By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood October 9, 2013 at 2:01PM
Barbara Kopple is a two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker. A director of documentaries, as well as narrative TV and film, her most recent project is the
documentary Running From Crazy, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Barbara produced and directed Harlan County, U.S.A.
and American Dream, both winners of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Her other films include
The House Of Steinbrenner, Woodstock: Now And Then, Shut Up And Sing, Havoc, A Conversation With Gregory Peck, My Generation, Wild Man Blues, Fallen
Champ: The Untold Story Of Mike Tyson, and many more.
Running From Crazy plays as part of HIFF's World Cinema program.
Women and Hollywood: Please give us your description of the film playing.
Barbara Kopple: Running from Crazy tells the story of Mariel Hemingway, a granddaughter of legendary writer Ernest Hemingway. The documentary explores Mariel's life and the lives of her two sisters, Margaux and Muffet through never before seen archival footage and revealing verite moments. The film goes beneath the surface of the standard Hemingway narrative; it gives new insight into the triumphs and tragedies that have shaped the famous family and ultimately offers up a story of tremendous hope and transformation.
WaH: What drew you to this story?
BK: I was drawn to the Hemingway family and the opportunity to explore their lives in depth and to see what makes them tick. They're all such fascinating people and there's so much more than what initially meets the eye or what you might assume. They've been enormously influential and such an important part of American culture that I jumped at the chance to make this film.
WaH: What was the biggest challenge?
BK: The biggest challenge was whittling the film down to its current running time. Because we had such a wealth of amazing footage, our first cut was five hours long! From there, we began the slow and sometimes painful process of letting go of moments and scenes we loved.
WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?
BK: I think it's important for women to support and encourage each other, which are sentiments that are sometimes hard to come by in this industry. We women need to offer our fellow women filmmakers opportunities, advice, and most importantly, friendship. We are all in this together and we will all move forward together. Don't get discouraged, just follow your passion -- there is always someone who will help you along the way.
WaH: What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?
BK: I think the biggest misconception is that I only direct documentary films. I actually love working on fiction projects as well! I directed the 2005 film Havoc with Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips and I also directed episodes of Homicide: Life on the Streets and Oz. I'm always looking for the next best project for me, whether it's fiction or non-fiction.
WaH: Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?
BK: There's no doubt that filmmakers are going to have more and more opportunities and platforms to choose from when it comes time for their films to be distributed and seen by audiences. It's going to get easier to self-distribute your film too, which is a great opportunity, especially for up and coming filmmakers. I think one of the challenges will be figuring out how to protect your film and control when it's seen (or not seen). Once your film is online, for example, it's obviously harder to keep a watchful eye on it.
WaH: Name your favorite women directed film and why.
BK: I love the work of the amazing Nora Ephron. Her films and writing are rich with charm, spirit and such a wonderful humor. I miss her dearly; as I'm sure we all do, because she was a mentor and inspiration to so many. Another one of my favorite directors is Nancy Meyers because she makes films with such funny, intelligent and engaging female characters.
There are also so many unbelievably talented women making documentaries it is hard to only name a few... I admire the work of Liz Garbus, Cecilia Peck, Kristi Jacobson, Rory Kennedy and Lucy Walker. All of these women are making intimate, thought-provoking and emotional films that really touch the soul.