Q&A with Filmmaker Sam Green, at the Wex in April

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Sam Green with Eartha, the world's largest rotating globe, at DeLome headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine

Though he began his career making straightforward documentaries, several years ago filmmaker Sam Green started creating works to be shown live: As the film unspools, Green is present to narrate, as are live musicians to furnish the soundtrack. In "The Measure of All Things," showing at 7 p.m. April 18 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Green tackles Guinness World Records. With a trio of musicians in tow, Green will present to the audience the history of Guinness' iconic book of world records, offering his poetic insights on record-setting. The San Francisco- and New York-based filmmaker spoke with us in January.

Why did you break with traditional documentaries? ?I have still made some normal movies after I started making these live things. I sort of backed into this form accidentally. I was trying to make an experimental movie about utopia ("Utopia in Four Movements") and was just really struggling with it. Somebody asked me to do a talk about the project, so I said, "OK, I'll show some clips, and I'll talk. To make it kind of fancy, I'll have my friend Dave [Cerf] make some live music for this talk." And it really did all the things I wanted the film to do.

Do you remember when you first became acquainted with Guinness World Records? I don't remember when I first saw "The Guinness Book of Records," but I do remember spending hours and hours and hours as a kid looking at it. A couple of years ago, I came across just an old copy from the '70s. I opened it up and looked at the photos, and just was so struck by these images that I remember: the tallest guy and his normal-sized family, the lady with the narrowest waist, the fat twins on motorcycles. These images had been burned into my being.

Did you find yourself drawn to particular kinds of records for the film? There are tons of records where people are trying to get into "The Guinness Book of Records," like the largest pizza or the most pogo-sticking or something like that. I'm totally uninterested in those. There are another group of records where things befall people: You end up being the tallest person in the world, or you're the oldest person or you're struck by lightning the most. I'm interested in those because those are records that are about fate and the mystery of what happens to us in the world.