Robert Redford on Filmmaking: 'People Don't Respond When They Are Lectured To'

At a YoungArts Foundation event Wednesday in Miami, the actor-director and his wife warned young artists about getting caught up in the dark side of success.
Courtesy of World Red Eye, National YoungArts Foundation

The Redfords had sage words for an eager audience at the YoungArts Campus in Miami on Wednesday. "It's better to use art to tell a story," Robert Redford said. "People don't respond when they are lectured to."

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Robert and his wife, environmental artist Sibylle Szaggars Redford, who has exhibited her works such as a rainwater video, discussed art, activism and success in the second of six YoungArts Salons, a series of discussion panels that invites famous creatives to discuss their work, as part of the nonprofit's dedication to youth artists. The salons were created by the National YoungArts Foundation with help from the Knight Foundation to engage audiences with artists in the field who could offer perspective on their cultural landscapes.

Robert, a YoungArts master teacher, acknowledged Wednesday what he called the "dark side of success," advising aspiring artists in the audience that they should refrain from embracing that success too tightly. "You should dance with success, but don't wrap your arms around it," Robert said. "Don't get stuck on it, because you may get stuck for good."

In the hourlong conversation, moderated by the James L. Knight Foundation's Dennis Scholl, Robert and Sibylle emphasized integrity and instinct in the business. "You have to follow your passion and stick with your integrity to develop your art," said Sibylle, whose work The Way of the Rain made its debut on the campus on Tuesday. "Don't think about money."

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The Redfords also noted the difficulty that artists face in both making a living and spreading their message. They advocated for youth support in arts and education but warned against relying on government support.

The National YoungArts Foundation encourages the work of budding artists and has a slew of notable alumni, including recent Emmy-winner Anna Gunn, Scandal's Kerry Washington and Entourage's Adrian Grenier. Recording artists Josh Groban and Nicki Minaj have also graduated from the foundation. The first salon was held in December 2013 and featured performance artist Marina Abramovic and filmmaker Matthu Placek.