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SxSW 2017 Interview: A LIFE IN WAVES director Brett Whitcomb

by Jason Whyte

"If you watched television, went to the movies, or listened to the radio in the 80s and 90s, you have probably heard Suzanne Ciani's work, whether you knew it or not. Suzanne is a five-time Grammy award nominated composer, electronic music pioneer, and neo-classical recording artist whose work has been featured in countless commercials, video games, and feature films. A LIFE IN WAVES explores the life and innovations of composer and electronic music pioneer, Suzanne Ciani. From her earliest days learning the piano, to her multi-million dollar advertising ventures, to her successes in the world of New Age music, to her recent re-connection with her beloved Buchla synthesizer, the film is a journey into Suzanne's mind, offering a feminine glimpse into the often complicated world of electronic music. Utilizing a wealth of archival footage and Suzanne's endless catalog of music, A LIFE IN WAVES is a nostalgic, visually compelling look at one woman's journey, and the trials she overcame to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated art form." Director Brett Whitcomb on A LIFE IN WAVES which screens at the 2017 South By Southwest Conference.

Great to have you in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes, this is our first time at SXSW. Also attending is writer/editor Bradford Thomason, and we are both beyond excited and plan to attend all our screenings. Suzanne Ciani is attending the screenings on Sunday, March 12th at 2:30pm at Alamo South Lamar, and Tuesday, Mar 14th at 6:15pm at the Zach Theatre.

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I got started into this business by simply going out and making films. I had no idea what I was doing but I kept doing it. Our previous work includes THE ROCK-AFIRE EXPLOSION, GLOW: THE STORY OF THE GORGEOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING and COUNTY FAIR, TEXAS.

Prolific journey so far! So how did A LIFE IN WAVES come together?

It started with her music. We have always been fans of electronic music, especially artists like Brian Eno and Jean Michel Jarre, but Suzanne's work was something else entirely. The album SEVEN WAVES in particular completely blew us away. Once we discovered her work in advertising and her history designing early synthesizers, we knew had to make the film.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

Other films and filmmakers keep me going. When I start to lose focus I watch some my favorite documentaries and that usually restores my energy.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The editing was the most challenging because of the sheer amount of footage we had to work with, but once Bradford finished the first rough cut, we could see the finish line.

I must get more technical with you as I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie and how it was shot.

I shot this on a Sony FS7 with the FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 Lens.

So what are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

We are most looking forward to sitting in the theatre and experiencing the film with our friends and family, and of course Suzanne. Lawrence Everson was the sound mixer on the film, and I can't wait to sit with him and experience it in a theater setting.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

After SXSW, A LIFE IN WAVES will screen at several more film festivals in the U.S. and internationally, and hopefully have its digital release soon after.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

One of the best theater experiences I have had was in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive during a movie, even if it was your own screening?

I am all for people leaving if they don't like a film, but I might have to turn around and stare at them if they are talking loud enough for other people to hear them.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

A documentary called TCHOUPITOULAS that screened at Hot Docs Film Festival in 2012.


SUNDAY, Mar 12, 2017 | 2:30pm at ALAMO LAMAR
TUESDAY, Mar 14, 2017 | 6:15pm at ZACH THEATRE
FRIDAY, Mar 17, 2017 | 2:15pm at ALAMO LAMAR

Follow A LIFE IN WAVES online at and on Facebook and Instagram!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview as part of our coverage of SxSW 2017. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2017 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 10-18. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/08/17 13:42:31
last updated: 03/18/17 01:10:50
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