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Hanson, Pat - Interview
Written by Diana Saenger   

In accordance with AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies-10th Anniversary Edition, a three-hour landmark television event airing on the CBS television network Wednesday, June 20, 2007 (8:00 - 11:00 p.m., ET/PT),  Classic Movie Guide  had the opportunity to interview Pat Hanson, Executive Editor and Project Director of the multi-volume AFI Catalog of Feature Films about the exciting event.

Patricia King Hanson is Executive Editor and Project Director of the multi-volume AFI Catalog of Feature Films, published by the University of California Press, and has held that position since coming to the American Film Institute in 1983. (The complete AFI Catalog of Feature Films is now also available online to AFI members at AFI.com.) This definitive online database sets the standard as a source for accurate information on the entire history of American film.   Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times called it "the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary of American Film."

Q. What's your fascination with film?

Pat H.: It started as a young child when my older brother and younger sister used to take me to the movies. The first movie I really remember seeing was Royal Wedding with Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling. When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, channel 9 and 11 used to have some great old movies on all the time, so I used to stay up and watch them. A historian by training, I like the blend of the film and the culture.

Q. What does AFI learn about movie watchers from these lists?

Pat H.: That people learn someone else maybe liked a certain film as much as they did, which until the internet was hard to discover. The lists are a good place for people to compare their love of movies. I think the list gives a good insight into how people are thinking.

Q. Would you say that pretty much reflects the feedback you get from the watching audience to the AFI shows?

Pat H.: I get a lot of feedback from family, friends and from the general public and a lot of people look back in a sentimental way that, "I remember when I saw this movie," or "a movie really touched me." Film, like other arts, can have a very personal meaning but because of the length of time of most films and the whole experience of the music, sound and color, even if it's in black and white, it can really affect people.

Q. Does the 100 Years list reflect cultural perspectives?

Pat H.: We did it 10 years ago and we're doing it now, and I don't know what's on the final list yet; I'll find out when everyone else does on June 20. So it's interesting to see how people change from 10 years of a generation and how things that people thought before were interesting, to see if they were on the previous list. It's always interesting to look at certain decades to see if films were more popular then. I'm talking about the new final 100. Or sometimes people look back and say the 30s and 40s were a great decade. And it's always fun to see what new movies we add to the list that we didn't have before. I think a 10-year cycle is a good measure. When you look at some of the movies that hadn't come out, or had just come out in 1997, like L.A. Confidential and we didn't have the Lord of the Rings movies then, to see the stories that these films have is the primary thing that really gets you in the gut.

Q. Will this year's nominations also have an impact on changing culture?

Pat H.: I hope it will. The first time it usually has the most -  when we see films from that are 60 or 70 years old, almost 80 years for some people, these keep that era alive in a way that wasn't possible before.   So maybe all films are not an accurate depiction of life but it really does keep the past eras in the forefront of your mind. I hope people have the, "why wasn't this or why was this on there?" comments.

Q. Tell me about how the list is made?

Pat H.: First you do a lot of research from other lists, award winners, critic's choices maybe who the prominent actors, directors or producers, and then you have like-minded people get together and discuss maybe 700 titles.

The people who vote on this - directors, screenwriters, actors, editors, cinematographers, critics and historians - are given a ballot, and it's a secret ballot and determined purely like the Academy Awards, it's a numeral thing.

Q. What type of films on AFI's list do you feel cause the biggest debate and why?

Pat H.: I would guess anything political bent or in a current place in time. We look back now at things that were considered cutting edge in the early 70s, but now are kind of lame. A lot of films that were cutting edge spark controversary because nobody cares about that edge anymore. And anything that has a controversial person behind or in front of the camera, Good Night and Good Luck for example, that might stir up controversy for what the subject matter is or like A Clock Work Orange, for the cultural content. And we don't include documentaries.

Every one has a favorite. It's a matter of taste, and it's very hard when you have directors like Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, William Wyler or Steven Spielberg, but you want to have a good representation - another aspect of the list. Another thing on the list this year was directors that are quite young.

Q. After the show is aired - do you get feedback from movie fans?

Pat H.: Oh yes, in one form or another. Some people say, "how could you not include this film?" or "I'm so happy you included my favorite film." Some just say they enjoyed the show.

After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Italian and Master's degrees in History and Library Science from the University of Southern California, Hanson became history bibliographer at the USC Library, then became an editor with Salem Press. She was Associate Editor of several publications, including the multi-volume Magill's Survey of Cinema, Bibliography of Literary Criticism and Cinema Annual. Often collaborating with her husband, Hanson has contributed dozens of articles on film to magazines, including British publications Flicks, Stills, The Listener and Moving Pictures International, and was a film reviewer for the British trade publication Screen International in the late 1980s.

Hanson, who has had a life-long love of film, has also contributed to a number of film reference books, including The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers and Prima dei codici and the educational website Fathom.   Her publications also include co-authoring the two-volume Film Review Index, Lights, Camera, Action! and The Sourcebook for the Performing Arts. She has been quoted on current films and film history in numerous newspapers, among them The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Orlando Sentinel and The Los Angeles Daily News, and has been an on-air expert on film for MSNBC, CNN and numerous radio stations.

 



                       

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