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PAID TO DREAM: Ed Asner

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By Charles Dennis, Paid to Dream

Here’s a secret the cantankerous Ed Asner doesn’t want you to know: he’s a sweetheart! But he’ll do everything possible to keep you from finding that out. I flew him to Las Vegas some years ago to appear in my movie HARD FOUR. He was delighted to go. It was only when it came time to shoot his scenes that I realized why he was so eager to make the journey. He’s mad about poker. I had to drag him away from the tables to shoot his scenes. At the 2017 Riverside International Film Festival – where we both received awards – I was asked to introduce him. I gave him a glowing, heartfelt endorsement.

 

He, in turn, told the audience: “Charles Dennis is a con man. That’s why you should see his movie CHICANERY. The work of a con man.”

I still love you, Ed. Pain-in-the ass that you are.

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How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

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Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

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Fearless Bravery: Pennebaker and Hegedus on Documenting Life as it is happening

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“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”  — William Shakespeare. 

If all the world’s a stage, we can clearly state that documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker literally invented a way to capture life as it’s happening without being invasive or intrusive.

They have captured some of the most exciting moments in rock and roll and real life. From Dylan’s Don’t Look Back to the debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in “Monterey Pop” to the behind-the-scenes Political documentary, “The War Room,”  D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus  created some of the most exciting and ground-breaking cinema  ever photographed.  But it’s not the type of footage you’ll see in mass market, but instead, they bring you into the story, into the lives and places, backrooms, dressing rooms, stages and airports, seeing the moments that make the difference, telling the story of life as it’s happening right in front of their very eyes, not sure what’s to come next….. Yet  captivated  by every new moment…because as documentary filmmakers, there is no script—ever, and they’re living through the moment as they’re looking thru the lens.

They have captured some of the most exciting moments in rock and roll and real life. From Dylan’s Don’t Look Back to the debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in “Monterey Pop” to the behind-the-scenes Political documentary, “The War Room,”  D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus  created some of the most exciting and ground-breaking cinema  ever photographed.  But it’s not the type of footage you’ll see in mass market, but instead, they bring you into the story, into the lives and places, backrooms, dressing rooms, stages and airports, seeing the moments that make the difference, telling the story of life as it’s happening right in front of their very eyes, not sure what’s to come next….. Yet  captivated  by every new moment…because as documentary filmmakers, there is no script—ever, and they’re living through the moment as they’re looking thru the lens.

Uncut and verbatim, the conversation we had many years ago reveals the inner workings of their creativity, what makes them tick…..and what gets them to talk. This conversation took place in 1994 at their home on the Upper West Side in New York City.  Broadband was new, we didn’t have the smart phones or the tech that we have today. Please keep this in mind as you experience the conversation.

 

There had to be a moment when you know what you wanted to do.

Chris Hegedus:   I always knew as a child I wanted to be in the arts, and I went to the Hartford Art School and then the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, which had all sorts of interesting people there. People such as Philip Glass, and painters and filmmakers, and it was a very creative environment. Because the art world was burgeoning towards conceptual art and performance art, I didn’t really see how to make a living doing it, and after a while I lost interest in it because I really didn’t want to be a conceptual artist.

I didn’t see a place for me in the art world, and most of my work at the time had been photography and minimal art film making, and when I graduated from college, I got a job in Ann Arbor working for the University of Michigan Hospital working for a surgeon there, he gave me a job making films of surgery, and I got dropped into a career where most people have to go to medical school first.

And is was fascinating to me, and it seemed like this was a way of making films, getting dropped into peoples lives and getting into this inate voyeuristic scenario watching this entire drama unfold infront of you. In this case, it was the drama of what went on in the operating room. I used to make the analogy of this was like Doctor Marcus Welby or Mash—but much more like MASH. That really turned me around. That there was a job I could do in filmmaking, and that I could do films about the real world.

I had seen some of Pennebaker’s films, and as I graduated from film school, I knew I didn’t know how to be a Hollywood Director. I saw how to make these stories happen in real life. But the equipment became developed so where we could rent a rig in the late 60’s or early 70’s and we could get our hands on great equipment, and my interest escalated with the advent of more technology become easily available.

