Some stories are more difficult to tell than others. And some are just completely obstinate. Over five years ago, we began producing a historic documentary about the first super stars of country music. At the time, it didn’t seem like our film would fit neatly into that category, but in hind sight, that’s exactly where it fit. It was a fascinating story about the origins of one of the most popular genres of music ever. We researched the real life characters who rose from obscurity to great fame and fortune. And we lined up every expert we could think of who could shine light on the topic and filmed hours of interviews.
The real challenges began when we finally started editing. The director, Greg Gross, had recently purchased Avid Media Composer so we decided to cut on it. This was one of many mistakes to follow. Avid has been the leading maker of professional editing software since time began, but the learning curve was far too steep for us. Besides struggling with almost every aspect of the program, we quickly realized that we didn’t have nearly enough b-roll shots. B-roll shots are cut aways to photos or other footage like exteriors of building, old steam trains, shots of the main characters throughout their careers. We had gaping holes in our story line that needed to be filled. One solution that we came up with was traveling to various museums to film objects from the 1920’s. Greg drove to Camden, New Jersey to visit the Victrola museum. That trip turned out to be very helpful. He was able to grab additional interviews while he was there.
Another challenge was finding the story in all the interviews. We didn’t want to impose our ideas on the story, so we didn’t script it. We used a very broad stroke when asking interview questions, so that took us on my rabbit trails. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we actually did need a script to help guide the project, so Greg headed back into research mode to find the diamonds in the rough. The script actually turned out phenomenal… it just took more time. For the most part, the edit was on hold. Another delay in a long string of delays.
We plowed ahead like good filmmakers always do. Blinded by a blizzard of our own making, we kept fighting… mostly with each other. There was no money to buy the photo or stock video rights. There was definitely no money to buy the rights to music we needed. I remember Greg saying “We have to have the music.” Who makes a documentary about music without letting the audience hear the music of that time period. The recording studio and the publishing company both wanted $1500 for a 2 minute clip of just one of the songs. This obstacle wasn’t going away on its own, but we just shoved it to the back burner and kept doing what we could do. The next step was recording the narration. The director had connections with the local theatre… which had a talented pool of actors to chose from. We setup an audio recording studio in the upstairs corner of one of our good friend’s store and recorded a voice over full of warmth and quaint charm.
One of the executive producers at the time had connections with a couple of television networks and a dvd distributor. One of the networks had given us a letter of intent to air the doc if we ever finished it. And we were hopeful that the distributor would give us an advance if we could deliver a rough cut to them. In one of our last ditch efforts, we put together a teaser trailer to show them. Hoping it would be enough to get them to cough up some cash. We were closer than we had ever been to finishing the film, but still so far away.
The footage and all the assets have been sitting in hard drives ever since. We still believe that the “Music We Call Country” is a story worth telling. And starting today, this long awaited documentary is re-entering post production.