From the time I was growing up as young boy in Gates Mills, OH I always enjoyed the movies! I loved the fact that, for a couple of hours, I could retreat to a new and different world, dream and perhaps even become someone else. The afternoon TV movies, starting at 1:00 pm and, of course, at our house, in Black and White, left me in a dreamy state just about 2:30 when they were over. Cleveland was a bit of a sleepy town in those days and having a special window into the outside world was awesome. But, my favorite season was Christmas and I can't remember the number of times I watched "It's a Wonderful Life". I especially liked the fact that we were able to see how different life was with and without George Baily. In a different vein, I couldn't help reflect on the "Back to the Future" movies that came later.
I followed the arts pretty much all my life, doing summer stock theater in Gates Mills, directing musicals (Bye Bye Birdie, L'il Abner etc.) and doing the same in high school ( St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, now called Villa Angela St. Joseph ) and at Georgetown, where I studied Economics but participated in the theater as an actor, writer and producer. Oh yeah, when I was at Boston College, I was in the Fantasticks as well - played the part of Matt. In our Boston College year book, ( The Sub Turri ), they put up a picture of our Fantasticks cast, interestingly opposite a bit on the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham Boston Crusade in October of that year. Billy Graham was quoted in the year book as saying "Christ called upon the young people of his day to be non-conformists. A Christian is a constant rebute to the standards of the world. The early disciples turned their world upside down, because they were willing to be non-conformists. They did not conform their faith to match the world, but they changed the world to match their faith. They had the truth and they refused to water it down. They dared to believe what other men doubted. They were willing to risk their lives for what they believed... and in due time, they turned the philosophical, the social, the political and the religious worlds of their day upside down". It seems to true today that Christians are still the "non-conformists" and still being people of faith, and not matching their faith to the world. We hear from Christopher Hitchens today, and others, there is no God. The struggle goes on.
When my daughter, Tiffany, graduated from Georgetown University, some work in the arts seemed the logical course of action. After some initial probing, AFI ( The American Film Institute ) seemed like the logical place to go. Tiffany has always been a director in her heart but also being a bit of a mixed cereberal dominance person, wanted to also have a sense of how to make the shot, what equipment would get the result and how to do the lighting.
I went on to went to get an MBA, and later, a CPA, but my passion, though, was in theatre – acting, directing, producing and writing plays.
But there were interim steps as I went the way of many of my generation, into business, owning a recording studio, several manufacturing companies, as well as being an investment banker.
During his time in business, he maintained his love of the stage and music. Throughout the arc of his career, as a single parent, Bill raised his daughter Tiffany from the time she was two years old. While Bill taught Tiffany about science, reading, drawing, horseback riding and driving, he also imparted his love of the arts.
Tiffany eventually went to Georgetown, as well, and graduated with a degree in History. Shortly afterwards, “Tiff” was accepted to the prestigious American Film Institute - AFI, graduating with a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in 2003.
So there we were, me with a vibrant career of business behind me, and Tiff, with a bright career of film in front of her. But, there was another factor, though, one that’s at the heart of our story. “Dad and I have grown up together in so many ways,” Tiff says. “So it was thrilling to tackle such a formidable project – Christmas at Maxwell’s, a full-length feature film – together - where I could teach him about the composition of filmmaking". I in return was able to teach Tiffany about the business aspects of filmmaking. But as Tiff would say, "We’re a good team, I think, because I look up to and respect him so much.” For my part, it's the same.
I grew up with Tiff. When people find out that Tiffany and I work together in our film company, they are often amazed. How can a father and daughter work together in this creative but pressure-filled business? But, we did work together, and now we’ve produced a family friendly film, Christmas at Maxwell’s, that has won awards, is done and is available on DVD - done, finished, and wonderful. But, most importantly, our father-daughter team has continued as a loving and mutually supportive team, proving that family love can conquer the most daunting challenges, artistic and otherwise.
Tiffany Laufer is the cinematographer on Christmas at Maxwell's and is as well as my business partner. Tiff is always saying things like “I respect and look up to my father. I believe our elders are to be respected and revered, something that isn’t necessarily embraced by Hollywood these days.” But, I am always saying things like that about her, and her generation. I believe our youth are to be respected and revered, loved, supported and encouraged. It is their wisdom that will lead our country, our world into the next generations, solving problems like the breakdown in values, issues of life, energy and love.
I've never been happier than in my role as a filmmaker. “These days of my life, working with my daughter, are truly the things that dreams are made of.”
Today, Tiffany and I are members of the St. Ann Parish in Cleveland Heights, OH. Tiffany attended grade school there under the supervision of the Ursuline Sisters.
There is, of course, much more to this story. It is, I think, an inspirational story about two generations working closely together through creativity, friendship, and most importantly, love. We are starting to hear that Christmas at Maxwell's is a new Christmas Classic.
Christmas at Maxwell's, the movie, and now a Christmas DVD movie available to everyone, is a wonderful story. It has its basis in the real life story of our family and my mother, who battled cancer and overcame this battle. Everyone knows that cancer is a formidable disease and many people are impacted by it, but what people don't as often know about is the fact that many people have overcome cancer via their spiritual belief that has brought healing. The gospels tell us that there will the trials, but that there will be the strength to overcome them as well. On so many levels, life is about overcoming and Christmas at Maxwell's is a Christmas classic that explores this spiritual journey to healing - healing that comes in so many ways, but some just as a result of trusting. Steven Simon, producer of Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come, among other films, says, “Christmas at Maxwell’s is a beautiful new holiday film.” Indeed, Christmas at Maxwell's is a Christmas Classic DVD - we agree!
Contact Laufer Film.com at 216-229-4444
Thanks to Tiffany for being that special creative force in my life and to Scott Lax for helping with this article.