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On the Air
- Mon., September 4, 10 pm/WNED and WNED-HD
- Wed., September 6, 8 pm/ThinkBright
- Thurs., September 7, 9 pm/WNED-HD
- Thurs., September 14, 8 pm/WNED
- Offered nationwide by PBS (check local listings)
Visit Wright in Buffalo
- The Darwin Martin
House Complex (five structures, including Barton House), 125 Jewett Pkwy at
Summit Ave., Buffalo, NY (1903-1905; portions razed 1960 and
- Graycliff, 6472 Old Lake Shore Rd., Derby, NY (1927)
Designs Under Construction
|For more information: wrightnowinbuffalo.com
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S BUFFALO
Monday, September 4 at 10 pm
Behind the Scenes: The Making of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo
by Suzanne Kashuba
“The first question a producer asks is, ‘Where’s the drama?’ ” said
WNED Producer Paul Lamont. For his latest project, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo,
which Lamont also wrote and directed, he didn’t have to look far.
In the story of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the wealthy Buffalo businessman
he called his ‘best friend,’ “all elements combined into a producer’s
dream,” said Lamont. In their own unique ways, both men led lives of intense struggle
and tragedy, as well as great achievement. The story of their 30-year friendship is laden
It’s also the story of ‘the little guy’ who stands behind
a famous icon and makes things happen.
The Human Element
Although the program features spectacular cinematography of architectural masterworks,
Lamont sought to capture not just the structures, but the compelling human drama that played
out within them.
“From day one,” Lamont saw that the project had “the potential to transcend
“It’s a compelling story when you look at the human element,” he said. “It’s
the perfect convergence of characters and events.”
To tell that story, Lamont and his team focused on the universal themes of home, family
and friendship. “It’s a story people can relate to on so many levels,” he
“I want viewers to walk away feeling something, to see not just bricks
and windows, but to have an emotional attachment to the buildings and to Martin and Wright,” he
Then, when people visit the Martin House, “they don’t just see the architecture
but the presence of Martin and Wright within the walls and the spaces. They understand
why the Martin estate is (designed) the way that it is.”
Lamont describes his creative process as “organic” and “amorphous.” Initially,
there’s no plan or precognition.
It begins with a search for a story line and themes, “the right angle.” Then,
people who can address those themes are identified and interviewed.
For Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo, interviewing began more than two years
before the show would air (in February 2004) with noted Wright scholar Robert McCarter.
“They (the interviewees) tell you the story, interpret events, and put the story
in context. They convey not facts but the reasons why.” Through letters preserved
for the future, the historic characters of Wright and Martin lent their own voices and
context to the story.
Related visuals are not used literally (as in a news broadcast) but metaphorically and
symbolically or transitionally to depict or convey concepts. The idea of rebirth, for example,
was depicted in an image of flowering blooms.
Through an extensive editing process, a voluminous collection of images and interviews
are “stripped to the essence” of, and shaped into, the story. More than 50
hours of tape was shot for the one-hour Wright program.
Script writing doesn’t begin until the bulk of the shooting is done. (Frank
Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo was 70 percent shot before the initial script was written.)
Once scripted, numerous revisions follow. (Wright’s sequence of scripts
fills seven 3-inch binders.)
A Guiding Quest
In conveying the Martin-Wright story, the number one question Lamont sought to answer
was: Why would Darwin Martin continue to support Frank Lloyd Wright, both financially
“I scoured through hundreds of letters seeking the essence of their connection,” he
The “goosebump moment” occurred when he read one of Martin’s letters
to Wright, through which he encouraged the architect to move forward, despite financial
woes and a lack of popular acceptance of his work. He assured Wright that one day he would
achieve commercial, as well as artistic, success. And when that happens, Martin told his
friend, “there’ll be no losses to count.”
“He saw the genius of the artist,” Lamont concludes. “He saw the guy
and his work was good despite his human foibles. He did it for art’s sake.”
Just as Martin gave Wright the freedom to realize his artistic vision in the Martin House,
Lamont said he was given the creative freedom to tell their story “the way it needed
to be told.”
“I was grateful to pursue the vision I had,” he said. “PBS does allow
you that freedom.”
Funding for FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S BUFFALO was provided by The Margaret
L. Wendt Foundation, the Zemsky Family Foundation, The Buffalo News, The Gioia
Family Fund, and the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau. Promotional consideration
provided by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo 21st Century Fund.