My segue from law to filmmaking in 1969 came after two years with Lord, Day & Lord in New York; three years living in Zomba, Malawi, on direct contract with its government as an Administrative Officer and Parliamentary Draftsman; and serving as Vermont Tax Department’s Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel during Democratic Governor Philip Hoff’s last two-year term. (A note on the 1994 demise of Lord, Day & Lord: In a lengthy New York Times article titled “Oldest Law Firm is Courtly, Loyal and Defunct,” an associate was quoted saying “What I liked about the firm were the very reasons it couldn’t last.” I knew what he meant.)
A frustration during those seven years after law school was using my hands primarily to turn pages. Since childhood I’ve delighted in building things. Accordingly, I jumped at the chance to become an independent filmmaker when the Ford Foundation in New York, the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College, and several other non-profits asked if I would produce documentaries on their successful projects. All had seen two short films I had made on a cooperative youth project put together by Vermont Governor Hoff and New York City Mayor John V. Lyndsay shortly after the Kerner Commission Report cane out in 1968.
At that time, and continuing for decades, filmmaking was a tactile craft employing a variety of elegant and sophisticated cameras, sound recorders and sprocketed machines. These days, when visitors stop by my studio, I tell them they are entering Jurassic Park — see photos and links at www.apertura.org. Unlike today’s computer based digital file-making, traditional film elements are spliced and edited by hand. Yes, a dazzling array of new editing options and special effects are now available in the digital domain. But I’ve long maintained that if you can’t tell your story using only fades, cuts and dissolves, find another story.