Following last year's world premiere of Richard Linklater: dream is destiny at the Sundance Film Festival, Louis Black said, "I never thought about whether or not people would like the film; it just didn't cross my mind." But with the documentary heading to its television premiere on Friday, Sept. 1, as part of PBS's American Masters series, such a thought has by now become impossible to ignore.
"I'm kind of self-deprecating, and I tend not to be completely aware of how something is doing," Black laughs. "So when we went out to L.A. with PBS for the Television Critics Association press junket, and [our film] was the kick-off event of their fall series ... oh, I was surprised!" That junket, held last month in Beverly Hills, was yet another stop on a promotional tour that kicked off in January 2016 but is only now slowing down after screenings around the world.
dream is destiny approaches the title subject's storied filmmaking career from an adulatory perspective: "I'm an acolyte," Black jokes. In addition to archival footage and intimate interviews with Linklater, the movie also features testimonials from longtime associates of his like Ethan Hawke, Sandra Adair, and Matthew McConaughey.
Reviews out of Sundance by Variety and The Guardian were enthusiastic. The Hollywood Reporter described it as "one of the most enriching and enjoyable docs about a filmmaker in recent memory." Even The New York Times, which was more restrained, called it "warmly pleasurable."
After decades of producing other people's work, the film represents Black's feature directorial debut, and he confesses to feeling "blessed" and validated by PBS's investment in it. "They've been giving it a lot of muscle. I'm very, very happy about it."
He attributes the network's support widely to Karen Bernstein, the award-winning filmmaker and American Masters stalwart who co-directed and co-produced the film with Black. Bernstein, who also co-produced Sandra Adair's The Secret Life of Lance Letscher this year, has a longstanding relationship with Michael Kantor, an executive producer of American Masters. Thanks to her, Black was able to make "a personal connection" with Kantor. "We like each other," says the filmmaker.
Still, he acknowledges that any collaborations with Kantor are far in the future: "Who knows what will happen?" For now, Black is focusing on the release of dream is destiny, which he calls the "icing on the cake" of his career; and on his recently announced departure from this paper, which he co-founded in 1981.
"I retired from the Chronicle, which I've done for 36 years, to do new stuff. In a weird kind of way, that's fine. I need to do new things."
He's certainly found time in retirement to work: He is currently producing or executive producing at least half a dozen films, including The Newspaperman, a biography of legendary Philadelphia Inquirer editor Gene Roberts from dream is destiny cinematographer David Layton and Mike Nicholson.
Then there's Blaze, the Blaze Foley drama written and directed by Ethan Hawke, which is gearing up for a 2018 festival run. On the project, Black remains mum, saying, "They have a cut that I think is really great, but they are still working on it. Ethan is very much channeling Rick Linklater, although it isn't a Linklater film – it's an Ethan Hawke film."
This comparison, he notes, is an affectionate one: It seems that not even making a personal documentary about Linklater has quelled Black's admiration for the filmmaker. "Even if I didn't know Rick, he would have been one of my favorite directors, somebody I revere. As much as I enjoy his work, I still underestimate him."
American Masters: Richard Linklater: dream is destiny premieres Friday, Sept. 1 at 9pm on PBS. Check your local listings for additional times.
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