Local filmmaker Brad Bernstein has created a documentary called Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story about a famed children’s book author/illustrator who climbed to the top of the industry but his work in erotica killed his children’s book career.
“Basically, essentially he lost all the publishing contracts in the U.S. The erotica started to clash with the children’s book,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein’s goal is to get the documentary qualified for an Academy Award nomination.
The documentary was sparked by an article about author/illustrator Tomi Ungerer, the illustrator of the original Flat Stanley.
“Every single quote was a sound bite,” Bernstein said. “We knew it had to be a film. I reached out to some of the people in the article.”
In order to make the film, Bernstein interviewed Ungerer for more than 40 hours. He also interviewed Maurice Sendak, the author/illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, about Ungerer. Bernstein learned that Ungerer is an unusual character, profoundly affected by his father’s death when he was very young and growing up under the Nazis.
He came to the United States and became an illustrator for many of the best magazines. He was discovered by one of the great children’s book editors and went on to write and illustrate numerous critically acclaimed children’s books. His work is still considered brilliant by today’s editors.
But his erotica undermined his career in children’s books. Ungerer left the U.S. for Nova Scotia and eventually settled in Ireland.
“When he left in the ’70s he didn’t create a children’s book for a quarter century,” Bernstein said.
He eventually wrote Flix, about a cat who marries a dog. In 1998, Ungerer won the prestigious Hans Christian Anderson award.
This documentary is a departure for Bernstein, whose company, Corner of the Cave Media is usually hired to make documentaries by companies like VH-1, ESPN, PBS and CBS. In fact, he has a show airing Apr. 23 on CBS and a show on a jazz concert filming in late June.
“We do a lot of music and documentary programming” Bernstein said. “We do a lot of stuff about TV. The network hires us out; we write produce, and edit.”
But this time, he had to go out and look for financing to get the project off the ground.
“Our goal was to start at festivals and start to get it distributed,” he said.
The documentary has had theatrical runs in France and in Germany. The theatrical runs are needed to qualify the documentary for the Oscars.
“We’re hopefully putting ourselves in position for 2014, for 2014, you do it in 2013,” he said.
The change in pace for the filmmaker has been interesting.
“We look for interesting projects that pay well,” he said. “We mix up projects.”
Bernstein attended the University of Michigan and in 2007 he was contacted by Larry Rosen who used to own a jazz label. Rosen asked Bernstein to supervise a project.
The project led him to meet Rich Sakowski, the editor and now his business partner. The project also enabled him to interview many fascinating musicians such as Billy Joel and Paul Simon.
Bernstein’s documentary aired Mar. 6 and 8 at the Regal in South Beach during the Miami International Film Festival. The next airing is at the Florida Film Festival in Maitland.
For more information go online to www.facebook.com/FarOutTheMovie