Scott Goldman, VP of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, interviews Jim Lauderdale and I after the LA Premiere of the documentary at the Grammy Museum, last Tuesday.
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.
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!
Highlights from the post-screening Q&A at our world premiere in Nashville. Jim and I are interrogated by Craig Havighurst.
Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Michelle Aquilato and Jeremy Dylan. Backstage at Ford Theatre at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
So there we go. After a few days shy of two years of work, the film premiered last Saturday in front of a mix of Americana luminaries and everyday music fans in the beautiful Ford Theatre at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
It really was the world premiere too. I was tweaking the edit at 1am Saturday morning, so this was the first time that cut of the film had been screened outside of my hotel room. As I write this, I’m on a plane from Nashville to LA, making a few more tweaks before tomorrow night’s LA premiere at the Grammy Museum.
I was a great experience to sit up the back of the theatre with Jim and watch his face as he saw his life played out in front of him. I never would’ve said it to him while we were making the film, but as long as he thought the film did him justice, anything else was just a cherry on top of the cake. It was also a gas watching the back of the heads of the people in the crowd who are in the film, chuckling at archival footage of themselves from throughout the past 30 years.
We did a very fun post-screening Q&A with the wonderful Craig Havighurst, who has a few archival cameos in the film. Craig interrogated Jim and I on the inception of the film, some of the highlights of the production process and distribution plans going forward. We also had a few snappy questions from the crowd. There is video of the Q&A and I’ll hopefully have it up for you all to see sometime tomorrow.
Thanks again to everyone who came out for the screening. There’s no bigger kick for a filmmaker than experiencing your work with a great audience, hearing them laugh at the funny bits or bob their head along to the music. I couldn’t think of a better place to do our world premiere either. Jim is so much a part of the fabric of Nashville and so beloved by people there. And to do it at the very museum that features some of his award trophies and outfits in one of their exhibitions – it was, in a lot of ways, perfect.
So now onward and upward to the City of Angels for premiere number 2. Hope to see all you LA folks out in force for our 7.30 start.