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Sketches of Frank Gehry, Documentary

By Ultan Guilfoyle

I am delighted to be here in San Miguel to present the film that I produced, Sketches of Frank Gehry. Here is my personal story and how it relates to the film: I was living in London and had just finished a film about Frank Lloyd Wright when I got a call from the Guggenheim Museum to shoot a top secret event in Bilbao, Spain. That event was the signing of the contract to build the Guggenheim Bilbao, Frank Gehry’s masterpiece that would usher architecture fully into the 21st century.

Reel Docs Documentary Film Series
Sketches of Frank Gehry
Wed, Mar 25 and Thu, Mar 26, 4pm
Teatro Santa Ana
La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A
80 pesos includes film, Q&A, and margarita reception with the producer

Seven years later, I was again in Bilbao, this time shooting the opening of the Guggenheim. Sydney Pollack appeared as if out of nowhere and joined the party (and what a party, with the king and queen of Spain lingering into the wee hours!). A couple of years passed, but early in 2000, at Sydney’s invitation, we all met up in Frank Gehry’s office in Santa Monica to talk about making a film. Six years later, we finished the film and presented it at the Toronto Film Festival and at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film brought us together in a profound way. Sydney and I shot over 200 hours of footage alone with Frank. These rough film “sketches” gave us the narrative for the eventual film, and it was deliberate. Sydney wanted to capture that most ephemeral of artistic pursuits, the “process.” Sydney wasn’t so much interested in the finished architecture, the building. He wanted to know how Frank started, and how he developed his work. His process. Over the course of six years, Sydney and I traveled across the US and Europe, and shot Frank’s most important buildings. As we got into the editing of the film — which took over a year — I then continued shooting to fill in whatever gaps Sydney and I felt we had, either in architecture or in commentary from Frank or other contributors. We shot our last interview the day before we finished the film!

Before Sydney passed away of cancer in 2008 (I heard the news from Frank, who texted me in the middle of the night, saying simply “Our man is gone”), he and I talked of making more films together. More documentaries, a feature film. It wasn’t to be. But the six years I spent working with Sydney, and the twenty years I have spent working with Frank, have forged the most important creative relationships in my life. I am proud to have worked closely with both of these great men.


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