by Jason Whyte
A Bridge Life - At Victoria Film Festival
“A Bridge Life follows a Good Samaritan, Dan Sheffer, who travels to Houston where 200,000 evacuees were forced to flee in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He subsequently takes back seven survivors to South Florida where he helps them get jobs and places to stay only to get more than he bargained for when one of the evacuees commits a horrible crime.” Director Joshua Grossberg on his film “A Bridge Life: Finding Our Way Home” which is screening at the Victoria Film Festival.
Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival? Tell me about your festival experience, and if you plan to attend Victoria for the film’s screenings.
A Bridge Life has won top awards at the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival (Spirit of the Independents Award), Columbus Film & Video Festival (Chris Award), Naples Film Festival (Neapolitan Award) and the Canada International Film Festival (Rising Star Excellence in Filmmaking Award). So far, we're building momentum as he head into 2010 which will help us get a distribution deal.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.
I'm a senior journalist with E! Online and an independent filmmaker in New York City for the past 10 years. I also worked for a bit in the industry for Danny DeVito and Norman Lear.
How did this whole project come together?
I went to Houston as part of a volunteer group to help Katrina evacuees who were bussed there. During our stay, I met Dan and introduced him to Cynthia and Edwin Pierre, two evacuees who had lost each other in the storm and were just reunited. They joined Dan's group and left for Florida where they were given a new start. I went back to New York but continued to follow the group for the next three years.
Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.
I had my Sony TRV with me when I volunteered and quickly realized when I arrived in the Astrodome that I could be more useful by recording everything that I saw. Evacuees would want to come up to me to tell their story so I set about interviewing as many people who were interested in being heard which was just about everybody. It was therapeutic for people who've just lost everything to voice their feelings.
Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?
The most difficult aspect of making A Bridge Life was the emotional toll of chronicling an important story and maintaining high ethical standards because you're dealing with peoples' lives. I had offers to tell this story to Geraldo Rivera for example but I turned it down out of fear it could be sensationalized. At the same time, I did this documentary on my own so it took a long time to bring to the finish line as a result.
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?
I'm a huge admirer of Kieslowski's early documentaries in which the camera was an observer and he let his subjects tell the story. That influenced my approach greatly.
If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?
I can't imagine doing anything else other than making movies. Just put a fork in me if I wasn't telling stories.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
Media interest is an absolute necessity because that's one of the few avenues in which your film will get to the masses. Prints and advertising help generate that buzz that will get your film the awards and hopefully get you your money back.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
I want ABL to play in as many theatrical venues as possible but TV and the Internet is where it can be seen by the most people which is the most important goal.
If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?
If you call yourself a filmmaker, just go out and do it.
What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?
The business is hard but at the end of the day, I take great satisfaction when someone walks up to me and says they were deeply moved by my movie and that it will stay with them for a long time, maybe even move them to be more giving, or change their life. If we can entertain and get people to think, that's every filmmaker’s dream.
A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?
The Three Colors Trilogy, Casablanca, the Godfather, Star Wars, Gone with the Wind, Metropolis, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Back to the Future, 8 /12, all in no particular order.
This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Victoria Film Festival. For showtimes and further information visit www.victoriafilmfestival.com.
Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter @jasonwhyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2936
originally posted: 01/31/10 03:36:52