Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
 
Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler, friends since the age of nine, founded Pacific Street Films in 1969. In a career spanning over three decades they've produced, directed, written and edited over 100 films, as independents and for venues as diverse as the United Nations and Saturday Night Live. The themes of Pacific Street's work cover a wide variety of subjects - equally as diverse - from hidden camera investigations into police surveillance and misconduct; illuminating "lost" periods of history; revealing the "secrets" of martial arts – to analyzing the director's art on the sets of such legendary films as GOODFELLAS and JFK. Along the way they’ve crossed paths with some extraordinary people, including fabled director Luis Bunuel, poet Kenneth Rexroth, reggae great Bob Marley, among many others.

As youngsters growing up in a rough-and-tumble Brooklyn neighborhood, they quickly found the rebellious road -- declaring themselves "anarchists" while still enrolled in Brooklyn Technical High School. In 1969, two of their NYU student films, I AM CURIOUS HAROLD and INCITING TO RIOT, caught the attention of film school instructor Martin Scorsese. While caught up in the fury of the anti-war movement, Scorsese encouraged them to use film as a political tool.

Creating Pacific Street Films right after graduation, Sucher and Fischler began tackling subjects that were, to put it mildly, never mediocre or mundane. RED SQUAD, in 1971, pitted them against the forces of both the police and FBI's surveillance units - ever-present at the many anti-war demonstrations in the early 1970s. Sucher and Fischler managed to get themselves arrested while filming the police filming them, and in the process, amassed a hefty FBI file. In his New York Times review, Vincent Canby called RED SQUAD, "funny, in the way that two spies are funny when they suddenly discover they're spying on each other. Yet it's dead serious, the record when four young filmmakers decide to run their own surveillance on the surveillants, those keepers of secret files who monitor protest groups, minority groups, demonstrations..." Fischler and Sucher's work has also been used, on one occasion, to free a wrongly imprisoned man. FRAME-UP: THE IMPRISONMENT OF MARTIN SOSTRE (1973) documented the arrest of a radical African American bookstore owner in Buffalo, New York. Finding a key witness who publicly recanted his testimony, the film helped convince New York governor, Hugh Carey, to grant Sostre executive clemency. By the late 1970s the two turned their activist interest in Anarchism into Guggenheim Fellowships in film (the pair were the youngest at the time to receive the honor), which resulted in the production of two films, FREE VOICE OF LABOR- THE JEWISH ANARCHISTS (1980) and ANARCHISM IN AMERICA (1982). They have also traveled extensively, documenting the history and often perilous work of United Nations peacekeepers in two films: BLUE HELMETS (1989), narrated by Jesse Jackson, and IN SEARCH OF PEACE (1995), a fiftieth anniversary tribute narrated by Paul Newman.

Sucher and Fischler worked on the sets of GOODFELLAS, JFK and CAPE FEAR, along with their NYU mentor, Scorsese, and fellow classmate, Oliver Stone. MARTIN SCORSESE DIRECTS was an in-depth look at the director, appearing on PBS's AMERICAN MASTERS series. OLIVER STONE: INSIDE/OUT was broadcast on both SHOWTIME and the BBC, treating viewers to a rare look at the controversial director with his guard down. Working backstage on other feature sets, they produced two major documentaries on Jessica Lange, a portrait of director Sidney Lumet; two "Back Stories" for American Movie Classics (no surprise, on the making of JFK and GOODFELLAS), and a BRAVO portrait of actor Nick Nolte.

Driven by personal interests and long experience in the world of martial arts, Sucher and Fischler produced and directed THE WARRIOR TRADITION, a five-part series for the History Channel, and a highly acclaimed two-hour special, MARTIAL ARTS: THE REAL STORY, for DISCOVERY. Currently they are working with former Special Forces veteran, John Plaster, on a film depicting the cloak and dagger work of the little known Vietnam era Special Operations Group ("SOG"), whose daring exploits have yet to be brought to the public's attention.

For Sucher and Fischler the reality of documentaries often inspire the drama of features. I PROMISE TO REMEMBER: THE STORY OF FRANKIE LYMON AND THE TEENAGERS, a 1983 documentary profile of the famous 1950s singing group, spun off a feature film script, ROCK N' ROLL STORY. Commissioned by Zenith Productions in London, Sucher and Fischler co-wrote the script with Mardik Martin. Martin Scorsese was attached as director.

FROM SWASTIKA TO JIM CROW, which premiered as part of PBS’s Black History Month in 2001, is also in development as a dramatic project. Sam Freedman, writing in the New York Times, described the story as “bearing witness to a chapter of Jewish and African-American history that has remained almost unknown…” In a review in the New York Daily News, Eric Mink wrote that the film is an “affirmation of the human spirit, of the ability of one human being to touch another irrespective of race, religion or politics...”

Pacific Street Films continues to develop programming in various areas, based on the wide ranging interests of the principals, with materials drawn from its extensive archives. Descriptions of these programs can be found on both the FUTURE RELEASES and IN DEVELOPMENT web pages.




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Cambridge, MA
January 7 - 9, 2005
Harvard Film Archive
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Museum of Modern Art Honors Pacific Street Films with a Career Retrospective!
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DISSENTING ADULTS appearing in Time Out New York:
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