How did you get your start in film

The way I got into film altogether is very strange. It's kind of silly. I came from Israel. I came here to be a student and I ended up at UCLA. And they told me I had to get a major. I knew nothing about what to study, so I looked through the book and I decided to get a major in movies. I thought, "That's great, my parents will be happy that I'm going to university and getting a degree, and I will go and sit and watch movies." Which I liked to do. I knew nothing about filmmaking, nothing. I took some still photographs when I was a teenager, but I knew nothing about film. And I got totally hooked. I think I was the only student in my class who wasn't connected to some kind of a Hollywood family.

As soon as I graduated, I came to San Francisco and I was looking for work, and I heard about a new station that just started, public television station KQED or Channel 9, and I volunteered there. And in a few months I was hired part-time, and a year later, I was head of the film department. Which didn't mean much. It meant I cleaned film. But then my father bought me a Bolex camera and actually the first national project was a

Irving Saraf filming a KQED-TV project in 1969.

series of five films with Ansel Adams, which I mostly shot and edited. And from then on, a few years later, we started a special projects unit, and we did only national programming for public television. We had to turn a profit for the station, which we did, and it grew over the years to be the number-one producing station for public television. We always beat Boston. I ended up with a department of forty-two people. The station decided to get out of national production behind my back, so I quit and went to work for Saul Zaentz.

What excited me about documentaries. . . . I got interested already in documentaries at UCLA by seeing all the classics, like the British Crown Unit, and these were the documentaries that really excited me. Then we saw the very beginning of cinema verite. No, the cinema verite was later; I was already working at KQED. And then, the sixties exploded. Late in the fifties, I already had a feeling that something was happening in the world. There was this urge that Dick Moore and I talked a lot about, documenting the history of our time, like being a witness of what was going on and showing it to the world, so we just started mapping them out all over the world. We made films about the civil rights movement, we made films about jazz, we made films about rock—this was the San Francisco rock 'n' roll explosion. We got tear-gassed in Louisiana. Then, later on, in '67, we made a film in Cuba about Cuba that was shown all over the world, and then, in '68, we made a film about Castro [Fidel]. And then, when KQED decided to close shop, I had an offer from Saul Zaentz to start a film department at his record company, so I did, and then, the second film he made was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and that made us big.

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

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