The old adage "If you can't do, teach!" did not apply to Alexander Mackendrick. Relatively unknown to today's audiences, the Massachusettes-born, Scottish-raised Mackendrick was responsible for some of the most accomplished films of the 1950's, including the Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness, The Ladykillers and The Man in the White Suit, and his masterpiece, the brilliant Sweet Smell of Success starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. In Mackendrick on Film, director Paul Cronin combines footage of the late filmmaker teaching at CalArts (where he served as the Dean of Film for 25 years), scenes from Mackendrick's own work, and interviews with his former students and colleagues, such as director James Mangold, producer Thom Mount, and critic F.X. Feeney. The result is a virtual filmic textbook-a consolidated version of the great director and educator's lessons on the craft of filmmaking. The Tribeca Film Festival will present the footage that Cronin has amassed in two parts: a 66-minute piece with Mackendrick discussing the preverbal language of cinema; and a 33-minute piece that includes Mackendrick's Watergate exercise and his discussion of the Imaginary Ubiquitous Winged Witness. Each clip is followed by a discussion with Cronin. Alexander Mackendrick cared not just about teaching "What is a story?" or how one is told. He also tried to teach his students the qualities of storytelling unique to cinema, where words can often just get in the way. An invaluable guide for the aspiring filmmaker, or anyone interested in what a director actually does, Mackendrick on Film is a documentary about filmmaking unlike any you have seen before.
Paul Cronin was born in London in 1972. He has published an interview book with German director Werner Herzog, Herzog on Herzog (2002), and is the editor of two forthcoming interview collections with directors Roman Polanski and Errol Morris. His film Look Out Haskell, It's Real!: The Making of Medium Cool (2001), about Haskell Wexler's 1969 feature Medium Cool, was screened on the BBC, PBS, and the Sundance Channel. His documentary Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16, has been seen at many festivals worldwide, including Berlin, London, Vancouver, Buenos Aires and Tribeca (2004). Cronin edited the collected writings of Alexander Mackendrick, which will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in September 2005.