When you are documenting life as it is happening, do you feel it necessary to get into a comfort zone so that they audience can feel that they are there with the subject you are filming? In a way, filming so that the viewer can be part of it?

D.A. Pennebaker   I Don’t think it’s our problem so much, but I think that you’re not thinking about it this way. It’s like you are writing a play based on characters, whether you are Shaw or Aristophones, but you are writing a film about characters that you know, but in this case, the characters are right in front of you. And the instant is right now. And if they are going on the plane going somewhere, you make a judgement call to see if you want to film that. And why do you want to film it? Well—it’s a connective to where we are going. And where we are going is really what it’s all about. We’re not interested in airport conceptual filmmaking, but at the airport, they might make a phone call, they might look out of the window, they might say something, and those are the longshots…you say that you want to get someplace with them, so when you get to the place where you do want to film what we want to film, we’re part of that entourage. And that in a sense, is what guarantees you the continuous entrée. And it’s maintaining that entree as continuously as possible during the process of filming, but you are really writing a play, but the pencil is really uncertain and undetermined, and you can’t be sure if this line is what you want until you sit down to edit it, but you know you need to have something up on the screen to look at. It’s not a problem if the characters are going to act for you. If that were the problem, you wouldn’t even start it. Because if you thought that there is a chance that they would be acting, you would say, fuck it, I can’t do it, it’s too hard.

 

 

Obviously you must have their trust in you before you start the process of documenting them….

 

Pennebaker Maybe it’s not even trust. It’s trust in a way, like if you go out drinking with some friends you don’t want them to pull at you in some way, to get the fifty bucks you have in a pocket. But it happens is because they want to do it. Now why they want to do it is not our problem. When James Carville says “Why should I let you into my secret chamber?” which is the size of a basketball court, the only thing you can tell him is ‘because you want to.’ Now he has to figure out what that means. And when he does, you do it, and you’re not promising him any spiritual solution, but he has figured out what you are doing, and he figures out that out based on what I’ve done in the past, and he knew I had done Kennedy, and it was a politician, and he felt that the two of us didn’t have any other agenda. We weren’t going back on the air that night and put any footage on television and make him look like an asshole. That is something that he figures out, and when you come to a hard place, you don’t ever get to a place where you push a piece of paper in front of his face and say “James, you signed a contract, we have to do this.” They decided to initiate in a way, and the way you do it, gives them the sense that it’s their film. Whether or not they act is not the issue or important. Whether Dylan is acting. Now Chris, when you wanted to be in the arts, and you saw yourself as an artist.

 

When I grew up, an artist was a guy who painted a picture. Never in my life did I see myself as an artist. And my entire life, I was figuring it out, what was driving me. Because I was unemployable, I didn’t want to do what others were doing. I was trained as an electronic engineer. I was hired by a big company to build big projects. I was projected on a road, but I never saw myself wanting to be an artist. I didn’t know what an artist was. It took me years to figure out what the problem was.

 

As we are sitting here right now, Broadband technology is rather new, and there are companies who are making it possible for digital filmmakers to get their work out there.  Do you feel this is going to be the forefront for filmmakers?

 

Hegedus Sure! We wouldn’t have been able to make the last three films had it not been for digital. We’re doing a new film on digital. Startup.com was shot on a tiny DV camera. It makes it all possible. To do it on film would have been so costly and we wouldn’t have been able to raise the money to do it on film. The digital side is a definite reality of staying alive as filmmakers. Nobody was going to fund Startup.com, so we did it ourselves and we were able to do it. Moon Over Broadway was so expensive on film and so was The War Room. Because you had to pay the actors because of the unions, and we were filming in a Broadway theater. And it puts filmmaking in the hands of the multitudes now, you can edit on computers and it’s a whole different age.

