December 14, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C

Lisa Scafuro on Paolo Soleri

By Corinna Amendola
Published: 2013-09-23

I pursued several major Los Angeles and New York producers. Though many were intrigued, no offers came forth. Soon, I realized the film had to be a solo project. That's why the production has spanned over a decade. I'd never produced a film, but perseverance is my strength.

Soleri had a serious nature, but in private he maintained a fantastic sense of humor in a quiet and subtle way. He always managed make me smile.

Soleri had plans for a futuristic city located in the high desert region of Arizona. Is there any chance it'll ever be completed?

CBS correspondent Morley Safer asked Soleri a similar question for the "60 Minutes" profile aired in 1981. Soleri replied, "Even if I failed in applying those notions in developing a prototype of a terra, somebody new is going to pick it up after me." Safer followed up, asking, " In your lifetime, do you think?" Soleri replied, "It doesn't matter that much."

Did he ever discuss his relationship with Italy, since the American desert couldn't have been further than the Turin of his birth?

Italy was always closest to Paolo's heart, especially in later years. He received high honors from around the world, but I think the Italian ones meant the most.

How did you choose the people to interview for the film?

I developed a relevant list story early on. Getting the interviews was a combination of luck and perseverance. Few realize that Catherine Hardwicke, director of "Lords of Dogtown" and "Twilight," was a practicing architect prior to her successful film career. As a University of Texas architecture student in the 1970s, she attended a guest lecture series featuring Soleri and left captivated by his urban planning concepts.

Architect Eric Lloyd Wright was poetic in his recollections, which gave a fascinating glimpse into the world of his grandfather Frank Lloyd Wright and Soleri's Taliesin West years. Will Wright, the creator of the SimCity computer game series [unrelated to architect Wright], incorporated Soleri's arcology theories into the design of his innovative computer games.

There's a wonderful Soleri quote that uses the piano as a metaphor: "Ultimately, the cities that we build are like pianos and people are the music. Without good compositions and skilled musicians, the piano is useless." I kept that in mind in getting licensing permission to include music written and performed by Andrea Bocelli as well as Jared Leto. [The band] "Thirty Seconds To Mars" is an absolute dream!

Based on your interest in Soleri and your travels, do you have a favorite city, not in terms of tourism, obviously, but layout and "humanity"?

Though not exactly a city, Sanibel Island in Florida in its pre-1970s period was what I considered heaven on earth. In 1961, my father heard about this fantastic little island off the Gulf Coast. It had everything an artist's heart could desire: gorgeous white beaches teaming with an exotic variety of shells, flora, fauna, wildlife, nature preserves, and a smattering of rustic beach cottages. During the 60's, the individuals that resided or frequented Sanibel tended to be from artistic backgrounds. For a young girl who respected and loved nature, it had an enormous impact.

— For more information, see the film's Facebook page and its official trailer.

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