmaker)

 

How to Conduct an Interview, Part 2: Asking the Questions

Andy Bowley, Cinematographer

Last week in How to Conduct an Interview Part 1, I dealt with preparation. This post features some pointers once you are sitting across from the interviewee with your questions in hand. Ready? Go!

(Note: Make sure to read this post’s comment by Andy Bowley. He’s worked with some great interviewers so he knows what he’s talking about. That’s him operating the camera, and me in the corner, trying to be invisible.)

Listen

You’ve organized your questions and they have an arc and everything. That’s great. But don’t be a slave to the pages in front of you. Interviews are best when they are more like conversations. With Jeff Stein, President of the Cosanti Foundation (Arcosanti) and Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute, I’d ask one question and they’d answer it and the next few follow-ups as well. I’d then ask the next logical question without having to look at my printed questions.

Shut Up and Listen Some More

You are not there to impress the interviewee with your knowledge of their subject. You are also not there to tell them your personal history. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama, when you talk to you’re saying something you already know; when you listen you might learn something new.

That being said you don’t want to be a question-asking automaton. Be friendly and personable, and judiciously share a brief anecdote  or two to show that you can relate to interviewee , but don’t go over do it.

Be Expressive and Responsive

You will not see or hear me in A Life’s Work, so it is important that I not talk while the interviewee is talking, and that includes no hmmms, ahhhs, or ooohhhs. And those interjections, under ordinary circumstances, propel a conversation.  So I nod a lot, smile a lot, frown a lot, raise my eyebrows a lot. This gives the interviewees something to respond to. You need to show you’re interested, after all, because then they’ll be excited to tell you their stories.

Silence Is Gold

Don’t be afraid of silence. There is the small silence necessary after an answer so you’re not stepping on the toes of the answer and making for difficult edits, but there is also a bigger silence. I will pause once in a while and check my page of questions to make sure I’m covering ground, and this bigger silence can lead to unexpected places. Often subjects thinks they’ve finished answering, but then something comes to mind that they want to add during that silence. This is often the real good stuff. Another reason to do this is you may want a shot of the subject sitting silently — these can be interesting shots — and these pauses can provide that.

Be Ready to Improvise

Some people are talkers and don’t need you to ask questions. David Milarch of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is one of those people. I had the great, mind-blowing pleasure of shooting an interview filmmaker Roland Tec conducted with David Hockney and he was this way as well. They are unbridled and there is no way to control them, so you just have to let them go. When they give you a chance, sneak in a question and get out of the way.

You’re the Boss

While some folks cannot be reined in, it’s important to remember that you are still the boss. Be confident. You did the work and deserve to be where you are. There’s nothing to fear.

This is not always easy to do, believe me, I know. When I had to interview Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, I was very aware that I was interviewing a man who not only had been interviewed many times, as all of the subjects of A Life’s Work had been, but also a journalist who conducted hundreds, maybe thousands of interviews.

Full disclosure: The first few interviews I conducted, I had this at the top of each page of questions.
header

Rephrase Questions When Necessary

Come up with a couple of different ways to ask the big questions. The big questions deserve being asked more than once, and sometimes a simple rephrasing will yield the answer you could only dream of. Do this, too, if you feel you were misunderstood or if the answer given wasn’t deep enough for you.

Take Your Time

Don’t rush it. And if you can, conduct interviews you think will be lengthy over two days. As I’ve said elsewhere, everyone gets tired after a couple of hours. Sometimes though, you are hard pressed for time. In that case, try to take a little break, go to the bathroom, get water, stretch your legs. Talk about something unrelated to the topic, joke around.

Don’t Be Selfish

Though you are the boss, there’s no reason to be selfish. Invite the interviewee to ask you questions. I always ask the cinematographer I’m working with if s/he has any questions they’d like to ask of the interviewee. Their questions, and the subsequent answers, have been very valuable.

This has been a public service from A Life’s Work.

Was it helpful? I’d love to add to it. If you have questions or tips, please send them my way.

How to Conduct an Interview, Part 1: Before the Questions

So, You Want to Conduct an On-Camera Interview…

I don’t usually do how-tos, but a few times in the past year I’ve been approached by people who want to make a documentary and they always ask me, among other things,  how to conduct an interview. This surprises me, because it seems like this is intuitive, but maybe not. So, for you future documentary filmmakers out there, here are some pointers.

Research

In order to ask informed questions, you first have to be informed. So read up on your subject and their passion. If they’ve written books or articles, read them. If they’ve been on TV or been written about somewhere, track those down and watch and read. There is an irony here: when I interviewed Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project for A Life’s Work, I had to ask questions that elicited answers that would give all the relevant information to a viewer who had no knowledge of  gospel music, its importance, and why its recorded history is disappearing.

Be Prepared

Make the big decisions well before you even set up the interview. Will the subject be interviewed “portrait” style, that is, sitting in a chair opposite you in a controlled environment? Or will you conduct the interview while you both sit atop a mountain? Will you be seen asking the questions on camera? Will you be heard asking the questions? If not, make sure to tell your subject to restate the question in their answer. (People are more adept at this then they realize.) How will you light the subject? If you found the perfect spot on a Sunday afternoon, nice and quiet, say, and you’re interviewing on a Monday at 3 pm, go back on a Monday at 3 pm. The last thing you want is to discover that there’s a schoolyard beside that space and it’s swarming with screaming hyperactive kids right when you’ve scheduled the  interview.

