December 14, 2012

G’day LA

image

Two most noticeable differences between Nashville and LA (aside from the temperament of the drivers) are height and sprawl.

Not that Nashville has no skyscrapers (anyone who’s visited will be familiar with the Batman building), but it’s not dominated by dazzling towers affixed with gigantic visages of animated rabbits, vodka and (this week) Gerard Butler.

Nashville is basically a larger than usual small town. From the hotel I stayed at downtown, it was no more than fifteen minutes walk in any direction to get me to the Ryman Auditorium, Bridgestone Arena (where I saw The Who last week!), Gruhn Guitars, The Station Inn, Cantina Laredo and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

In LA, going pretty much anywhere from my hotel involves a $30 cab ride.

So with these differences in mind, and the general difference in temperament between the citizenries,  I was curious before our LA premiere: How differently would the film be received?

As often happens in early screenings of a film, seeing it played with an audience had given me insight into the pacing of the film. Some parts were playing slower than I had anticipated, some archival clips should be extended, some music cues held longer. Thankfully, there were a few days between the Nashville and LA screenings, so I had the opportunity to sit down at my laptop and rework the cut a little.

I ended up shaving off three and a half minutes over the course of the film and the difference was remarkable. Sitting in the crowd with Jim at the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater, the film seemed to move along much faster, and the moments I’d sensed attention waning in the earlier screening now held the audience to the screen.

After the film, Jim and I participated in a funny and moving Q&A (video coming soon) with Scott Goldman, Vice President of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares. He and I were on our sartorial toes, given that we’d be sitting down the with the best dressed man in Americana music.

Jim and I talked about our “plans” for an upcoming feature film adaptation of his Grammy winning albumThe Bluegrass Diaries. A young blonde in the audience asked Jim if he was married yet. Two remarkable moments came out of the evening:

First, when Jim, talking about his 30+ year friendship with Buddy Miller, recalled the time a few years when Buddy was struck down with a heart attack and Jim feared he might lose him. He paused for a long moment in the middle of a sentence, and I could see he was fighting back tears.

Secondly, a woman in the crowd began to cry as she confessed she’d been dragged along to the screening by a friend, not knowing who Jim was was. After watching the film, she’d gained a huge appreciation for his music and felt so ashamed for her ignorance of his work.

And that is exactly the reason I made the film. Jim’s career has stretched over so many genres, labels, cities and years that he can go to Wilkesboro, NC for MerleFest and be treated like Neil Armstrong coming home from the moon, yet there are millions of people around the world who wouldn’t know his name. Some know the country hits that have come from his pen, but not the bluegrass albums that won him Grammys. They know his work with Elvis Costello, but not his radio show with Buddy Miller.

Trying to condense Jim’s talent, generosity, humor and career into 90 minutes has been a supreme challenge, but the reactions from the people who have come along to these two screenings makes me think I captured some of his spirit.

image

Thanks again to everybody who ventured out on a winter’s night to the Grammy Museum and to Michelle Aquilato, Lynne Sheridan, Scott Goldman and Amanda Hale-Ornelas for making this screening happen.

See you all on the LauderTrail as the film makes it way to a cinema, tv network, laptop or DVD player near you!