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Indie Filmmaker Gets Hollywood, Broadway Involved in New Film

Los Angeles - Steven Fischer, producer of artistic documentaries including the multi award-winning animated film Freedom Dance (2007), narrated by Mariska Hargitay, has managed an impressive collection of celebrated personalities for his latest documentary, Old School, New School.

OSNS is an educational documentary that explores the nature of creativity intended to help young people (college-aged students and those just beginning professional careers in the arts) reach their full creative potential.

Fischer is traveling the United States with a small film crew in search of accomplished storytellers in music, dance, theater, cinema, and literature, conversing with them on-camera a la Louis Malle in Place de la Republique (1974). But whereas Malle discusses random social themes in a man-on-the-street style interview, Fischer’s discourses focus on areas of artistic and creative growth, and take place one-on-one in the subject’s home or office, sometimes over a cup of tea. These conversations center around three main themes: finding your own voice, defining success in the arts, and taking risks.

The goal Fischer seeks is an answer to the question of how an artist can be his most creative.

Through his cinematic journey of intellectual discovery, Fischer finds himself in the Hollywood home of William Fraker, the six-time Oscar®-nominated cinematographer of Rosemary’s Baby, Bullitt, 1941, War Games, and The Freshman, and at the Neil Simon Theater in New York City with legendary producer Emanuel “Manny” Azenberg whose oeuvre of Broadway hits includes Rent, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Lost in Yonkers, 134 Tony Award® nominations, and 42 wins.

Others who appear on camera include famed actor and former Congressman Ben Jones (most noted for his role as “Cooter” in the 1970s hit show The Dukes of Hazzard), acclaimed cinematographer John Bailey whose credits include American Gigolo, The Producers, and He’s Just Not That Into You, renowned British dance artist Kirstie Simson, the poet James Ragan, and Yeats scholar and playwright Sam McCready.

Insights from this distinguished ensemble are treated respectfully by the filmmaker, but not presented as gospel; each subject presents his or her wisdom based on the lessons life has taught them. On the topic of taking risks, for example, Mr. Fraker tells an animated story of a risk he took (and its consequence) as a young camera operator in defying director Richard Brooks’ instructions not to move the camera during a choreographed action shot in The Professionals (1966).

With his enjoyably heavy Bronx accent, Mr. Azenberg provides a choice selection of insights. “People with talent don’t think it’s extraordinary,” he argues on the subject of creating original work. “Almost every real artist I know is intuitive … Tom Stoppard doesn’t lay out his plays, he just writes them!”

These and other insightful observations make up approximately 52 minutes of thought-provoking perspectives helpful to any young artists’ development.

Fischer is a young working filmmaker and a two-time Emmy nominee on a personal journey of discovery. He wants to learn from the masters, and finds that these accomplished storytellers are generous with their time and thoughts. The conversations he shares in Old School, New School are natural and meaningful, and document a wide and diverse range of fascinating ideas on the nature of creativity. 

The International Documentary Association is the movie’s fiscal sponsor. Video Placement Worldwide will provide free distribution to schools and colleges. The producers are currently seeking corporate sponsorship for finishing funds. OSNS is scheduled for release in Fall 2009.

Screenings for test audiences will be held in Baltimore on April 23 and in Los Angeles June 20. Some participants from the movie are scheduled to appear and speak at the screenings. For details email: Select clips from the movie can be viewed online at