Alan Alda, Jason Reitman Share Stories from Careers in Filmmaking at Connecticut Forum

Trinity Professor and Students Hear First-Hand Experiences from Creative Professionals

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 23, 2017 – Students, alumni, staff, and faculty members from Trinity College had the opportunity to attend the final event of The Connecticut Forum’s 2016-2017 season, “A Conversation with Alan Alda and Jason Reitman,” held May 6 at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Hartford. Trinity is among the Forum’s Education Partners, which support open dialogue, lifelong learning, and the free and active exchange of ideas.

​Alan Alda on stage at The Bushnell during a conversation held by The Connecticut Forum. Photos by Nick Caito, courtesy of The Connecticut Forum.
Best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H,” Alda reflected on his long career in television and movies as an actor, writer, and director. Reitman is the Oscar-nominated director, screenwriter, and producer of the films “Up in the Air” and “Juno.” Alda and Reitman’s wide-ranging conversation touched on growing up with famous fathers (actor Robert Alda and director Ivan Reitman), their favorite collaborators, and the power of the arts. The discussion was guided by moderator Wesley Morris, critic-at-large at The New York Times and a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine.

Alda, who spoke about working with directors including Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, said he tries to select material that he find moving and meaningful. “If it’s not about the way people treat each other, then it’s not that interesting,” he said. “I want to see heightened reality.”

Reitman agreed that he tries to capture true feelings in his films. He added that those moments often come from actors who are able to relate to each other and collaborate comfortably. “A great performance feels like a gift to the director,” Reitman said. “My job is really just helping [actors] to be honest.”

Throughout the evening, Reitman told stories from the sets of his movies and described what it was like to work with big-name actors – including George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Ellen Page, J.K. Simmons, and Anna Kendrick – and to learn how many takes they will need to get a scene just right. “George is usually Take 1,” Reitman said.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Madalene Spezialetti, who is also the director of film studies at Trinity, was among the members of the Trinity community in the audience for the conversation between Alda and Reitman. “It was a great evening,” Spezialetti said. “It was so interesting to hear them talk about experiences – how to direct actors, for example – that exactly reflected what Visiting Assistant Professor of Film Studies Ben Bowman taught in his film production classes this year.”

​(Left to right) Moderator Wesley Morris with Alan Alda and Jason Reitman at The Connecticut Forum.
Film studies major Travis Gubernick ’19 said he enjoyed hearing Alda tell a story about an experience he had when directing an actor who had trouble remembering a long line that was to be delivered in one continuous shot. Gubernick said, “The actor eventually accomplished the entire line in one run – after 59 takes! And then when they looked back at the footage, the boom mic was seen in a reflection, but they didn’t bother to correct it because they had worked so hard.”

Gubernick added that the value in hearing professionals talk about their craft is the exposure to lessons that cannot necessarily be learned in the classroom. “Hearing them both talk about their careers makes it seem real,” Gubernick said. “It exposes a side of the film industry that you will never see unless you experience it first-hand. Everyone learns something different from their own experience, which is why it is so great to hear what two successful filmmakers have learned from their many opportunities in the industry.”

Emily Cahill IDP’17, an English major in the creative writing track, added, “Alan Alda is a national treasure, and hearing him talk about ‘M*A*S*H,’ particularly how unaware on set they were of the impact the show was having on the country, reminded me of the importance of the arts. Even in trying political times, the arts are how we communicate with each other, and we can never afford to give up that valuable vehicle.”

Next season’s Connecticut Forum events will be: “An Evening with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer” (September 28, 2017); “Laughter, Anyone?” (November 18, 2017); “The State of Journalism & The News” (March 16, 2018); and “Chefs & The Art of Food” (May 12, 2018).

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli