Happy to announce that the forthcoming VH1 Rock Doc about Napster will have its public debut on March 14 at the South By Southwest festival. Napster co-founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker will appear with actor-filmmaker Alex Winter to discuss the company and its aftermath. Developed by then-teenaged Fanning in 1998, Napster went bananas and become a phenomenon, throwing the music business into disarray. Legal challenges ultimately doomed the service but the firm paved the way for today’s music players like iTunes, Rhapsody, & Spotify. This panel is a lead off event at the music conference. Look forward to having music doc fans hear what we’ve been working on for the past year.
The other site to visit if you’re a music doc fan (and honestly, ought to be your first stop) is Music Film Web. And just like last year, they’ve compiled a list from many music doc aficionados of the top music docs of the past year. I contributed to it (as you can read on the link). From the consensus, seems like Sound It Out (trailer above) – about the last record store in an English town – and Bob And The Monster – about Celeb Rehab guru and substance abuse counselor Bob Forrest – were the consensus top two of the year. Notable omission: Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam doc didn’t make anyone’s fave list. What did you like best? Write in the comments!
CMJ has long been indie music’s debutante ball with thousands of hopefuls streaming into NYC for four crazy days of music. It’s really fun, especially for those with enough stamina. But in the past few years, CMJ has been adding more and more film to its festival and they have some pretty good offerings this year, particularly for docs. They’ll screen Pearl Jam 20, the Tribe Called Quest doc but have a few other novel offerings. There’s a doc called Freaks in Love about old punksters Alice Donut and a Ministry concert film. And one of the narrative docs, Killing Bono, is supposedly based on a true story about U2’s high school rivals who never made it big.
One NYC debut that caught my eye was Broke*, another entry in the death of the music business docs. The film follows an up and coming artist Will Gray through the recording process (helmed by T Bone Burnett) and how an artist has to navigate the shoals of today’s uncertain path to success. John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, and Don Was are the big name interviewees. The film premieres Wednesday October 19 at Clearview Chelsea Cinema at 3:00 PM.
When the topic of “Women in Rock” is invariably raised depending on what’s hot or not on the charts, it usually focuses on female singers or female fronted bands. Now it looks like female guitarists and their efforts to gain cred and fame in the male-dominated strumming world is the focus of an upcoming doc. She Rocks is about the history and rise of female guitar players and their experiences. Jordin Sparks, Steve Vai and Michael Jackson’s last guitar player Orianthi are the big names in the film which also features many other female guitarists, some of which play dazzlingly in the trailer. Per the film’s producer, She Rocks is nearly finished and seeking funds for distribution.
Wondering if anyone caught the first screening of this documentary about rap pioneers the Sugarhill Gang called I Want My Name Back. It played last Friday night at the 15th annual Urbanworld Film Festival. It tracks the “whatever happened to” story of original Sugarhill Gang members Master Gee and Wonder Mike and what’s happened to them since they recorded Rapper’s Delight. Comments welcome; I’ll write another post if I get a chance to see it soon.
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Ice-T publicly vowed that he only does “important” projects. So the team at VH1 Rock Docs was pretty honored he got involved with our latest film, Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation. Narrated by Ice-T and filled with interviews from rappers like Snopp Dogg, RZA, Raekwon, Too Short and many more. The film draws out the connection between the drug economy in the inner cities and how pioneering rappers responded to the change in urban America, reflected it in their music and ultimately stopped glamorized it (for a time, anyhow.) And its an elegy of sorts for the crack generation, many African Americans are still incarcerated today under mandatory minimum sentencing laws that were disproportionate to similar crimes, like dealing powder cocaine. It’s a real thought provoking film whose many issues linger long after the credits roll. Check it out Sunday night September 18th at 10 pm on VH1.
And for New York City residents: the film will also play at the Urbanworld Film Festival Saturday September 19th at 9 pm at the AMC 34th Street Theater 11.
The long anticipated Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison doc now has a trailer. Living in the Material World , a project Scorsese seems to have been working on forever, showcases interviews from Beatles era notables like Eric Clapton, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Ringo Starr, Patti Boyd, Olivia Harrison and more. The film will premiere at the upcoming New York Film Festival and then be shown on HBO on October 5th and 6th (in two parts because its a three and a half hour film.)
So now that its’ finished, who wants to make a Ringo doc with me?
It’s once again ballot season for panels for the South By Southwest film festival. And I’ve proposed another panel called The Great White Whales of Music Docs , those dream projects that never get made. See a full description below.
SXSW chooses panels based on audience interest. So I’m asking for your vote! Could you please visit this SXSW panel picker link and support this pitch with a vote or comment? Voting goes until September 2nd. Many thanks!
Full description: Every director and producer has a great white whale: the groundbreaking, fascinating, inspirational music documentary that just couldn’t get made. Maybe the band got camera shy; maybe the music rights were controlled by an out-of-control lawyer; maybe the topic was too hot for film. Whatever the problem, this panel will feature producers and directors who will share war stories from their own failed projects and discuss their unmade/unfunded dream music documentaries. We’ll also dish about famous forbidden footage (from bands like the Rolling Stones, Guns N Roses and more) and the prospects of those vaults being opened in our lifetimes. And we’ll ask the audience to share their most desired music documentaries, the films they’d stand in line for at the theaters if only they could be made!
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I’d always been dubious of the Kings of Leon backstory. Raised in a tiny Oklahoma small town American by a pentecostal family, these musicial giants foresaked their heritage to become rock and roll stars. It just seemed like something the marketing department of a record label would dream up.
So I fully recant my suspicisions now having seen Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon which premieres Sunday night on Showtime after a series of festival runs. This doc shows the Followill brothers as teens, singing church choir songs in powder blue suits and introduces viewers to their extended clan. In fact, the band members play almost passive roles in this doc, where scenes are stolen by some amazing small town characters and the Kings’ various uncles. This doc, directed by first timer Stephen Mitchell and produced by Casey McGrath, is actually one of my favorite music docs of the year, even though the band doesn’t move me musically. But the film is a bold kalidescope of story, background, impressions, characters and music and is surprisingly moving in many ways. Definitely worth catching.