Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Sounds of Sandburg

What a film sounds like is one of the important subtleties of film making. It was important to me that The Day Carl Sandburg Died had both an emotional and inventive score. The primary creator of this 'soundscape' is a brilliant composer and performer named Zoe Keating. Zoe plays the cello and composes while looping layers of her instrument. A few years ago our editor at Bonesteel Films, Evan Schafer heard an episode of WNYC's Radiolab featuring Zoe and he encouraged me to give her a listen. Her music is an evocative combination of classical cello and modern sounds, leaving room for the listener's imagination. I experimented with the music under the work-in-progress film and the combination was perfect. Check out her web page for samples of her music, especially her newest release "Into The Trees". We were also fortunate to be able to include Sufjan Stevens anthemic "Chicago" bring a modern background score to the section of the film that dives into the story of one of Carl Sandburg's most well known poems by the same name.

Another critical element in the sound of the film is the narrator, and we are really fortunate to have found a wonderful storyteller names Davis Bates. Davis' voice helps tell the story with an intensity and subtlety that makes for wonderful mix with Zoe's music. There is an abundance of other 'sounds' in the film with Sandburg's voice reading portions of his autobiography, poetry and a number of songs from his "American Songbag". And finally, Asheville composer and sound designer Bruce Sales crafted together the finished mix. All this and much more coming to a film festival, theater and PBS in the coming year! As always, say hello and stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is in the name?

The Day Carl Sandburg Died might strike some as a bit of a strange title for a film. I chose it to both pique curiosity and to make clear that this is not a standard biographical film. Its designed to bring Sandburg into the present. Its a film that challenges the viewer to think about the creative forces that were at work in Sandburg and how he was shaped by the volatile times he lived through, but more importantly, the modern relevance and reasons Sandburg is being rediscovered today.

The actual day he died, July 22, 1967 was an otherwise normal July day in Flat Rock, North Carolina. But his death marked the end of one of the most creative, prolific, expressive and influential lives yet lived by an American.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died is an 84 minute film that is almost finished. It will be officially released in early 2011 and I look forward to sharing it with you. Stay tuned to this blog for more news.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Illustrating Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories

Sometimes when you're making a film you gotta swing for the fences. Pick some 'best case' option and go for it. That's pretty much what I did with the artist David Cowles. I knew I wanted to illustrate/animate one of Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories for our film "The Day Carl Sandburg Died" so I took a look at some animation that I really liked on-line and loved what he had done for the band They Might Be Giants but I really didn't think he would be available or affordable. So I sent him an e-mail and the next thing I knew (much to his credit) he was working on it. Sometimes you just gotta ask.

Telling the fascinating story of Sandburg writing his wonderfully ahead of its time children's fiction (shortly after almost being arrested for espionage!) was always an important part of the film, but it had to have images as wacky and bizarre as the stories themselves... Thanks to David and his friend and animator Jeremy Galante, and even David's daughter's band "The Girls" contributing a fantastic yukalaylee song they marvelously created Sandburg's village of liver and onions from his Rootabaga Stories. Its a wonderful journey into the surreal portion of Carl Sandburg's brain. I can't wait for everyone to see it when the film premiers.

Thanks again David, Jeremy and Alison.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Where to? What Next? And the importance of asking that question

A significant question that gets asked in our film is when Studs Terkel echos Carl Sandburg's famous line from The People, Yes, "Where to? What Next?". Studs asks; "What other question can we ask today?" And in asking this he reminds the viewer of how eternal that question is, for us a individuals and for the United States as a nation.

Sandburg's original question and Studs' modern reference to it is really what this film is about. A window into the work and current relevance of Sandburg. Studs Terkel died on this day, October 31st, 2008, but his vast body of work and his contribution to our film will be enjoyed for many years into the future. He opened his doors and his mind to our project, and for that I am extremely grateful.

As we move towards finishing the film this month, entering it in countless film festivals and negotiating distribution possibilities this blog will change. Very frequently I am going to be celebrating some of the important people and moment that appear in the film. Please become a 'follower' of this blog and join the journey as we being to share the film with the world.

On November 2nd, the Asheville paper wrote a nice article about our status, thanks to Jason Sandford for that coverage. Take a look here.

Thank you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sandburg and Nixon

The image is compelling. Carl Sandburg speaking to a joint session of US Congress in 1959 with Richard Nixon sitting behind him as Vice President. Sandburg reads;
"Men and women. This country has always had them in crisis. Men and women who understand that where ever there is freedom, there have been those who have fought, toiled and sacrificed for it."
Of course, Sandburg could not have known how Nixon would fail to be one of those defenders of freedom, and fall in disgrace. But what Sandburg did know was that he'd seen his type before. In his day and in the history of Lincoln. He could see the turmoil the nation was facing and that it was ripe with opportunity for leadership or failure.

I bring this kind of statement back to this blog discussion because our film, The Day Carl Sandburg Died is being made primarily to tell Sandburg's story, and to create the opportunity for people to think about Sandburg again. To think about his ideas and hear his poetry again. To try and remember the scope of his life and the huge impact he made on the 20th century.

We are finishing the film as I write this, finalizing permissions and countless other duties, but stay tuned. My blogging and my enthusiasm to share Sandburg with the world has never been stronger.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Fragile, Handle with Care"

"Filmmaker on edge"...

For those of you keeping score at home, we're into extra innings... there is still light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel has gotten longer. We've had delays with our distribution and funding which now present new problems and opportunities... One of Carl Sandburg's definitions of poetry seems to sum it up for me:

At times like this I have to think back on the journey, and it's really been amazing. Many people have encouraged and supported us, and we are very grateful for the hundreds of people who have let us know how much this film needs to be made.

Suffice to say, the filmmaker is hanging in, trying to find the funds and the patience to finish the film even when new obstacles arise. Stay tuned for a more news soon.