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All things film with Alfred Guzzetti

I N T E R V I E W  |  O C T .  1 9 ,  2 0 2 2

My first ISM interview was with Alfred Guzzetti, a professor at Harvard University with decades of experience in documentary and experimental filmmaking. There were some aspects of my interview that I could have improved upon. Most of Mr. Guzzetti’s films were either unavailable or needed to be purchased to view, therefore I couldn’t ask any in-depth questions regarding his filmography. Because of this, the questions I asked weren’t particularly well-worded, but that's not to say the interview was a failure. I was hoping to gain a more artistic perspective on filmmaking after our conversation since most experimental filmmakers that I’ve talked to in the past are more focused on the emotional and philosophical elements of film rather than the technicalities of a film set like most narrative directors. However, since Mr. Guzzetti has such an extensive background, our conversation covered a variety of topics while continuing to expand my knowledge on each topic we discussed.

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L I V I N G   A T   R I S K   ( 1 9 8 5 )

The most valuable and surprising bit of advice that Mr. Guzzetti gave was his take on film school. Instead of promoting young filmmakers to go into an undergraduate film production program, Mr. Guzzetti instead promoted the alternative option to enter a general liberal arts or humanities major. He argued that experiencing the world and expanding your knowledge on the world, culture, the arts, and a variety of other topics will help broaden your perspective on not just the art of film but on how to tell good stories. This was something that I found to be specifically important since I’d never heard this take on film school before. Recently, I’ve noticed that people who are against film school tend to suggest gaining experience on a film set rather than attending a university, whereas none recommended learning different subjects to open up their worldview. It was incredibly refreshing to hear someone tell me to study more than just film, as I believe everyone should learn more about topics that aren't related to their field of study. 

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N O T E S  O N  T H E  H A R V A R D  S T R I K E  ( 1 9 6 9 )

Mr. Guzzetti gave me an insightful look into film history to give context to his documentary filmmaking career. During the 1930s and 1950s, documentaries were less personal and more journalistic with a focus on dumping information into the audience. However, during the cinema verite movement, new filmmaking techniques that focused on spontaneity, portability, and efficiency to get closer to subjects and topics helped pave the way for the modern documentary style. Influenced by the cinema verite movement, Guzzetti began his documentary career. I was surprised to hear about the beginning of modern documentary styles, as I haven’t explored that side of film history before. Whereas most people wouldn’t find much value in a history lesson involving the emergence of film, this portion of the interview made me realize that, despite what I may think, there's a lot to film and film history that still I don’t know about. Furthermore, my reinvigorated interest in film history could open up doors to other career paths such as film restoration, archives, or education. Although it’s important to learn how to direct actors and block a scene, learning about film history can help expand my view on the film industry as well as my view on the world altogether, which is something that Guzzetti encouraged me to do near the end of our interview.

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S C E N E S   F R O M   C H I L D H O O D   ( 1 9 8 0 )

With this knowledge, I plan to initiate efforts outside of ISM to expand my worldview in a way that is useful for my filmmaking career and useful for myself as a human being. Before this interview, I had a toxic mentality that if I was learning something that didn’t relate directly to film, then it would be a waste of time. It’s a common issue that those who are overprotective individuals face, and it makes sense initially. Why study something that won't help you? I thought the same, but learning about film history and the cinema verite movement, it expanded my horizons to interesting topics even if it doesn’t relate to teaching me how to light a scene or write a screenplay. Focusing on just my career or topic in ISM all the time can quickly turn into an unhealthy obsession and result in faster burnout over time, so learning how to open up my mind to other seemingly unrelated topics wouldn’t be a waste of time as I would believe.

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