Despite growing up in San Francisco, filmmaker Ari Gold has never shot a project in his hometown. His goofy 2008 feature Adventures of Power is set in New Mexico and New Jersey, while his short Culture was filmed in a New York City studio. And even though Gold’s Student Academy Award-winner Helicopter has scenes set in the city, the streetscapes are really just fabrications, built with toy Victorians on a train set model.
Though his career has taken shape in New York and Los Angeles, Gold still has notable familial roots in Northern California. Twin brother Ethan is a local musician, and his father Herbert is a well-known Beat novelist. Gold’s mother Melissa is well-known too, but not for the happiest of reasons: in 1991, she and the music promoter Bill Graham -- her boyfriend at the time -- perished in a helicopter crash near Vallejo.
Melissa’s tragic death inspired Helicopter, a frenetic hybrid of documentary, animation, and fiction. It’s remarkably different from the traditional narratives that usually come out of NYU’s film school.
“I have to do everything according to how it feels emotionally,” Gold says of his approach to directing, which includes both traditional and non-traditional styles of filmmaking.