Richard Gershman / Film

Richard Gershman, Watkins College of Art

Name the one place in Nashville you go for inspiration or rejuvenation.
The Belcourt. I’m a huge consumer of your typical Hollywood fare. I keep swearing off summer blockbuster movies, then I end up going anyway.  Maybe it’s nostalgia. The memory of sitting in a dark theatre with a bag of popcorn and box of candy, immersed for a couple of hours in a fantasy. But I can always count on being challenged and expanding my film knowledge by catching a movie at the Belcourt.

What advice do you most often give yourself or other artists?
Be open to yourself, others, the unknown, and to possibilities. Fear is your worst enemy. It stifles creativity.

Why does art matter?
Without art, we lose the quality that makes us human: the ability to empathize and commune with our fellow humans. Art gives expression to the human experience in a way that binds one person to another. Art expresses the ideas and emotions that are frequently intangible but reside in our hearts. Art challenges our beliefs, opens doors to worlds unimagined, provides solace and joy, and expands our horizons and our imaginations.

Richard Gershman

Which is your favorite course to teach at Watkins?
Music and the Visual Arts (a Warner Music/Watkins initiative). This class brings together graphic designers, photographers, and filmmakers and provides them experience in interacting with recently signed acts in the same manner that the creative team at Warner Music does. So, students develop logos, album covers, photo shoots, and music videos to help brand and represent these musical artists.

Which one quality do you think the world most needs from artists?
Reflection. As Hamlet so eloquently says to his players, “ … hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

Tell us about a time you failed.
I was directing an episode of “Judging Amy” and we were on stage at 20th Century Fox Studios. I had this idea of filming an early morning scene in the backyard (also on stage) with low-clinging fog. I kept thinking of the romantic Scottish moors, but when it came time to shoot, the fog rose, making it look like the garden was on fire. I kept asking the crew to fan away the excess smoke, stubbornly sticking with my plan and not really seeing what was in front of me. In the editing room, the scene got a number of unwanted laughs. By judicious cutting, I was able to minimize the damage. If I had just looked with my eyes!

What do your parents think about your being an artist?
When I entered college, I went as a chemical engineer. I changed majors seven times until I was pre-med. My parents held out hope I might become a doctor. So, they were a bit dumbfounded when I graduated from college and told them I wanted to pursue a life in the theatre. They worried that I would never be able to support myself; they hoped that I was going through another phase. But to their credit, when I explained my passion for theatre, they fully supported me. Because whatever their hopes for me were, the most important was that I was happy. Now, as a parent, I appreciate even more their faith in me.

Where in the world have you gone where you feel most at home as an artist?
Galway, Ireland. I suppose it was the warmth and friendliness of the people. I remember arriving in town to see a play, knowing no one and ending up in a private pub with the theatre troupe, the aromatic smell of peat moss burning in the fireplace and the rich taste of a pint of Guinness.

When do you know a piece is finished?
When the lights go down and the main titles start. If there weren’t deadlines, I don’t know if any director would ever feel his film was finished.

Richard Gershman has been a professional artist in theatre, television, and film. His theatre credits include working with Anthony Hopkins on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and on the Broadway and London productions of Children of a Lesser God. His television work includes directing episodes of Chicago HopeJudging Amy, and as a first assistant director on the fifth season of Lost as well as on the feature film The Hunt for Red October with Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.