Michael Paxton, writer, producer, director and author, will be speaking at Objectivist Summer Conference 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This year, OCON will include a screening of his Academy Award-nominated Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, a documentary on Ayn Rand’s life, in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary. This will be an opportunity for those who have never had the chance to “see it on a big screen with an audience,” says Paxton.

At the conference, Paxton will give two separate talks about film: “Film Adaptations of Great Achievers” and “An Analysis of Musical Genres.” “I'll get to discuss one of my favorite genres (backstage, musicals) and a genre I’ve been thinking about specifically for this OCON — films about productive achievers,” says Paxton. He’s also looking forward to a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, while in Pittsburgh.

We caught up with Michael Paxton to ask him about career, life and film.

What’s your background?

I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was in high school. Then, reading Ayn Rand inspired me to set my sights on philosophy as a career. After taking a few film courses in college, I realized that was my calling.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I’ve always been drawn to cinematic art to communicate profound ideas. Growing up, my favorite movies demonstrated the power of film to inspire and educate (Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker was at the top of that list). Later, movies such as Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso fed my passion to continue to work in the film industry.

What is essential to a great movie?

The most important element is a clear theme integrated into all other aspects of the production — from production design to acting, cinematography and the musical score.

Favorite Ayn Rand character and why?

It’s a toss-up between Kay Gonda (from Ideal) and Dagny Taggart (from Atlas Shrugged). Kay for her idealism and passion. Dagny for her straightforward approach and how she wears her heart on her sleeve. No game playing or manipulating. She’s rational and heroic.

How did you come to ARI?

I had the fortunate opportunity to work for Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz in New York while completing my graduate film studies at NYU. Upon moving to Los Angeles, Harry and Peter recommended me for a job to Mike Berliner, who was then the executive director of the newly minted Ayn Rand Institute.

What three things are you currently loving?

  • The old TV western, Wanted Dead or Alive — Steve McQueen as a morally responsible, heroic bounty hunter is great to watch.
  • Reading The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop by Richard M. Isackes and Karen L. Maness and Vincent van Gogh by Rainer Metzger and Ingo F. Walther.
  • Listening to Ayn Rand’s “Anti-Industrial Revolution” talk in preparation for a video we’re going to produce on Ayn Rand Campus.

Objectivist Summer Conference 2017 will take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 10–15. You can find out more and register here.