I Heart Film: Paul E. Pierce and Patience Milrod

Paul and Patience were presenting sponsors of this past weekend’s 2017 Fresno Film Festival, where they enjoyed “The Women’s Balcony” the most. (Photo: Keith Seaman)

I Heart Film: Paul E. Pierce and Patience Milrod, Filmworks members and festival sponsors

What do you do for a living?
Patience: I’m the executive director of Central California Legal Services. I’ve been the executive director for six months. I’ve been a lawyer since 1977, but I’m not actually lawyering very much these days. I’m helping the lawyers that we employ do what needs to be done.

Paul: I’m a professional facilitator and I really enjoy what I do. I work mostly with community benefit organizations like Fresno Filmworks, advocacy organizations, and arts organizations. My work is doing strategic planning and helping these organizations think about what they do and do it more effectively.

How were you both introduced to Filmworks?
Patience: One of the founders of Filmworks, Catherine Campbell, is a lawyer and she used to share office space with me and my then- law partner. When she started doing the Filmworks project, we knew about it through her and we were really excited about it. The Tower Theatre used to be a place where you could go and watch movies. It was really exciting to have film there again, especially like this in a community-curated way.

Have you both always been film enthusiasts?
Patience: My parents took me when I was very little to see Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin pictures. So, from that young age I became aware of movies other than what were shown in the normal theater. I’ve always enjoyed seeing movies of different cultures, including old America.

Paul: I was actually involved in the making of three student films. I acted and did camera work. I really liked the idea of using this tool to tell a story. We had a really good time. I’ve taken filmmaking classes at CMAC, the Community Media Access Collaborative that serves Fresno and Clovis. Knowing more about how movies are done gives me a much greater appreciation of them.

What’s your favorite film that you’ve seen at Filmworks, or a favorite memory from attending one of the screenings?
Patience: What I think of, when I think of Filmworks, is about the times when you’re sitting in the theater, the screen goes dark, the movie is over, and you’re just not ready to leave. You’re not ready to turn to the person next to you and speak to them. You’ve really caught whatever it is the filmmaker was throwing. You feel it emotionally. I deeply appreciate that we have a group of people that bring this feeling to us.

Paul: I really have enjoyed the films about foreign cultures like the one about the woman who lived next to the train in Europe (“La femme et le TVG,” part of the 2017 Oscar-nominated short film program) and the one about the grumpy guy in Sweden (“A Man Called Ove” at the 2016 Fresno Film Festival). These films take me to places that a tourist would never experience. The filmmaker sits me down and lets me see a part of the world that I don’t get to see. Usually what I find out is that there’s so much more that we all have in common.

My father flew in a B-17 in World War II and got shot down. He spent 13 months in a prison camp. We went and saw “Memphis Belle” (the 1990 film by Michael Caton-Jones), which is a story about a B-17 crew. I glanced over while we were watching the movie and my father was crying. I asked him how real that was and he said, “That was another mission.” It was really powerful and it let me have a little glimpse into what that might have been like for him. Film allows us to maybe understand the stuff that so many of our peers have gone through. This lets us experience parts of the world and life that are not available to us and maybe be better human beings with each other because of that.

What are some of your favorite movies?
Patience: I have probably seen “Women in Love” (directed by Ken Russell in 1969) like seven times. It is amazing and intense, with remarkable acting. It was D.H. Lawrence (original author of the novel the movie was based on) saying we’re going to have a new world and here are these people experimenting with this idea. You watch how they feel destabilized. It’s old but totally worth seeing.

Paul: One is not very well known. It’s called “Cold Comfort Farm” (directed by John Schlesinger in 1969). It was a book and then there were two movies. The BBC version is just delightful. It’s about all these totally dysfunctional characters and how this one woman finds a way to uncover the spark in each one of their distresses and help them turn it into life. It’s inspiring. I’ve seen it at least seven or eight times. I’ve read the book a couple of times. The other movie I enjoy watching is the Kenneth Branagh-directed version of “Henry V” (from 1989). I particularly enjoy the St. Crispin’s speech.

Patience: And then there’s “Amélie,” another delightful film (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet in 2001).

Which movies were you most excited to see at this year’s Fresno Film Festival?
Paul: I looked at all the previews and I put every one of them on the calendar, and normally I don’t do that. But this year I did. We’re really excited about the festival every year. We enjoyed “The Women’s Balcony” the most.
Patience: We brought our neighbors and some friends too.

What might you say to community friends to encourage them to support Filmworks by attending or by becoming a sponsor or member?
Paul: Join us! We are having a ball. Great films, great people. If we don’t support it, it won’t be here. There are some films that demand the big screen, bigger even than the 50-inch diagonally in your home, and others of course that just work better in a group, a community.

Our “I Heart Film” series spotlights our generous community donors. Contact our development director, Jefferson Beavers, for information on becoming a sponsor or member.