RIP Randy Richardson, by Michael Pack
I was sad to learn of your father’s death; he was a good and kind man.
My most vivid memories of him date from the early 80s, when I was a struggling young filmmaker. I imagine your children will find it hard to believe, but at that time, foundations almost never supported documentary filmmakers. Our work was deemed less serious and consequential than think tanks, academic work, scholarly conferences, etc. Your father, and the foundation he led, were willing to take some risks (which, I have to admit, did not always work out, in the case of other filmmakers). And, he was willing to take a risk on young, relatively untested filmmakers, at that.
My entire career is based on that early support, the hardest support to find. As you know, I have made over 15 nationally broadcast documentaries, which aired nationally on PBS, and have served at high levels in the US Government, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and now The Claremont Institute. All that was made possible by your father’s generosity and vision. Needless to say, my story is just one of many.
One other thought: when I came by the foundation, usually to meet with program officers, sometimes seeing you there as well, I would run into your father. He always engaged me in conversation and was always interested in whatever project I was working on at the moment. In those days, I was too young to realize how unusual that was—to talk to the head the foundation when I was just a lowly supplicant. It gave me the confidence I needed to pursue those projects.
Also, as a conservative documentary filmmaker in a community that was, to say the least, very liberal, in fact, contemptuous of conservatives, I needed to find a community of my own. Your father, his foundation, and the world it opened up to me, were essential to my feeling that I had a home and the support of smart people, just as smart and important as those on the other side. In truth, this was just as essential as the financial support.
Heather, you know all this, and I would not write to you, restating the obvious, except to help make sure it does not get lost in the sands of time. Your children have much to be proud of—and a great legacy to live up to.