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February 16, 2013

kraus1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of PROFESSOR, from concept to financing.

PROFESSOR is the third film in the Work Series (, a cycle of cinema verite documentaries about working in America. After making SHERIFF and MUSICIAN, I wanted to do a movie about the labor of the mind, so I tracked down the University of Iowa’s Rabbi Jay Holstein.  I remembered him from my undergrad days as angry, hilarious, foul-mouthed, and brilliant.  I was pleased to find that not only was he still teaching at age 69, but he had lost none of the fire.

2Q: This is the first festival for your film, and your first audience; how has it been received? Are you looking forward to any other festivals?

I was caught off-guard by the response.  Three packed houses (including one that had a lengthy unplanned intermission when a popcorn machine in the lobby caught on fire) and an added Audience Award screening. My documentaries are typically patient, studious affairs that are not everyone’s cup of tea, so it was a lot of fun to see how Holstein’s personality transcended that and exploded the appeal factor.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making PROFESSOR?

I’m the first to enjoy a good bad-experience story, but this one has been a total pleasure. The shoot was a straight-up nostalgia trip for me, walking the same campus and attending some of the same classes that I did in college.  And the editing was a blast — I did it between drafts of my latest novel, which made it feel like a vacation.  But the best part has been getting to know Holstein at an entirely different level.  As a student, he seems so intimidating and untouchable, but his openness to both the project and me has been really gratifying.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

Remember that class you always wished had existed?  With the teacher who thrilled you and scared you and challenged you?  With a syllabus that included Catcher in the Rye and Blade Runner?  With lectures that took on the grandest of philosophical questions and connected them to your life in a meaningful way?  THIS IS THAT CLASS.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

I plan to follow the same distribution model that has worked for SHERIFF and MUSICIAN: do a few film festivals, a couple theatrical bookings, score a TV deal, and release on DVD (available now exclusively through  I work mostly alone, I work cheap, and I continue to somehow turn a modest profit.  As you indicated, the system is indeed in flux, and the theatrical and DVD stages are getting shakier every moment.  Thankfully I’ve had the luck of strong reviews and a small but loyal fan base, so I’ll keep on fighting the fight for now.

From → Interviews

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