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in Filmmaking
on Jul 30, 2009

In “A Filmmaker’s Glamorous Life,” online and in our latest print edition, Esther Robinson surveyed a number of filmmakers about the jobs they’ve taken to support themselves when they are not making films. In this blog series we’ll run the unedited responses we received that were then condensed for the piece. Below: Sam Green.

Filmmaker: How did you support yourself during the production of your last movie/movies? And what was good/not good about these jobs?

Green: I’ve done a bunch of different things to support myself while making films. I started off doing freelance editing. I did some terrible outdoors/nature shows when I was getting started. The worst was an outdoor cooking show. In other words, some shmoe cooking over a campfire. The guy was terrible. It was quite an editing challenge to come up w/ good takes.

For a while, I edited docs for the History Channel. Also, pretty low quality stuff. America’s Psychic Past — one of my masterworks. This was actually really good work — I would crunch on a project for six or eight weeks and make what was for me a lot of money. Then I could not work for two or three months and edit my own stuff.

After a while, I started teaching at universities, and that I actually love. It doesn’t pay great, but I really do enjoy working with the kids.

I think it’s a balance between making money that will allow you to do your own work, but also not completely sapping your spirit or creativity or integrity. I now direct commercial stuff from time to time and that’s the challenge.

Sam Green is a San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker. Green received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied documentary with acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs. His film The Weather Underground was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004, broadcast nationally on PBS, and included in the Whitney Biennial. His other award-winning documentaries include lot 63, grave c, The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, N-Judah 5:30, and Pie Fight ’69. Mr. Green currently teaches at the University of San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute. He has received grants from the Creative Capital, Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. He has been a resident at the MacDowell Colony, the Bellagio Study and Conference Center, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts.

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