Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story


I first encountered Harold Michelson as a student at the AFI Conservatory in 1997. He was a sharp-witted, loveable and gifted storyboard artist and production designer. Harold taught a class at AFI called “Camera Angle Projection” and confounded us with his detailed knowledge of drawing storyboards that establish what the camera, fitted with a particular lens, sees in any given shot. His boards often included a miniature plan detailing the camera’s lens, height, and tilt. However, Harold’s talent reaches far beyond technical wizardry—his ideas for cinematic compositions would become some of the greatest ‘shots’ in film history.

On The Birds and Marnie, Harold helped bring Hitchcock’s visions to life on paper—often times long before the script was written. Cinematographer Robert Surtees set up just about every shot in The Graduate according to Harold’s innovative storyboards. The Ten Commandments, Spartacus, Cleopatra; from Ben-Hur through Spaceballs, Harold lent his cinematic genius to hundreds of movies. Yet, most of his work is uncredited.

Lillian Michelson is considered “the dean of film research,” and has contributed to hundreds of classic American movies in her own right, including The Birds, Fiddler on the Roof, Chinatown, all the Rocky movies, Annie Hall and Manhattan. From period dramas to crime thrillers, Lillian’s tenacity, research ability, and acquaintances on both sides of the law contributed to the authenticity of hundreds of films. Most of her work is uncredited as well.

I wanted to bring to light these little-known parts of the filmmaking process.

Harold and Lillian’s story humanizes Hollywood—an industry sustained by numerous hard-working cinema artisans; master craftsmen and craftswomen who give their lives, their genius and their hearts to the movies.

Beyond Harold and Lillian’s contribution to cinema, their story can’t be told without weaving in their 60-year marriage—a creative, challenging, and profoundly loving partnership.

HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY spans the Golden Age of Hollywood through New Hollywood and beyond. It’s a portrait of a time, and an intimate chronicle of their epic journey of life, love, family, and making great movies.

You’ve never met anyone like Harold and Lillian.

- Daniel Raim

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