Documentarian

The first thing you notice is his sort of general humility and humanity and that this guy is a walking, living, breathing artist in the highest sense of the term. Philosophical, artful, humanistic, and extremely talented -which is clear if you watch his designs for Fiddler on the Roof -how he created the entire town of Anatevka from the ground up, the Shtetl, and of course the more prestigious Hitchcock films like North by Northwest which has such a beautiful look to it. It was just so amazing to meet this guy.

The Variety review called the film [Somethings Gonna Live] delightfully rambling and unexpectedly moving and as a student at Bob’s classes that was my experience. When people like Henry Bumstead or Harold Michelson would co-lecture with Bob you’d see these guys on stage and you’d see their shared history and their amazing mastery of film making. They sort of came to life to me as people, not just as names or credits on a movie screen, and that is what I found inspiring.

So the film Something’s Gonna Live, the new film, is an exploration of these masters and their artistry as well as their personalities and their friendships because somehow that pertains to how amazing their work is. It’s through their personalities that I feel you can get close to what their art is. Making a film that investigated them as artists was more interesting to me than just having them sit down in front of a camera and describe their methods. So that they come alive to the viewers as people.

Now getting back to the first film I made, The Man on Lincoln’s Nose. The legendary production designer Henry Bumstead, who worked on To Kill a Mockingbird and the Sting, was guest lecturing in Bob’s class. He brought his film Slaughterhouse Five and at the end of the class he and Bob sat on stage just talking between themselves about their memories and their art and their craft and taking questions from the audience. Finally at the end of the class Bummy, as Henry Bumstead is affectionately known in the industry, turns to the students and says, You know you’ll never find a better art director than Bob Boyle. You should pick his brain while he’s still alive. And my reaction was that, while I didn’t necessarily think of making a film, I thought I should really take advantage of the fact that I’m his student and he’s still around and set aside meetings with him after hours to discuss film making and discuss the craft of production design, and discuss the projects I was doing at the AFI. That one-on-one experience with him was just amazing and I got to know him more as a person.

And that’s essentially what his classes were, they were less about the craft of film making and more about life experience and how we take our life experiences and translate them artistically into the world we’re creating. And he would talk about his experiences as a World War II combat cameraman and how he filmed the fall of Berlin. Then he started talking about his attitude towards war and violence and killing and he told the class that he was against guns -and we were really getting a portrait of this guy- and then he says with a sly grin, You know the only thing guns are good for is blowing locks off of liquor cabinets. Which apparently is what he did in Berlin, in the fall of Berlin he and his fellow soldiers would take advantage of some nice Nazi liquor cabinets…

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About the Interviewer

Tom Lisowski is a production designer who has designed swamp mazes shot in China, crumbling cliffs in Utah, future arenas in South Central, dilapidated tenements and twisted laboratories under luxurious mansions... William Anthony is a Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle and documentary imagery... Guest photographer Nelson Cragg is an award-winning cinematographer who shoots and directs television, feature films, and commercial projects. Contact ArtStars: tom@artstars.us