Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Brush that Paints Your Self-Portrait

Marc Pachter doesn't make documentary films about people's lives. But in conducting live interviews with some of the most intriguing people in recent American history as part of a series created for the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, he shared our aim of trying for his interviewees to "be the brush that paints their self-portrait."

His interviews happened before live audiences rather than with nothing more than a video camera eavesdropping on the conversation. But he still had the challenge of, as he put it, "trying to get them to say what they probably wanted to say."

He reveals the secret to a great interview and shares extraordinary stories of talking with Steve Martin, Clare Booth Luce and others. "The key point was empathy," he says, "because everybody in their lives is really waiting for people to ask them questions so that they can be truthful about who they are and how they became what they are."