Director Matthew Buzzell discusses collaboration, canned tuna and construction cranes.
What was Jimmy’s reaction when he found out you wanted to make a film about him?
I don’t really remember the exact moment, but I am sure he said: “You and me, baby. You and me!” I had been a friend of Jimmy’s for about five years before formally turning on the camera. During those years I had made a few audio recordings of interviews with him and taken a number of stills. Just documenting little things, little moments. Not knowing where they would end up. A few years later, after graduating from the directing program at the American Film Institute, I knew what to do with those elements.
As a filmmaker, what was the most emotional moment for you in making this program?
There are too many to list. If pressed for one, it would have to be meeting Jimmy’s pal Celotes. Celotes was a kind and gentle soul, the kind of person we all aspire to become. He passed a couple of months after interviewing him.
What are your wildest hopes for the impact of this film?
My hopes are for it to continue to find audiences and that it continues hipping people to Jimmy’s amazing art and fathomless spirit.
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
The film was made with a gesture towards historic preservation. I hope it will be available for anyone interested in Jimmy for years to come. Even after we all leave the planet.
The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?
My collaborators. I am nothing without them. They are my friends, my extended family and my greatest source of strength.
Why did you choose to present your film on public television?
I was raised watching public television. I cried when Fred Rogers passed. Public television has always been the high-water mark for quality and thoughtfulness. I am proud that this film has found a home on public television.
If you weren’t a filmmaker, what kind of work do you think you’d be doing?
I have a recurring dream of operating construction site cranes.
What’s the hardest challenge for an independent filmmaker to get a project done and out in the world?
Finding the time, the money and the food.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Find great collaborators and never let them go! Gravitate to people you will grow to know, love and trust. Strive for a perfect balance of confidence and humility.
What sparks your creativity?
Anything that evokes a strong and pointed emotional reaction from me.
What do you think is the most influential food for making independent film?
Canned tuna and spinach salad.
If you could have dinner with one famous person, living or dead, who would you choose?
Dead: Louis Armstrong. Living: either Jimmy Carter or Helen Mirren.
Which filmmakers have most influenced your work?
Filmmakers who have inspired me include Morris Engel, Ishiro Honda, James Herbert, David Lynch, Jean Rollin, Robert Bresson, Nicolas Philibert, Peter Hunt, Pupi Avati, Wong Kar-Wai and Herk Harvey.
If you could have one motto, what would it be?
I will fist fight anyone for the truth.
What are your three favorite films?
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chinatown and The Ipcress File.