By ELLIE BAYLY
Scorsese. Stone. Coppola. Primack?
Bret Primack rolls with legends, Pima Community College students and anyone else he meets. He is a man guided by his passions for film and jazz, but storytelling as a videographer and journalist is his stock-in-trade.
“No matter what type of film or video it is, it’s always about a story,” Primack said. “I’m a storyteller.”
He learned at the feet of giants.
Primack has always been interested in movies, but had never considered it as a career until he attended a film conference where Francis Ford Coppola spoke.
“He had yet to direct his first film,” Primack said. “He wasn’t the famous filmmaker that he was yet, but there was something really magical about him.”
Coppola crystallized it for Primack. “That’s who I want to be,” Primack said. “That’s what I want to do.”
He wrote a letter to Coppola, and Coppola responded.
In 1968, Primack’s first year at New York University, Coppola was shooting a film nearby.
Primack contacted him and they had breakfast together.
“George Lucas was there. He was like his assistant,” Primack said. “So I got to hang out with them.”
Primack sensed chemistry between Coppola and himself, and seriously considered asking to be an intern or offering to volunteer on the project.
“If I had done that, my life would have gone in an entirely different direction,” Primack said. “If I could change one thing in my life, it would be that.”
But his parents wanted him to stay in school, which he did.
Primack recognizes the opportunity he had, but understands why it didn’t happen and how it put him on a path to film school.
“I was hanging out with Francis Coppola and George Lucas and Robert Duvall—my God,” Primack said. “But it just wasn’t meant to be at that time.”
Primack entered NYU’s film school shortly after, where he was taught by Martin Scorsese and became a classmate of Oliver Stone.
From Scorsese, Primack learned a love of cinema, directors and film analysis. Primack saw Scorsese’s dedication to film and his willingness to share details with his students.
“It was an opportunity to study someone who was not only an expert but very enthusiastic and very giving in terms of what he wanted to share with his students,” he said. “You couldn’t help but want to go along with him on the journey because he made everything so cool.”
Primack came to appreciate the work of directors studied in Scorsese’s classes, including Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford.
“When you study with someone like that … suddenly the world of possibilities opens up,” Primack said.
However, another passion remained constant in Primack’s life.
Before the film bug bit him, Primack cherished jazz.
He played the trumpet as a youth and his father was a musician.
Famed jazz musician Louis Armstrong’s appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” galvanized Primack, and he was a die-hard fan.
“He was just so joyful,” Primack said. “I just wanted to climb into the screen and join him.”
In 2006, Primack eventually combined his jazz passion with his love of film in the “Jazz Video Guy,” sharing the stories of jazz musicians via video.
Primack arrived in Tucson earlier in the summer of 2001.
“I had been visiting friends out here for a couple of winters and it seemed like a good place,” he said. “So one day I packed up life and drove here.”
Today, Primack has moved toward teaching, sharing his knowledge with those who want to learn.
Recommended as an instructor to PCC by a friend and faculty colleague, he prepares PCC students in Documentary Filmmaking, Digital Video Production and Video Editing.
“I can empower them,” Primack said. “I know that there are so many opportunities coming. I think there is nothing better in this life than creating something yourself … putting it out there. I love my students, I want them to succeed.”
One of those students, Tyler Bozetski, paints a similar picture.
He’s very open,” Bozetski said. “He’s always eager to talk with people about the subject. He explains things clearly so you can understand. He’s very fun, humorous.”
Bob Mintzer, chairman of the jazz program at the University of Southern California and a Grammy-winning saxophonist, is a major supporter of Primack.
“His background in filmmaking, experience as a journalist and passion for the arts and humanities make Bret an amazing artist in his own right,” Mintzer said.
Primack tells stories in multiple ways—via video, the internet and writing. He realizes he has been lucky to meet many captivating individuals throughout his life.
“I’ve known a lot of interesting people,” Primack said.