Kristi Jacobson has been working in documentaries for over ten years, and has made a number of television documentaries, but “Toots” is the first truly independent film that she has produced and directed.
I really liked the way you told the story of “Toots.” How did you approach the narrative strategy?
I’m especially pleased to hear that because figuring out how to do the narrative was far and away my biggest challenge. Mostly because I didn’t want to start the film in 1903 when Toots was born in
Was there a script?
No, I only had my idea of what I wanted from the film. But we really worked the material and tried to create a narrative arc like in fiction films, with our feeling and instinct for the material. In fact one of our most important breakthroughs was realizing that
And it was especially interesting to see
As a New Yorker I had an incredible experience getting to know my city from the 30s to the 60s. And all that stuff is still a part of the sidewalks and the buildings, part of the water towers and the life of
You showed the good and the bad of the city and of your grandfather.
I didn’t want to make a puff piece. Going in, I knew my grandfather had ties to the Mob, but I didn’t know how deep they ran. It was really important for to get to the bottom of that, and to bring it to the audience. Also, I didn’t go in with a preconceived idea of who my grandfather was; I wanted to discover him as I made the film. So I tried to present the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It was really hard. Someone asked me whether I’d been turned down for interviews. In fact the only people who turned me down were those who specifically did not like Toots. For instance, Joe Namath had noted in his biography that he didn’t like Toots and that he had no interest in a restaurant full of old geezers, that there were no chicks there. So I wanted to interview him because he represented an entire group of people who were important in the demise of Toots. I approached him with various important people and he did not want to do the interview. There was also someone who had written bad things about Toots and when I interviewed him he wouldn’t talk about it. All this made me quite determined.
Are you connecting this reticence with organized crime?
No, I think it has more to do with the fact that my grandfather was so beloved in the sports world, that to criticize him publicly isn’t gonna make you any friends. But it was frustrating as a filmmaker to dig through it all to get to that "other side" of Toots, which was really a big part of him.
How did you prepare for “Toots?”
“Toots” was a challenge to me because it was neither issue-based nor cinéma vérité, my milieu for ten years. So I watched a lot of film, and one that really influenced me was “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.” That’s what I love about filmmaking—I’ve made films about the Teamsters union and about women survivors of sexual abuse—there was something fun and new about “Toots.”
What’s next for you?
I’ll be doing a film about reform in the juvenile justice system in
When does "Toots" hit the theaters?
It's coming out in September of 2007. Neil Friedman at Menemsha Films really gets "Toots" and I’m very excited about that. His distribution model really fits the film.
Where did you get all that great archival footage?
The Oral History Recordings at