By Bill Arceneaux
Last month, the New Orleans Film Society presented the grand New Orleans Film Festival, an event spanning multiple venues and multiple films. One such film was Una Vida, directed by Baton Rouge native Richie Adams. The film focuses on music and Alzheimer’s, an appopriate theme, given November is National Alzheimer’s Month.
During the fest, I got the opportunity to chat with him a bit about his movie, filmmaking, and the difference between BR and NOLA.
DIG: Your movie Una Vida takes place in New Orleans, and you yourself are from Baton Rouge. How would you compare the independent film scene in both cities?
Richie Adams: There may be a “bigger film scene” in New Orleans, but Baton Rouge certainly has its share of talented filmmakers. I think both locations are very film friendly and we made the decision to film Una Vida in New Orleans, because quite frankly, one would be hard-pressed to find another city to dual as New Orleans. That said, filming in New Orleans was an amazing experience, and it’s been really great to hear that audiences on the festival circuit feel our depiction of this wonderful city was well represented.
DIG: What drew you to produce a story about Alzheimer’s?
Adams: When Dr. Nicolas Bazan (founding Director of the Neuroscience Center for Excellence) pulled me aside after a commercial shoot a few years ago, and told me about a novel he had just published about Alzheimer’s which was set against the backdrop of Jazz music and New Orleans…I immediately thought, wow, that sounds really interesting. After reading his novel, and the more I learned about Alzheimer’s, of which I which at the time, I knew very little having not had a loved one in my immediate family affected by the disease, the more I thought there might be others like me that were simply uninformed about the tragedies surrounding Alzheimer’s Disease. I saw the project as a worthy challenge about a subject that needed greater attention, and as filmmakers, it’s not that often that we get an opportunity to be a part of such a project.
DIG: What is it about music that makes it so universal, transcending barriers of all kinds?
Adams: Dr. Bazan informed me, along with the other research that I had found, that music is among some of our earliest memories, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t emotionally affected by music. That was one of the biggest attractions to me about this particular story about Alzheimer’s, and I imagine what has likely been a big attraction for audiences on our tour of the festival circuit – that mysterious connection between music and memory. Nearly every screening we’ve had has sold out. It’s obviously a hot topic.
DIG: There are some pretty notable actors in “Una Vida”. Did you have any anxiety or hesitation in working with such a cast?
Adams: We do have a tremendously talented cast of actors that have been working on major motion pictures for many, many years. This was certainly an inspiration for me to work that much harder and try to be that much more prepared, but really, everyone brought that same level of commitment to the project, probably also because of the subject matter. It truly was a joy to work with all of the cast and crew on this project.
DIG: Film school: Yay or nay?
Adams: Nay. I studied Journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and took a few supplemental classes along the way at AFI and UCLA Extension, though no traditional “film school” degree program. I think film school is a great opportunity if you have the resources, but I feel the best knowledge one can truly get is on the film set.
DIG: Do you have any advice for local aspiring filmmakers?
Adams: Just get out there and start filming. Write something that you can shoot – or collaborate with a group of filmmakers that can help each other accomplish those various tasks – on a budget that you can handle. With cameras and equipment so much more affordable for filmmakers, there’s no excuse but to get out there and do it.
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