Toronto: Ron Howard Talks About Filming Jay Z Doc 'Made in America'

1:04 PM PST 09/08/2013 by Etan Vlessing
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Ron Howard

"I realized how much I do depend on planning and controlling," the "Apollo 13" director told a Toronto festival audience.

TORONTO -- Oscar-winner Ron Howard has done six decades of media interviews as an actor and director, going back to the child star talking to Hedda Hopper.

So the Hollywood director gave himself just passing marks for his on-screen interviews in his Jay Z concert documentary Made in America, which had a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night.

"I didn't know how tough your job is, and I think I could do better," Howard told host George Stroumboulopoulos during a post-screening Q&A at Bell Lightbox.

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For advice on his first documentary, Howard turned to Jonathan Demme, who makes both fiction and nonfiction movies.

"You'll have a great time. Collect your ideas, but you just have to go and see what you see," Howard recalled Demme telling him.

"I really did let my curiosity guide me," he added.

Howard also shot Made in America on the hop. He had only 10 days for preproduction before his cameras rolled on Jay Z's two-day star-studded Made in America concert in Philadelphia last year.

Howard called the doc a "palette cleanser" after shooting and posting Rush, his Formula One movie also debuting in Toronto this week. The veteran director, at times, felt like a fish out of water for making a film without a script. "I realized how much I do depend on planning and controlling. That's why I'm a director," Howard said.

The postproduction process got him back on familiar ground. "That's where I could look at a moment, even though it wasn't a scripted moment, and understand where it might fit and might not fit," Howard recalled.

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The puzzle that needed solving was a concert film that also addressed the state of the American dream.

The documentary contrasts the day-to-day struggles of ordinary workers and emerging and established hip-hop artists performing at the Made in America concert with Jay Z, dripping in bling as he tells his own story of rising from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to musical stardom.

"There was to a person a sense that, yes, it's tough and it's been tough, but I don't believe I'm a victim," Howard said of the people captured in the film about making it in America.

"I really believe that this is a place where, if you pay the price, you can define yourself in a way," he concluded.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs to September 15.

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