Director James Redford at the MFF2015 Screening of PAPER TIGERS. Photo by Jennifer Johnson.
Milwaukee Film’s Photography and Video Director Jessica Kaminski asked James Redford, director of Paper Tigers, seven questions about his film and influences. He replied via email:
How did you come across your topic for your documentary, Paper Tigers?
My partner, Karen Pritzker, sent a copy of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. I almost fell out of my chair. Amidst 17K mostly upper-middle class white folks with a college education, the more troubled their childhood was, the worse their health outcomes were as adults. The mind-body link is not just for aging hippies. It’s for all of us.
How do you remain objective when documenting people, especially as you get to know them over the course of filming a documentary?
I try to make artful, compelling tools that help people to grasp complex but important issues. That puts me outside the boundaries of pure verite. Therefore, most of the subjects I work with are sympathetic. And most of them I care about dearly.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned as a filmmaker?
Sometimes the interview doesn’t begin until it’s over. Be open to that.
Is there a particular film that has affected you as a filmmaker?
Last Days of Vietnam somehow managed to be intensely personal while illuminating a important piece of history.
What drives you to create?
Nothing better than a story well told.
What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?
Reduce what your movie is about to one simple, unspoken phrase. Just for you. It’s a north star that will serve you well.
Can you tell us why you think film festivals are important?
Movies are best as a shared experience. Unfortunately, most of the movies in our shopping malls are not really movies. They are branded entertainment. That’s fine. I love Marvel too. But the movies that inform the human experience, the ones that help us understand each other – they are increasingly hard to find in commercial theaters. That’s where film festivals come in. They bring people together to see films that deepen us and speak to human experience. And they are not going anywhere soon.