Inside “The Film Lounge” with John Richard

    John Richard
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    In the run-up to the series premiere of “The Film Lounge” at 10 p.m. on Feb. 12 on Iowa Public Television, we’ve been getting to know a few of the Iowa filmmakers whose work will be featured on the show.

    Several of them are planning to go to the public preview parties on Feb. 5 in Iowa City, Feb. 9 in Des Moines and Feb. 11 in Sioux City. So if you’re free, come join us. Each party is shaping up to be a fun event, thanks to the combined efforts of the show’s producers at IPTV, Produce Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council.

    Meantime, let’s toss a few questions to filmmaker John Richard of Iowa City, whose “Film Lounge” contribution is “The Simple Gift of Walnut Grove,” a short documentary about a Danish guy named Hans Hansen, who immigrated to eastern Iowa in the early 20th century.

    John Richard on set outside of West branch, The Simple Gift of Walnut Grove.
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    It’s one of the latest projects in Richard’s wide-ranging career. While studying environmental science at the University of Iowa, he worked as a photographer at the Daily Iowan before signing on with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. From there, he jumped into freelance work and founded Bocce Ball Films.

    His work has taken him to six continents for clients including the New York Times, the Guardian, Slate, the Des Moines-based nonprofit Above and Beyond Cancer, and the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn. And his short films have racked up a shelf’s worth of awards from festivals both in Iowa and farther afield, like the Nordic Film Festival in New York.

    Walter Hansen recounts the story of his father, The Simple Gift of Walnut Grove.
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    Richard’s documentary credits include “City of Literature” (2012), “Return to Freedom Summer” (2015), “Whiskey Cookers” (2016) and the forthcoming “Saving Brinton,” about a junior-high history teacher who was poking around a basement in a Washington, Iowa, and discovered a stash of mysterious artifacts and early film reels that had once belonged to a turn-of-the-20th-century showman named Frank Brinton. The film project recently received a $10,000 grant from the Iowa Arts Council.

    So your films explore a lot of different topics, but are there any themes that connect them?
    I’m primarily interested in people – both what they do and how they understand what they do. My work also deals with change and how people respond to different circumstances. I’m consistently amazed at the adaptability of human beings.

    What are you working on right now?
    I’m the director of photography for “Saving Brinton,” which is in post-production right now. It’s about the history of projected entertainment in the Midwest and a man who is trying to save the legacy of the first people to show movies in Iowa.

    What do you like about working in Iowa?
    I enjoy the pace of life and the openness of the people here. There are so many stories that no one else is telling, and I always have more to work on than I have time for.

    Is there anything you’d change about the film scene here?
    I’m excited to see it grow. We need to take ourselves seriously and believe that great things are possible. Here in Iowa, it’s not just that we can do more with less; we can do things that can’t be done anywhere else.