Amy Redford grew up in a household of storytellers. "My mother is an anecdotal historian; my brother was an incredibly precise and comedic writer, as well as a documentary filmmaker; and my sister is a painter who rivals those in the most prestigious galleries," she says. Her father is the legendary actor and Oscar-winning director, Robert Redford. "My dad, in his essence, is a storyteller."
"I found a love of the camera and found solace and freedom in looking through the lens," Redford says of what eventually drew her to filmmaking, too. "I loved the collective of a set. I loved the way that it felt like a family within days, and that everyone had that same feeling. I just knew from an early age that somehow I wanted to be a part of all of that."
Redford began her own career on the screen, as an actor in movies like Maid in Manhattan and Sunshine Cleaning. She made her directorial debut with 2008's The Guitar, an optimistic drama about a woman who is diagnosed with a terminal disease and finally decides to start living. Her time in front of the camera invariably influenced how Redford approached her work on the other side of the camera.
"Actors can be the shaman of our society. So, creating conditions of safety so that there is freedom to expand is extremely important to me. They are more generous than I think most people understand, and they offer themselves on our behalf," she says. "I endeavor to look around and be the dumbest person in the room, and be comfortable saying I don't know what I don't know. I try to establish respect for each piece of the process. People that come together to do this sacrifice their time, loved ones, and stability, usually because they really enjoy what they do. My hope is to allow each person in each department on set to remember why they wanted to do it in the first place, including myself. And… no s***ty craft service."
Her latest film is the thriller, What Comes Around, starring Grace Van Dien and Kyle Gallner. "I really loved the opportunity to be playful with genre," says the director, "and trojan horse some themes that I wanted to explore and challenge."
Below, Redford shares with A.frame five films that had a major impact on her.
Written and Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
This movie showed me what it is to think about sound design in a more impressionistic way. As a kid, I remember how the sound design was reflective of the trains of thought of the characters, and it kind of blew my mind. I loved the fact that Addie was seen as ruinous, but she catalyzed the truth in each one of these marriages. It felt raw about the human experience. I don't know, given today's understanding of relationships, what my takeaways would be. But that sound design stayed with me, and I referred to it when making my first film.
Directed by: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly | Written by: Adolph Green and Betty Comden
I watched this movie every year for my birthday, until my best friends finally cried "mercy" and we watched Airplane. It was almost hallucinogenic in moments and showed the smoke and mirrors of the entertainment industry. It pointed to how Hollywood can both demand performative relationships that are for the fans, and yet deep alliances between true artists and friends. It shows the relentless talent that we get the benefit of, because we are hanging out with them just being themselves, and they can't help but sing and dance. But when they are on-screen, its cliché and not a fraction of what they are truly capable of. This is funny.
They sing and dance when no one is really watching except each other — in the kitchen, on an abandoned street, during painful, boring speech lessons. Donald O'Connor is the best example of the power of a sidekick. The way he used comedy to soften the receptors and ego of his best friend is a strategy I still like to lean on. I loved the way that it celebrates true talent — that can sometimes be shoved to the back of the house — and bring it in front of the curtain. So much of the commentary holds up today.
Directed by: Sidney Lumet | Written by: Jay Presson Allen
On so many levels, this film was there first. The way it played with genre. The way in which Christopher Reeve seemed to be screaming in delight that he got to play a character like that post-Superman. The 'cat and mouse' way that it unfolds was something that I thought about when making What Comes Around. It's clever and suspenseful and shows Lumet's precision. It was also adapted from a play, and maintained its theatricality while allowing the camera to play a part.
Directed by: Robert Redford | Written by: Paul Attanasio
A gentleman came up to me at a screening in NYC who had worked on the crew of that film, and we just chatted for a moment about its accomplishments. In many ways, I think it's my dad’s most fully-realized movie. I started thinking about the accomplishment of staying consistent in tone throughout every visceral experience of the film, and what an accomplishment that is. I will always endeavor to do that. I was so moved by each of the performances, and the affection they seem to be projecting for telling the story.
Written and Directed by: Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw
I can't get the voice of Carlo's wife out of my head. I love this opening scene: In a Powers of Ten kind of way. We drop closer and closer to the subjects, and then we just stay there. We even get to take a bath with these men who have an endangered way of life. It is delightful to spend time with them, and it's beautifully shot with such love of the subjects. Even the expert who judges the truffles is delightful to behold, as we learn about how little fair trade there is in the industry. The truffle cam on the dogs is brilliant, and it's a love story between the hunters and their dogs. It's almost hard to believe that it's not a narrative.