Mom and Dad were the ideal parents for a future filmmaker. No, they didn’t hand me a film camera on my fifth birthday; Mom had other plans. “You can be any kind of doctor you want,” she would say, as if to prove her open-mindedness. Dad’s mantra was do what you love because you may be doing it for a while. Yet both of them unwittingly served as excellent role models and gene donors for an aspiring director.
Mom had vision. As an interior designer, she made a living by turning dreary houses into stunning homes. As an entrepreneur, she created a chain of wallpaper stores called Wallnuts, no small feat for a woman in the 1970s. She did it with imagination, charisma, resourcefulness, and tenacity. I can’t think of four more valuable qualities for a filmmaker.
Dad was trained as an electrical engineer, worked briefly for BBC Radio, and arrived in New York when television was born. He started as a cameraman on live programs, like Your Show of Shows and Lucky Strike Hit Parade and then moved to videotape editing. As a boy, I watched him splice two-inch videotape with a razorblade and a microscope. For most of his career, he supervised the videotape editors on the CBS Evening News. He was meticulous, a skillful manager, calm under pressure, and loved that no two days were ever the same. Four more valuable qualities for a film director.
One of my greatest pleasures as a boy was accompanying Dad to the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th street in New York City where I saw Dan Rather’s desk and stepped onto soap opera sets. I was enthralled by the grand illusion that so many artisans conspired to create -- the facades, the blue screens, the lighting rigs, the concealed microphones. It made my heart race. To this day, when I walk onto a film set, my still heart races. When Dad was winding down his career and I was starting mine, he edited a short film I made as a grad student. It was the first time a director called him Dad.
What would Dad say about the launch of JFI? “Very impressive. Good luck with it.” And Mom would add: “What are you wearing?”