the progress of a truly independent film
Many thanks to the supporters of our successful Kickstarter campaign this summer. We had over 350 backers from 20 different countries! Through a six week campaign we were able to raise over $60,000 and that last week was doozy. It was kind of miraculous to see the pledges double during the final 7 days (during the final 3 days we gained $20,000 to make our goal with just a few hours to spare!). It means a lot to have this kind of validation after the years of quietly gathering material for the film. We could never have reached all these supporters without Rich Tupica, who shared access to the large fanbases he has lovingly grown on his Facebook pages dedicated to Alex, Chris Bell & Big Star. Special thanks also to Iddo Patt, Pat Rainer, Barry McKluskie, Lynne & Henry Turley, Jake Sudderth & Anne Rivers and Thomas Ramstad, Banks & Anne Leonard, and Marianne Leonard for their generous support. We could not have reached our goal without them.
If you missed the campaign - you can still take a look at our Kickstarter page here:
It's exciting now to see the elements come together as I edit this film. I am fortunate to have such a wealth of great material to work with. The years of gradually shooting interviews while gathering performance footage, photographs, and other archives are now paying off as I see it all come together on the screen. It has been an odyssey that took me from Memphis & New Orleans to California, New York, Nashville, North Carolina, Glasgow, Paris and other places in search of the stories to be shared through the film. Through it all I'd say the goal has remained largely the same - to create a film that reflects Alex as he was known and understood by musicians he worked with. It is not a "fan" film. But maybe it is a friend film.
Thanks to the many friends and collaborators who generously shared their insights. We may have too many interviews (more than fifty) and not all will make it to the screen but the insights all have shared will contribute to the whole.
It's fantastic to have all these voices to work with but I've also searched far and wide for interviews with Alex himself to allow his inimitable voice to be represented as much as possible. He almost never gave interviews on-camera, but many writers and radio artists have shared the audio from interviews they made with Alex (including Robert Gordon, Bruce Eaton, Ben Sandmel, Steve Harris, Martin Aston and Parke Puterbaugh).
I am grateful to the many contributors who shared archival images. Some important archival material has come to light in the course of this project. Maybe the best examples came from Danny Graflund and Pat Rainer - two unsung heroes of the Memphis scene. Sitting in a cardboard box in Danny's closet were the original videotapes of possibly the only complete concert Alex ever allowed to be professionally filmed. They remained unedited for nearly twenty years until Danny gave me the chance to assemble them. The treasure that emerged: "Big Star: Live in Memphis", now has a life of its own as a stand-alone concert film and soundtrack (both released by Omnivore Recordings). This remarkable performance footage will also be prominently featured in the documentary. Pat Rainer's photography has also gained recognition following our work for the Alex film. After I spent several days with Pat scanning her images of Alex and the Memphis scene of the '70s & '80s - I suggested to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music that they should give her a show - and in 2018 they did!
It takes time and patience and a busload of faith to make an independent film like this.
My approach to the film has been to keep it as independent as possible for as long as possible. My experience as a cameraman and editor allowed me to fly solo in a way that few others could even attempt. I had no budget to hire anyone but this approach was also intentional. I think of Alex and how, from the 1980s on, he always kept his projects small so he could be independent. He preferred independent labels and small budgets so he could achieve success with work of his own choosing. Sure, I want the film to succeed, but this is a subject worthy of an independent approach. His story is so compelling that the film doesn't need to be big or slick to be good.
The film has been produced at such moderate cost that it's completion will be a bargain compared to many other music documentaries. The Kickstarter campaign was a huge boost but it will not cover all the costs of music licensing. As we approach completion of the film, it is necessary to find production partners and this process has begun.
The public interest in the film that began after the launch of this website and the release of our trailer has grown even stronger since the Kickstarter campaign. Alex and his music have many supporters who will wish to see a film about him. It is such a compelling story that it will also surely intrigue many viewers who've not yet heard of Alex Chilton.