Aces & Knaves: The Bridge Film of the Century
By Alex J. Coyne – For Great Bridge Links: 04 October 2017
If you’re an avid bridge player and cinema buff, you might already heard whispers of an upcoming bridge flick entitled Aces & Knaves, which could quite possibly turn out to be the bridge film of the century! It promises to take viewers behind the scenes of the game – and into the minds of the people playing it.
This got us excited enough to get in touch with Jackie Paré and co-producer Mike Hull to find out more about Aces & Knaves…
Interview with a Card Player (or Two!)
Great Bridge Links: What gave rise to the idea behind Aces & Knaves?
Jackie Paré: My mother taught me to play bridge, just as her mother taught her. She played well into her 90th year, a tradition I plan to continue.
I was a writer for Fortune magazine before I started making documentaries, so when I started playing duplicate at my local club in earnest, I brought my journalist’s eye with me. Fascinating stories unfolded every day at the club, from euphoric highs to humiliating lows. Ego, character, the pain and glory of competition — it’s a richly human game with parallels to life that anyone can relate to. And it all plays out with incredibly smart, colorful people.
Mike (my editor and co-creator) was somewhat skeptical when I brought the idea to him. He had never played bridge before but I convinced him that the movie I wanted to make would go way beyond the nitty-gritty of a card game. Once we started filming, Mike was hooked on the idea! (I’m hoping at some point to make him my bridge partner as well. I think he’s getting the bug!)
Great Bridge Links: How has support been from fans and bridge players? How about support from people who have never played bridge before?
Jackie Paré: Everyone who has heard about Aces & Knaves, or seen the videos on-line, has loved the idea! Everyone we’ve approached for interviews—from superstars to club owners to casual players—has wanted to be part of the film. And every time we post a clip on Facebook, we get a tsunami of support from around the world. Our trailers have been viewed over 17,000 times and shared widely.
The bridge community has been very supportive, from amateur to professional and at every master point level in between. We’ve filmed at two ACBL national tournaments and at local clubs around New York. It takes a minute for word to pass from one end of the room to the other that we’re filming for a documentary and people point at us and light up when they get word. It’s been fun, and of course everyone has a story to tell about how they got hooked.
For me, as a filmmaker trying to present bridge in the most engaging, educational and entertaining way I can, one of the most flattering endorsements came from bridge legend Zia Mahmood, who said the trailers are “NOT boring” like most bridge films he’s seen.
People who have never picked up a hand are surprised at how compelling bridge is, how entertaining the film-in-progress is to watch. Friends and relatives love the characters and of course everyone digs the brain science stuff.
Great Bridge Links: Blurbs mention you’ve talked to psychologists and scientists about the brain behind bridge. I love this! What have you found through making the documentary that you didn’t know before?
Jackie Paré: Bridge is the most complicated game ever devised by the human brain. The drive to compete, the jealousy when you lose, the self-flagellation after you make a mistake, the adrenaline rush when you win-those are animalistic responses that live in the oldest parts of our brain. Even if you can play just one hand right, it makes your day.
Elements of fight or flight are involved, and the longer you’re at the table, the more those kind of base instincts influence your play. Psychologists relate it to lions hunting for game and the evolutionary advantage of stalking. The pros don’t talk about it on this neural level, but they universally acknowledge the importance of keeping an even keel when at the table. Players like Bob Hamman who can control their emotional responses are among the best in the world.
There are so many ways to tell the story about bridge, and many ways to learn how to play the game. I knew I didn’t want to create a documentary with information that would be better picked up on-line or from a bridge teacher. The science and psychology, the way it works out your memory and builds neural pathways, is both fascinating and unique to the game. And as I mentioned, I learned the game from my mother and observed how it kept her alert and engaged. I am making this film in her memory.
Great Bridge Links: What challenges did the project throw at you and how did you overcome them?
Jackie Paré: As with any documentary, funding is always tough. So far, we’ve paid for the project ourselves, but we’re hoping to find ways to fund the film within the bridge community. We’re exploring pre-sales options, including distribution on television, but if we can gather the money from players it means we can maintain our independence. We have a ton of great material and if we can make the movie we envision, we can show people why we’re all so crazy about bridge.
Great Bridge Links: How can bridge clubs and bridge players get involved with Aces & Knaves – donations, possibly arranging a screening at their local bridge club?
Jackie Paré: Our Indiegogo fundraising campaign can be accessed here: our Indiegogo campaign. We also have a PayPal account which people can contribute to directly. Please click here to contribute on Paypal. We are adding a perk to the Indiegogo campaign that allows clubs to purchase a screening for their members. For $350, a club can hold a private screening of Aces & Knaves for its members. The club can use the screening to gather donations to cover the cost (50 people at $7, for eg.), incorporate it into a larger fundraising effort or provide it as a gift to their members.
Most importantly, we want to spread the word about Aces & Knaves and hope that the documentary will build community among current passionate bridge players and pique interest in potential new bridge players. There are some 2,500 bridge clubs in the US alone, and a huge global community, but we’re all so concentrated on the cards in our hand, we don’t look up to talk to each other enough! We’d love for our Facebook page to become a hub for players from all over the world to talk about the game in their community, how they got involved, how their games are going. You never know: You might pick up a new convention that people at your club have never seen before.
Great Bridge Links: Any one-liners quotes on bridge you’d like me to throw into the piece?
5-time world champion Gail Harte Greenberg says about bridge:
“Some days you feel like a genius and other days you figure you might as well take up finger painting!”
Bridge legend Zia Mahmood:
“If I sat with you for 10 minutes at the bridge table, I would know more about you than your closest relatives do. Because I could see how you think—whether you’re brave, you’re strong, you’re fearless. Whether you’re honest, you’re charming. Bridge reveals everything.”
Praise for Aces & Knaves and More About the Creators
Christina Lund Madsen says this about Aces & Knaves:
I am forever grateful to anyone who takes an interest in bridge and dedicates so many hours to creating a movie or documentary that will bring joy to so many bridge players and hopefully arouse the curiosity of outsiders. I encourage friends and strangers to support this professional and serious attempt to create the best film ever made about bridge.
Director Jackie Paré is a former writer for Fortune magazine (byline was Jaclyn Fierman), a documentary filmmaker, and an aspiring Life Master. I have a ways to go!
Co-creator and editor Mike Hull, worked at CBS and other network news outlets for many years as an editor and producer. Together, Jackie and Mike produced a film about another group of brilliant obsessives called TAP OR DIE (click here to see the website), a festival darling that premiered at Lincoln Center Dance on Camera and was picked up for educational distribution worldwide.
Consulting Producer Brad Moss: You know his story! His team just won the Bermuda Bowl in lyon.
Music Supervisor Nicholas Van Young: Bessie-award winning tap dancer and musician Nicholas Young was the lead in the off-Broadway smash hit Stomp for over a decade. He was the music supervisor for the team’s last film, TAP OR DIE.