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SXSW '06 Interview: 'Before the Music Dies' Director Andrew Shapter

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Before the Music Dies' Pitch: Two music fans investigate American music: it's rich past, troubled present, and bright future. Includes interviews and performances by Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Les Paul, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, and others. Industry perspective provided by representatives of CNN, USAToday, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and more.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
A portrait of the nation that gave the world gospel, blues, jazz, bluegrass, country, rock and roll, rap and hip hop.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
It's the first of 10 festivals for us in 2006.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be “When I grow up I want to be a …” what?
Film director. In fact, my teacher in High School mailed me my answer in an essay that I wrote in my junior year. Twenty years later, it landed in my mailbox. It said "film director."

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
After 12 years as a free-lance photographer, I felt is was the right time to try my hand at "moving" pictures.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Fozzy Bear.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Not at all. It was easy to ignore. That kind of thinking might trip up a good story in my opinion.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
After the death of my musician brother, I was inspired to make this film. With Producer Joel Rasmussen and the film crew, we traveled thousands of miles, visiting dozens of cities, speaking with hundreds of fans, journalists, record executives and musicians while searching for "real" American music. What they found were mega-talents without a major label, including one artist Eric Clapton believes is "the real thing." We arrived at a compelling story that actually makes viewers laugh out loud and it sometimes can even move folks to tears .........and that is very gratifying.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Don't let "early cuts" go out and circulate. No matter what people say, don't do it! It no different than painting. It's an unfinished canvas.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
Talk to Her by Pedro Almodovar. His visual "nature" transitions actually hit me and I set out to do the same in this first film. Also, his ability to show the physical areas that surround each character made an impact on me.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Paul Gaimatti.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
A Teddy Roosevelt bio pic. He was a real "action hero" so, I might actually need a sizable budget. No explosions, just a lot of locations in rough places such as the African Jungle and the Amazon.

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
It's a doc. But, Doyle Bramhall 2, our main character is destined to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's got it all.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
...a gardener.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
No dogs... However, I'd squash three cats to work with Winona Ryder.

Have you “made it” yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say “Yes, wow. I have totally made it!”
'm working as a filmmaker, so, yes....I've made it.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
Not at all.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Does it have to be legal?

You’re contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that’s absolutely integral to the film or you’re getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Leave it in.

What’s your take on the whole “a film by DIRECTOR” issue? Do you feel it’s tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it’s cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
No comment yet.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
With outstanding performances and revealing interviews, Before the Music Dies takes a critical and comedic look at the homogenization of popular music with commentary by some of the industry's biggest talent such as Erykah Badu, Branford Marsalis, Dave Matthews, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Questlove (from hiphop group the Roots), and many more.


Before the Music Dies, directed by Andrew Shapter, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival information, and be sure to check out the official Before the Music Dies website.

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originally posted: 02/28/06 17:50:42
last updated: 10/01/07 18:05:06
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