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Victoria Film Festival Interview: THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT director David Tedeschi

The 50 Year Argument - At VFF 2015
by Jason Whyte

""When we started the paper, we weren't seeking to be part of an establishment," says Robert Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books. "We were seeking quite the opposite, we were seeking to examine the workings and truthfulness of establishments whether political or cultural." THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT, about the New York Review of Books, captures the power of ideas in shaping history. This film documents this extraordinary process. Provocative, idiosyncratic and incendiary, the film weaves rarely seen archival material, contributor interviews and excerpts from key pieces by such icons as Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion with original verite footage filmed in the Review's West Village offices." Director David Tedeschi on THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT which screens at the 2015 Victoria Film Festival

Is this your first movie in the Victoria Film Festival? Also I'm curious about your background and what led you into movies.

This is my first movie at the Victoria Film Festival. Unfortunately, I can not attend. I have worked as a film editor for 30 years and this is the first time in which I have co-directed a film. For me, it was a fantastic opportunity.

How did this whole project come together from your perspective?

Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books along with publisher Rea Hederman came to Martin Scorsese and asked him if he was interested in making a film about the Review as part of the 50th year anniversary from the magazine's beginnings. Martin Scorsese asked me if I would work with him on the film, and co-direct it with him.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film? And the most rewarding moment?

The biggest challenge in making the film was to give the review its due. The Review has an extraordinary history of great writing from great thinkers. We wanted to capture that in an emotional cinematic way. Slowly we discovered great archival moments or in the verite footage, a compelling scene would unfold. With Mary McCarthy, we were able to combine archival footage of an unseen interview with her extraordinary pieces about the Vietnam War. With Joan Didion, we were able to ask her in great detail how the role of the editor contributed to her process of writing a piece. Archival footage of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, with their passion, intelligence and humor was revealing about their writing.

The most rewarding moment was seeing the film with a live audience, in Berlin, in London, in Toronto and in New York City. In every festival we have been in we have had a very enthusiastic response, but in each case it has been very different. For instance, in Berlin, the memory of life behind the Iron Curtain profoundly influenced the screening. Laughter, anger, horror, delight; in each city the impact of the film seems very different.

What keeps you going while making a movie? How much coffee?

Drinking coffee and other forms of compulsive behavior kept me going while making the movie.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

Lisa Rinzler shot most of the movie, including verite footage, interviews, and a reading at Town Hall in New York City. She is a wonderful Director of Photography, and she chose a very classic palette for the film. We shot digitally, in HD, with a few different cameras in many different locations and looks. We shot it in the highest resolution we could afford with the most mobility!

There are a lot filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

It sounds like a cliche, but I believe that you have to follow your passion in making film. After all the hard work, it feels truly worth it when you are passionate about the subject.

For additional information on the Victoria Film Festival including screening times, ticketing information and other events happening around the city in the next ten days, point your browser to

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @jasonwhyte for live updates throughout the fest including Instagram updates, commentary and links to upcoming interviews and coverage. If you see me in line, please say hi!

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 02/14/15 06:12:01
last updated: 03/08/15 08:30:52
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