Organize Your Questions

I like to start off with simple, biographical information, and I will often ask the subject to state his/her name and title. Then move on to how they became interested in the thing they do. This is the easiest ground to cover and it relaxes them and you. When it comes to the more complex stuff, start broad and get specific. Save the hard-hitting questions for last.

Professional
My Frank Zappa concert t-shirt from his 1978 tour.
My Frank Zappa concert t-shirt from his 1978 tour.

Dress so you don’t call attention to yourself. For example, don’t  wear your Frank Zappa concert T-shirt, complete with the cryptic lyric “zorch stroking fast n’ bulbous” and a lone baby doll’s leg. A plain solid shirt and jeans will do. The idea is to be as invisible as possible. You don’t want your clothes to distract the subject.

Also, greet your interviewee and make small talk, but don’t engage them in your interview topic until they are in front of the camera and you’re rolling. Often an interviewee will start talking about the topic before you’re ready. Politely ask them to save it for the camera, explaining that the first time they tell a story is usually the best. Everyone can relate to this, but we could all use reminding from time to time.

Comfort

Make sure the subject has water nearby. Give them a comfortable chair to sit in, but one that doesn’t swivel and doesn’t invite slouching. (Unless you’re interviewing a rock star, in which case all the rules go out the window.) I tell them that I am inarticulate at times, and if they don’t understand a question, just say so and I’ll try again. Let them know that if they are unsatisfied with their answer, they can stop any time and start over. I’m not making an investigative film, so I don’t pry too much into the personal. I let my subjects know if they don’t want to answer a question, they should just say so.

 To Part 2, Asking the Questions

On-Camera Interview with Jeff Stein in the Can

One of the reasons I keep blogging is it seems to lead A Life’s Work down roads it might not otherwise go down.

Case in point: Jeff Stein, AIA

In the summer of 2012 I had the idea of conducting an email interview with Jeff Stein, Paolo Soleri’s successor as President of the Cosanti Foundation, the umbrella organization that includes Arcosanti. I approached the kind folks at Arcosanti to see if Jeff would be amenable. He was.

I sent him my six questions and I promptly received six very thoughtful answers. (Read the mini interview.) During our email exchanges, the notion of an on-camera interview arose.

“Production is over!”

I’ve declared many times here and elsewhere. And yet…

When it became known that Jeff was coming to the Northeast, I had to take advantage of the opportunity. We struggled to find a date that worked for both of us. During that time, I had a sense that the interview might be a very important piece of the A Life’s Work puzzle. Stein was something like an heir. In a film about legacy, heirs can be very important.

After a little searching, we found a place to conduct the interview.

Meeting Jeff Stein

The night before and the morning of the 20th I was a little nervous  because I always am, but once Jeff arrived, whatever jitters I had disappeared. He came bearing gifts, including a book, which I had him sign immediately, along with the release. And within minutes, we got to work. Cinematographer Andy Bowley worked his magic while Jeff and I chatted for three hours about his work, Arcosanti, and Paolo Soleri.

I figured the interview wouldn’t go longer than two hours, because anything more than that and I get tired and the interviewee become tired. Focus is lost. But this interview went on for something like three and a half hours and it was all good. Jeff was articulate, thorough, funny and charming. Best of all the camera captured his enthusiasm for his work at Arcosanti.

That Was Easy!

It turned out to be probably the easiest interview I’ve ever done. The reasons for this?

  • I didn’t have to hop in a cab to JFK, go through security, sit on a plane for hours, drive a rental car somewhere. I took the subway to the location for a godsend 11 a.m. call time. Not even a transfer. When I was done I walked a couple of miles and was in my apartment.
  • I would ask Jeff one question and he would answer it and the next four questions on my list. The interview was more like a conversation. This makes my job very easy.
  • Jeff is very personable and open. He looked very comfortable under the lights and in front of the camera. If he was uncomfortable, he didn’t show it.
  • The supersecret shooting location was very  quiet. There was a small break while we waited for some street noise to abate, but otherwise, it was as quiet as you can get in NYC.
  • Andy shoots with all his own equipment and doesn’t let me touch his lights, stands, camera, or any gear. This means I don’t  lug anything or  set up or break down anything! Sweet!

Afterwards, Jeff, Andy, and I went out for an early dinner at a cozy Korean restaurant where we talked about the David Wright house, motorcycles, and Julius Shulman. It was a very good day.

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Biggest Hits of 2012 — on the Blog, That Is

So, what were the most popular posts written in 2012? I’m glad you asked.

fireworks_2013
Happy New Year

Crowdfunding and A Life’s Work: Advice from a Consultant

Six Questions for Jeff Stein, President of Cosanti

Get Thee to an Artist Residency! Advice from an “Expert”

Designing SETI Institute Graphics: Guest Blogger Danielle Futselaar

Using the Accident

Her Life’s Work – By Kate Hill Cantrill, Guest Blogger

Off to VCCA

I’m off to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I’ve been there twice before and it’s always been good to me.

Why am I going this time? To write. I’ve been working on the film all summer  and need a break. So I’ll spend the next three weeks working on the writing.

But I am also going because Jeff Stein told me to go.

Huh?

VCCA - the view from my windowIn September, I learned that Jeff Stein, AIA, president of the Cosanti Foundation, was coming to NYC in the fall and I was excited to interview him in front of the camera. But then the residency at VCCA came up. Jeff and I were coordinating dates and I was worried we’d miss each other. Finally, after a number of email exchanges, we worked it out and he signed off with:

“Get thee to Virginia, sir.”

How can I defy such an order? So, to Virginia I go.