Synopsis: This charming story of an unlikely friendship between iconic photographer Baron Wolman at the end of his prolific career and up-and-coming artist Sophie Kipner at the beginning of hers, takes us on an uplifting journey into an artistic collaboration that transcends eras and mediums. Quirky, fun and full of life, Sophie and The Baron is a whimsical look at the magic of just saying yes.
Of all the lucky things in my life, the one I love most of all is growing up in an environment surrounded by artists. Because of my parents there were always musicians around— working together, working something out, inspiring one another, trying to get it right, trying to tap into something. Whether it was in the studio while a song was being recorded, sleeping under the mixing console in the middle of an epic Springsteen concert, or everyone hanging out after a session, splayed out and spent, I got to see it from the inside. For me the art was always about the process and the people, and I loved it.
As a young kid I was always taking photos and making movies. Later, I began shooting stills freelance while still in school. I was studying politics and human rights and it was something I needed to do to make sense and manifest all I was learning and thinking about. I ended up shooting stills on a doc series called THE PRICE OF KINGS that featured various heads of state about the personal cost of leadership. While we were in Palestine two things became clear to me. One is I met our Executive Producer, Joanna Natasegara (Virunga, White Helmets) and knew I wanted work with her again and as often as humanly possible. The other is I realized then that I wanted to shoot the film, not just take the stills.
Some projects are long simmering thoughts that you work to develop and make happen. SOPHIE AND THE BARON came about the other way—it was something that was happening that I decided to try and capture. Sophie, my artist cousin, met the legendary photographer, Baron Wolman, when working at a bar in London. They became fast friends. When she returned to the States she asked him if she could reinterpret some of his incredible photographs and invited me over to her studio to meet him.
As a photographer who grew up in the music industry, I was obviously in love with Baron’s work and very soon after his person. What a gem of a human being. So loving, encouraging and cheeky! And Sophie is wonderfully quirky, talented and has inspired me my entire life, I’m her biggest fan. I felt something special in the room and just started shooting with no expectation of anything other than capturing Baron and Sophie’s genuinely endearing and wonderful dynamic. I was inspired by their love for each other personally and for each other’s work. The importance of one artist validating another, saying I respect and admire what you are doing, is hugely impactful. Baron was so encouraging of Sophie’s work, as well as mine as a filmmaker, which allowed for a lot of trust and comfort throughout the process.
There is something universal about youth wanting to understand the past- wanting to connect with something that will soon cease to exist… some of the magic of 1968, of Woodstock, of the Summer of Love. Sophie wasn’t alive then, but it spoke to her. Her best connection to it comes in Baron’s wonderful, eloquent photographs… and the hilarious, kind and generous genius who made them. I think all of us have some of this- a curiosity about how things used to be, a world that doesn’t exist any more. I shot the film over three years with an all female team and hope it captures the joy, love and magic in their friendship.
While this may look like just a film about two artists, SOPHIE AND THE BARON is also secretly a film about mortality. We fortuitously finished filming in Santa Fe right as the world shut down due to Covid in March. Just weeks after we finished shooting, Baron, who had been diagnosed with ALS four months prior, lost his ability to speak. Baron and I continued to message each other daily, and he loved being involved with the film — from giving me a hard time about misspelling Jimi Hendrix to patiently answering my (sometimes) inane questions about the sixties.
On November 2, 2020 we lost our beloved Baron. He told me several times he considered this film “the bookend to his life as a photographer and a friend.” This film not only brings attention to Sophie’s work but also breathes new life into Baron’s work, something he was very proud of. They serve each other in such a beautiful, profound way that for me truly defines their deep, loving and enduring friendship. Making this film has been the greatest honor I’ve had to date.
Alexandria Jackson is a director and producer with passions deeply rooted in music, film and technology. Alex holds a Masters in Film from USC and a BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley. She sits on the boards of UCLA’s Environmental School, and The Corazon de Vida Foundation.