Regrets? Maybe.

I remembered this exchange between Soleri and me the other day and thought, why not post it again, you know, as a super special encore presentation! Hope you like it.

I.G. took advantage of this blog’s stellar feature, Ask the Filmmaker. Why don’t you?

Dear Filmmaker,

I think I read somewhere that when you started interviewing people, you recorded those interviews audio only. Is that right? Do you listen to that now and wish you had shot those interviews?

Good luck with the film.


Hi, I.G.

Thanks for the warm wishes and the question.

You must have read What Was I Thinking? The first interview I did with Paolo Soleri I recorded audio only on a broadcast-quality digital audio recorder, and yes, now I do wish I had used my camera. I wish I had captured one exchange between Soleri and me in particular. To put it in context, I asked him what was the projected population of the original plans for Arcosanti. Here it is:


But, and this is a huge point, I’m pretty sure this exchange would not have happened as it did if the camera were in the room. Soleri doesn’t like cameras and he was obviously more at ease when we spoke with just the audio recorder running. So I take some solace in the knowledge that the joking that occurs in this audio wouldn’t have happened on video.

This ease was a big reason I initially wanted to record the interviews audio only. But the unease created by cameras can also lead to interesting moments, just watch any Werner Herzog documentary and you’ll see what I mean. He’s a master at letting the camera roll after a subject has answered a question. If you let people sit in silence after they’ve given an answer (especially to a question they’ve answered a million times), they will often elaborate on that answer in a fresh way, and sometimes you get something special.

Sorry I.G., got a little sidetracked there. Yes, sometimes I do regret not shooting that first interview.

Ask the Filmmaker: The Film That Changed MY Life

Dear Filmmaker:

Recently you reviewed a book called The Film that Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark. If this book’s subtitle were “31 Directors…,” you being the 31st, what one movie would you have talked about?

Curious in Burlington.

Dear Curious,

Oh, this is a tough question. I wrote a post for Extracriticum called And The Films in My Life, a reference to the Truffaut book (The Films in My Life) and a Brian Jonestown Massacre CD, “And This Is Our Music,” which is a reference to a Galaxie 500 CD called “This Is Our Music.” But I digress. Actually, I’m stalling, because I’m finding it very difficult to choose one. But I will. Here’s an elaboration on the E.C. entry.

Simple Men: Here was a film, a small, quirky, intelligent, stylized film that seemed like something I would have made, from the color pallet to starting and ending the film with the same line of dialogue, “Don’t move,” which in the context of the scenes mean very different things. Yep, that’s something I would have done, would still do. More importantly, this film seemed like something I could have done. A smart script, a few good actors, commonplace locations, and a little American Playhouse money, and boom! An excellent independent film is hatched!

As fate would have it, I saw this film around the time I became interested in making films, then as a screenwriter (the idea that I could direct a film was still inconceivable). I can’t say Simple Men motivated me to write my first screenplay or direct my first film, but what it said to me was, “You can do this, if you really want to.”

Thanks for the question, Curious. It’s a good one.

Would you, Dear Reader, care to share the film, book, play, song, painting, sculpture, etc. that changed your life? I’d love to hear about it.

And of course if you have a question, just leave it as comment or send me an e-mail at d a v i d { a t } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s { d o t } c o m.

Ask the Filmmaker: Books? Huh?

Dear Filmmaker,

Read any good books lately or is it all A Life’s Work all the time?


Dear K.R.:

It’s definitely not all A Life’s Work all the time. And in fact, I have recently read a very good book: A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s nonfiction book about walking the Appalachian Trail. It’s funny, sad, scary and enlightening. I highly recommend it.

I would like to share this passage.

…America’s attitude to nature is, from all sides, very strange if you ask me… In America, alas, beauty has become something you drive to, and nature an either/or proposition–either you ruthlessly subjugate it, as at Tocks Dam and a million other places, or you deify it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart, as along the Appalachian Trail. Seldom would it occur to anyone on either side that people and nature could co-exist to their mutual benefit–that, say, a more graceful bridge across the Delaware River might actually set off the grandeur around it, or that the AT might be more interesting and rewarding if it wasn’t all wilderness, if from time to time it purposely took you past grazing cows and tilled fields.

Here’s a quote from my interview with Paolo Soleri.

Children like very much to be here [Arcosanti]. They can look out and find nature. They can move into nature. That is a very important experience…

So the child growing in the exurban sprawl, unless it is able to take transportation say by car, maybe has to drive one hour or two hours. He doesn’t really get the impact of nature. And that isolation is cruel. A person should be able to experience at a young age, what we are enveloped by.

Have you, Dear Reader, read any good books lately?

Ask the Filmmaker and He Asks the Magic 8 Ball

Dear Filmmaker,

Do you know what your next project will be?

Curious in Caldwell.

Dear Curious,

Yes, I do.

Thanks for asking.

David in New York City.

Okay, I don’t usually reveal future projects but I consulted my Magic 8 Ball. “Should I spill the beans?” I asked. Its reply was unequivocal. “My sources say no.” But I will say this: it involves a bike, Italy, the written word and the visual image. I think.

Do you have a question for the filmmaker? Leave it as comment on any post or shoot me an e-mail and I’ll try to answer it. Any and all questions, no matter how bizarre or how unfilm-related, will be fielded in some way or another.

Ask the Filmmaker: The Ecstasy and the Agony

Dear Filmmaker,

What do you enjoy most about making this documentary? What do you enjoy the least?


Hi D.C.

