Jack Sanders X Citizen Architect


Jack Sanders & his journal from Rural Studio.

Samuel Mockbee

Director/Producer Sam Wainwright Douglas & Sanders at Big Beard Films office in Austin.

I hung out last summer with Jack Sanders at the Red Bluff compound that houses Big Beard Films. I was there to shoot my own documentry short with Amy Cook for Refueled magazine. I recently caught up with the quiet founder of Design Build Adventures and producer of the documentary “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio”, to get the inside vibe on the film and Samuel Mockbee’s legacy.

Jack, the documentary “Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio” in which you are one of the producers is premiering at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival next month. How did you get involved with the film?
Sambo (Mockbee) hired me to be the ‘clerk of the works’ at the Rural Studio in the summer of 2001 - right in the middle of a pretty special time for the program. The work was being published everywhere, Sambo was on Oprah, he had been given the McArthur Genius Grant, and the work of the studio was even selected to be in Whitney Biennial. I knew I was involved with something special; and was using the video camera to document it. One day, Sambo said, “Are you going to make a movie about me?” (with smile), he went on, “you should meet this other young man from Texas, Sam Douglas - he wants to make a movie about me too”.

I met Sam Douglas at Sambo’s funeral, and not long after that - we said, “we have to do this!”. The coolest part of this story is that Sambo, around this same time, suggested that Sam (Douglas) meet his daughter, Sarah Ann - also a producer on this film - and they are now married. We all live in Austin and could not be more excited to premiere this movie at SXSW. It’s been a long time coming! Sambo knew what he was doing.

Can you tell us about your role at the Rural Studio?
First, I was a student, then I had an intern position called ‘clerk of the works’, and after Sambo passed away I was the “second year studio instructor” - which means that I managed 30 architecture students (from Auburn University), over the course of an academic year, through the design and construction of a house for a Hale County (Alabama) resident. This is interesting and beautiful, to me, because most of the 30 students - and the instructor - don’t know a damn thing about building a house. But everybody’s energy and talent is focused on figuring it out - and the results are always, well, spirited, in the least!

One of the funnier moments in the film is a scene between yourself and Hale County resident Peanut Robinson. Share a little of that scene for the readers.
The Rural Studio’s headquarters are in Newbern, Alabama. The town has about 200 residents, a flashing yellow light, a mercantile store, and a post office. At the time of filming that scene, the Rural Studio had done very little of it’s work in Newbern and Peanut called us out on it. The students may have been having an ‘exchange’ with a community, or a client - but it was not with Peanut or many other of the residents in Newbern - many of them did not have a clue what all these kids with SUVS were doing there.

Don’t worry - we follow up with Peanut in the film.

How would you describe Samuel Mockbee and his legacy?
Sambo Mockbee really did pass the baton to whole generation of creatives to “be the architects of our own educations”, to trust ourselves, to get our hands dirty, to write our own job description, and as he says in the film - “to make this a better world”.

What’s next for Jack Sanders?
Design Build Adventure, always. Oh, and the Texas Playboys Baseball Club - this is a whole ‘nother story.

Photos by Kevin Byrd.

1 comment:

Landscape nomad said...

Hey there. I am trying to get in touch with Jack Sanders - do you have his contact info/email? Thanks (if you do or if you don't).