Pablo Ferro’s film titles have adorned our cinema screens for over half a century, his creative force conjuring an influence amidst some of our greatest film directors of modern times. From the quintessential opener for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove to the colourful and graphical treatment in The Thomas Crown Affair, Pablo Ferro made his mark in a lesser known art, that of film title sequences. His brilliant work may well today be a better known fact of film and graphic history, but the intriguing question still begs : Who is Pablo Ferro?
Back in March of this year, a short teaser popped up on the Web promoting the production of a feature length animated documentary on Pablo Ferro. What really draws you in to begin with in this short introductory film, is the intelligent use of mixed media techniques as a means to emphasize the narrative as well as create a visually rich and informative image. Everything from split screens to Pablo’s signature typography is used with wit to accompany a mix of both live action and character driven full animation, incorporating also a vast array of archival footage. Beyond this intriguing presentation however, another question remained to be asked before resolving the enigma of Pablo. Who was behind this film ?
Director, Richard Goldgewicht has acquired a portfolio of award winning short films as well as documentaries for The Goldman Foundation, BBC, and MTV. He is listed in Filmmaker Magazine as “one of the 25 faces of Hollywood to watch out for”. Back in 2002, Richard shot a short film with Pablo. The experience brought him close to a unique character and a legend with an untold story. From this point on, the intention to develop a film became clear and Richard, along with producer Jeremy Goldscheider with whom he formed Kihou productions in 1999, has been working on ‘Pablo’ since 2005. To date, they have already completed shooting, the voice over with Jeff Bridges and will soon be finishing off the animation, directed by JJ Walker, character designed by Antony Hare. All will be in the bag for a release in 2008. As well as it’s distribution in cinemas, an exhibition will be launched in major cities around the World to accompany the film. There are also talks of publishing a book that will showcase production designs from the film along with Pablo’s work.
The film is based on interviews with forty of Pablo’s friends and creative collaborators: Angelica Huston, Andy Garcia, Beau Bridges, Stan Lee and Norman Lear, to name but a few. Each adding anecdote to fact to help build a biographical picture of an enigmatic character who at times had little to say and all to show. To accompany the more historical accounts, we are taken back into a very stylized, fifties looking animated World. Indeed, from the very beginning of the film, we are thrown in to an animated rendering of a young Pablo arriving barefoot with his parents in Grand Central Station, New York, with hope of living the American Dream. From here, the film takes you through his formative years as a commercial artist working with the likes of Stan Lee until his famous meeting with Stanley Kubrick and the making of Dr. Strangelove, which safely sees his rise to Hollywood stardom. With instant success and back in New York as an icon of sixties underground counter culture, it is from this point Richard Goldgewicht has concentrated on Pablo’s most creative yet perhaps also most unstable era. We are in the sixties, New York has its Warhol Factory scene, but nothing would compare to Pablo’s East Village Loft – a place of freedom, creation and of course abundant drugs. Pablo is at his peak; professionally, socially and spiritually. Yet, all will come to a depressive, and almost tragic end with a number of events that culminate with the mysterious shooting of Pablo at his famous party pad.
What happens next? Well, that would be letting on a little too much. The story-line, which was originally developed with Neil Katcher, is well thought out and the unique approach to documentary film that Richard has taken on board fits perfectly with the subject. Animation within a documentary context is perhaps a contradiction in terms. The necessity for ‘real’ live action footage within a formal interviewing, one shot style has always been the major undercurrent to any documentary film. Reality drawing us closer to a certain valued truth rather than diverting and entertaining the spectator through contrived story-telling. However, animation and indeed motiongraphics has been increasingly used over the past years in the documentary genre as a means to add visual ideas and guide the spectator in the understanding of the subject. On that level, we are still perhaps within the realm of pure documentary, however beyond this level, animation is also capable of heightening the narrative and indeed driving it forward. Richard Goldgewicht does shy a little away from the term ‘documentary’ and accepts a fictional undercurrent to the story-line. ‘Pablo’ is in that perspective a hybrid film – part anecdotal, part fiction, part live footage, part animated, part fact, part story. A unique amalgamation that replies to a single question: Who is Pablo Ferro ? Well then, who is he ? One of the writers for the film, Adam Trunell encapsulates his answer in one short poetic phrase : “ Pablo Ferro is the paper airplane that sails hurricane winds”.
NB. The above production stills, kindly forwarded by Richard Goldgewicht and Kihou Productions can be viewed at a better resolution by clicking on each. Many thanks to Richard and the team for all the information and the time kindly given to accord an interview.