Thanks for the question. I’m a bad news first kind of guy, so let’s start with what I enjoy the least. Raising money. And not surprisingly, I’m no good at it. I really wish making films didn’t cost so much. Make no mistake, it’s a lot less expensive than it was, but it’s still expensive.

What do I like the most? The people. No question. I get to speak to and work with amazing people. The people in front of the camera have been so generous with their time, a joy to film, and a pleasure to interview. The people behind the camera have been inspiring and generous beyond words.

Thanks for asking.

Do you have a question for the filmmaker? Just leave a comment and I’ll answer it. It doesn’t have to be about this film, or any film, really. I’ll answer anything. In fact, one person even asked me “where do babies come from?” And I did answer.

Ask the Filmmaker: Turning the Tables

Dear Filmmaker,

Actually, this question didn’t start that way.

When I first sit down to interview someone for A Life’s Work,  I have a few things I mention before I ask the first question. One of those things is, “If you have a question for me, please ask it.”

When we spoke with David Milarch in his home in Copemish, MI, he took me up on that.


Ask the Filmmaker: Magic Number Four

Last weekend I was at a dinner party and one of the guests posed a frequently asked question: Why are there four subjects in A Life’s Work? Why not three? Why not five? (To be clear, there ARE five people, but here I’m actually using the word subject to mean project. Soleri-Arcosanti, Darden-BGMRP, Tarter-SETI;  [David + Jared] Milarch-Champion Tree Project [now known as Archangel Ancient Tree Archive]).

Originally, I thought five might be best, but after the first interview I realized that if did that I would be giving each short shrift. I also think the film would be unwieldy and more difficult to follow.

And why not three? I think the film could have worked with three subjects, and honestly, an hour film could be made on each subject just with the footage I now have, but I wanted a bigger pool than three. I wanted more diversity in experience and geography. Three seemed not enough.

So, five was too many, three was too few. Four: Just right.

Photo: Robert Darden looks for rare gospel vinyl at Hyde Park Records, Chicago, IL.

Ask the Filmmaker: Kickstarter?

Dear Filmmaker,

Have you considered using Kickstarter for A Life’s Work?


Dear DP,

I have, and I’m supporting a Kickstarter project, Planet X, right now. (I interviewed Planet X director Jacob Hensberry about why he chose Kickstarter to fund his film. You can read about it in a post I wrote for I like the crowdfunding idea, and I hope it takes off, but for me, now, it’s not practical.

Kickstarter seems to work best when you’re trying to raise a little money (a few thousand dollars) and when you’re near completion with the project. (For an excellent account of one filmmaker’s experience with Kickstarter, go here.) I haven’t ruled Kickstarter out, but if I do use it, I suspect it will be when I need to raise the last few thousand dollars, as opposed to what I need to raise now.

But even though A Life’s Work is not a Kickstarter project, you can still support the film monetarily. You can contribute as little as $5 and as much as $15,000 online, and since A Life’s Work is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, whatever amount you contribute is tax deductible. To donate, click here. It’s super easy. Any amount is greatly appreciated and helps in many ways.

Thanks for your most excellent question, DP.


The Filmmaker.

Do you have a question for The Filmmaker. Just leave it as a comment and he’ll answer it. Think of The Filmmaker as Google, only not so big and creepy.

Ask the Filmmaker: Why a Transcript and not the Video?

Dear Filmmaker,

I read your post about Stephen Hawking and in it you have a transcription of your interview with Jill Tarter. Why didn’t you just put up the video?



Dear GDS,

That’s an excellent question.

I didn’t put up the video for a couple of reasons. To upload the Tarter video as a talking head for one minute and thirty seconds doesn’t do justice to the film, and this blog is primarily about the film and not about responding in a news-like fashion to the story of the day. Hastily constructing a sequence from the SETI footage around what she’s saying doesn’t work for me either. I like to think that one of the things that differentiates A Life’s Work from a news story is that I have the luxury of time. I don’t need to hurriedly put together a segment for the 5:00 broadcast. I can experiment, consider, re-consider, tweak, re-tweak, trash, start again, etc.

For more on this, see my post Breaking News! Breaking Me?

And thanks for the question.



Do you have a question about the film or anything else? Just leave your query as a comment and I’ll answer it.

Ask the Filmmaker: How Do You Write a Documentary?

JB took advantage of Ask the Filmmaker and posed this question:

On your About the Filmmaker page you write: “David Licata is the writer and director of A Life’s Work.” Are you going to have a voice over narrator reading text you wrote?

Good question.

Robert Darden interviews Rev. Reuben Burton for his upcomng book on gospel music's impact on the civil rights movement.

You won’t hear Liev Schreiber or Morgan Freeman reading copy that I wrote about Soleri, Tarter, Darden, or the Milarchs. So what have I written?

I wrote all of the questions and I guide the interviews so that (hopefully) the discussions relate to the film’s theme and fit in its framework, as well as to what the other interviewees have said. Then I scour the transcripts and choose the bits that work for the structure I’ve laid out. “Directing” doesn’t seem to be the right word and neither does “editing.”  I’ll admit it isn’t quite “writing,”  but the process seems to be closer to the process  of writing a nonfiction book than directing a film.

That’s my reasoning at the moment. Who knows, I may just go with only “director” when it’s done.

Thanks for your interest, JB, and for asking such a great question.

Do you have a question for me about anything under the sun? Go ahead and ask. Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. If you’re shy about leaving it on the blog, e-mail me directly at d a v i d at b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s dot c o m.