Bizio and Borgardt discuss Charles Bukowski and Hollywood reporting
Slamdance panel held on Sunday
The Slamdance panel discussion held last Sunday morning in the Treasure Mountain Inn ballroom was titled “Coffee with Bukowski,” but it was so much more.
The event, moderated by filmmaker Paul Rachman, featured producer Silvia Bizio and her son, director Matteo Borgardt, whose documentary “You Never Had It: An Evening with Charles Bukowski” premiered at this year’s festival.
Borgardt spoke about the film, which is his first feature-length documentary, while Bizio, a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, not only spoke about her friendship with the Beat-inspired poet and novelist, but also how much Hollywood has changed over the past 40 years.
The documentary, which is based on a 1981 video interview with Bukowski by Bizio at his San Pedro home.
The interview was shot on Umatic tapes, which were thought to be lost until three years ago, Borgardt said.
“The box was hidden behind other boxes and I didn’t know about them,” he said. “One night we were talking about Bukowski and my mom mentioned that she might have these tapes in the garage.”
The next day, they went to the garage and found not one, but two boxes of Umatic tapes.
“Within a couple of days, we brought them to a company that digitizes tapes and found there was three hours of footage,” Borgardt said. “Unfortunately, half of the footage was ruined because it wasn’t stored correctly.”
The tapes pushed the filmmaker into action.
“As soon as we took a look at the footage, I started reading his books and poems, especially ‘Ham on Rye,’” Borgardt said. “While I was doing some quick research, my mom spoke with me about her relationship with him.”
That’s when the idea for the documentary bloomed.
“The tapes came at the perfect moment,” Borgardt said. “I just wrapped making a small documentary I put on my website and working on some music videos wth my friends. And I was so fortunate to have this project fall into my lap and be able to play around with the editing for about a year.”
Bizio did the interviews with Bukowski after writing to him in care of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.
“I didn’t hear back for a long time, but then I got a letter that had his number and address,” she said. “We met and I did an interview.”
At the same time, Bizio’s friend, Fernanda Pivano, an Italian writer and translator, who passed away in 2009, visited Los Angeles and stayed at Bizio’s house.
Piano is known for introducing the Beat Generation to Italy with her translations of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, Bizio said.
“One day Fernanda said, ‘Let’s go visit my good friend Hank, meaning Bukowski, and I told her I would love to see him again and drove her to his house,” Bizio said. “I had only met him once before in the evening for the interview, but this time we met during the day and had tea.
“I think him seeing me with Fernanda showed him that I was safe to talk with,” she said. “After that, I did many interviews and wrote many articles about him.”
It was one of those articles that served as the round-a-bout seed for the film.
“Three years ago, a gallery in Italy called me about a chapter I had written about Bukowski,” Bizio said. “They called me to see if I had any additional material, and that’s when I remembered the tapes.”
The interviews with Bukowski reminded Bizio how Hollywood has changed over the past 40 years, when she moved to the United States from Italy.
“Hollywood has changed tremendously,” she said. “The famous one-on-one interviews [with stars and filmmakers] are rare. Usually, there are many journalists who sit around the table with a talent and that makes it very hard to really write in-depth interviews. Sometimes we feel like pawns of the studios.”
Bizio first came to the United States to study journalism.
“My dream was to be a journalist from the time I was very young, except Italy didn’t have degrees in journalism at that time,” she said. “So, I got my degree liberal arts and came to the United States to get a Ph.D. at UCLA. I wanted to be like Oriana Fallaci and cover wars around the world.”
Bizio began her career at a small newspaper and covered everything from politics to the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984 to shuttle launches.
“As I moved to bigger newspapers, I was asked about covering the cinema,” she said. “I have to confess that the cinema wasn’t a passion, but it slowly became one.
“While I’m not a film critic, I did interviews with actors and filmmakers and covered both films and television,” Bizio said. “Shortly after that, I came into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and that has become my job for the past 35 years.”
Borgardt, who grew up with a huge collection of films around the house, said he didn’t get interested in becoming a filmmaker until he was in his 20s.
“I would come to the Sundance Film Festival with my mom when I was 12, but I would go snowboarding when she watched films,” he said. “I didn’t have interest in the personal lives of actors or directors.”
Bordardt did, however, develop a liking to films such as Harmonie Korine’s 1997 comedy-drama “Gummo.”
“That showed me that films weren’t all of these big Hollywood productions, but could be works of art,” he said.
Slamdance Film Festival runs through Thursday, Jan. 26. For screening and panel discussion information, visit www.slamdance.com.
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