Skip to main content

THE DOC SHOT Q&A: Mathew Kaufman, Director, 'American Swing'

By Tamara Krinsky


Mathew Kaufman
Director, Producer
American Swing


Brief description of your film:
The rise and fall of the infamous New York City swing club, Plato’s Retreat.

Your role/credit on the film:
Director and producer.

How did you find your subject or become involved in the film?
I was introduced to [fellow director] Jon Hart, who had written an earlier profile on Plato’s for The New York Times, through a fellow journalist. My fascination with the subject matter led me to propose collaboration on this project.

Was there a moment in this film that went a different way than you expected?
In every interview there were always surprises. I felt that I was surprised by our interviewees’ honesty. They also seemed wistful when talking about their time at Plato’s.

If you had had an extra $10,000 to spend on your film, what would you have used it for?
Editing and post-production--to have more time to explore myriad source materials and experiment with them in storytelling.

What excites you about playing your film at the Toronto International Film Festival?
I have made documentaries before, but none have found their way to such a prestigious and international venue. I look forward to hundreds of people from different backgrounds sitting in a theater collectively reacting to my work.

If you've had time to check out the TIFF catalogue, is there a particular film (aside from yours) or event at the Festival that you're looking forward to attending?
I look forward to many inevitable and random surprise discoveries once I arrive.


American Swing

The rules at Plato's Retreat, the 1970s era swingers club that is the subject of Mathew Kaufman's AmericanSwing. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.


What's the first film you remember seeing as a child?
The “first” time I remember this succinctly is when I snuck in to see Conan the Barbarian, which was rated R. Sandahl Bergman, who played Valeria, is still fondly remembered.

Tell us about a film that affected your profoundly or changed/inspired the way you do your own work.
To pick just one would be an injustice to dozens of others.

What would surprise people the most about your job or the way you execute it?
It would surprise people that I am very organized. Sometimes I come across as manic, but it is all filed away within reach.

When you are feeling creatively stumped or burnt out, what do you do to get the creativity flowing again?
Go fishing.


Daily essential read (online or off)?

New York Times

What's on your TIVO or iPod right now?
TIVO – ABC News, Antiques Roadshow, and any shitty reality show.
iPod – Only Howard Stern…and it’s completely full.

What do you want more of in your life?
Time to be more creative. Money buys you the luxury of time.

What do you want less of in your life?

If you could add an extra hour to every day, how would you spend it?

With my family--playing trucks and trains--and cooking.

What do you want for your birthday?
It changes every year; this year I think a pair of jeans will do.