 

Pennebaker     I think that what is going to determine if we’ve come to a branch in the road and there is no turning back, well, I think we’ve already crossed that path. The most interesting films we’re going to get as opposition to Hollywood films, which are predicated on a celebrity driven performance, that has been promoted and is so well known that people are going to see it—so you have something that is so conditioned by broad advertising appeal…but the young people coming in, the imaginations that are coming in, these people cannot afford to do it in film, they cannot afford the film stock, the labs, the prints. When a Hollywood Film comes out they are making 12-15,000 prints, and sending them out to theaters all at the same time, and running ads, and their ads and promotion is probably the same cost as making the film. And then you have independents turning out ‘crackers’ that some people are interested in seeing. So that aspect of the thing, driven by the fact that the theaters are going to show some of the films in video soon. Video projection is going to save the lives of a lot of smaller theaters who cannot afford to compete with the bigger theaters. And TV—well, TV isn’t interested because TV wants to sell cheese. They are not interested in the independent film making market. It contradicts everything they want to do.

 

I have always admired your commitment to quality…

 

Pennebaker   When you speak of quality, people know about intuitively, but in the end people only hear what they are prepared to listen to.

 

I remember listening to my 78’s, the quality of them is so much better than the LP’s….. I know that my brain is very seducible, I can’t say that is no good because I don’t hear it now. But I can hear and see what I want to hear and see, and the imagination is so powerful, that the new independent films are going to have so much imagination…people are going to make them, and theaters are going to run them. And they are going to be a little adjunct, but will never get 200 million heads…… So he really can’t worry about that major market. That’s only for the people selling cheese.’

 

You had mentioned Phillip Glass earlier in our conversation. He appears to be an artist who is able to balance and maintain artistic integrity and commercial success.  A rarity.

 

Pennebaker   Well he can make an opera and get it out. That’s a hard thing to do. We can make a film and get it into the theaters. That’s a hard thing to do. Most independents have a hard thing doing that, surviving from film to film. The question is, “is that journalism or is that art?” A lot of people are interested in knowing if these films are perceived as journalism. It doesn’t matter what our intentions are. But how are they perceived by a larger market…… Journalism doesn’t interest me so much.

 

 

Couldn’t “Don’t Look Back” be viewed as journalism, or a different kind of journalism, because you were capturing Dylan as it was happening, bringing and audience to witness the story as it is happening?

 

Pennebaker   But is that Journalism?

 

I don’t know

 

Pennebaker   I don’t know either!

 

Since documenting life as it’s happening right before your eyes, in order to create the mosaic you are looking for, does the editing process  become a grueling process?

 

Pennebaker    It’s like you are shooting again. And the difference in the process, I believe the difference, in a movie, the camera is part of the set, it is part of the actors, it moves like the actors, it is behind the glass. It moves like the actors. It doesn’t look around. For us, the way I see the camera, is the camera is the audience in the theater, and everything that happens on the stage is organized by someone else, someone else is planning their life day by day, moment by moment, and we’re not part of it. We have to make decisions what to shoot, when not to shoot, and we’re like the audience that is surprised because the camera is surprised in a theatrical kind of way. The editing takes that position and puts it is a more theatrical way. There is no certain way we always do it, but in the end, we come to an agreement about the way we want to be a pair of eyes, a pair of heads watching it.

 

 

Hegedus  There are two parts of our filmmaking. The first part is our detective work, it’s shooting the film and anticipating what we want to do, like in “The War Room” before we shot the film, we visualized the film as about a man becoming President. But when we got in there, we made decisions like “What is the story we are going to find here?” and who is passionate about what they are doing, and the stakes are high, and we were lucky to follow James Carville and George Stephanapolous. The second part is when you get the film back, is trying to make the story with the material you received, and that is an entire different kind of detective work. When you are making the film, the characters create drama. So before you are editing, you realize that the story line needs to create drama, so it’s all created in the editing room. The structure and the style, and how it evolves. And that is something you really think about when you are shooting, because when you are making the film, you are obsessed with capturing the moment and trying to figure out what the story is and how to get access to the people, and get what is there.

 

You seem to find a way to maintain your own autonomy, a rarity in this overly commercialized world run by a studio system whose only interest are profits.   What was it about growing up, your life as a child and your upbringing which may have implanted this way of being?

 

Hegedus    My mother was a teacher who loved the arts, and she fostered the love of learning. Somehow, and maybe it was inherit in growing up, there had to be some sort of passion that you have within you. And I don’t really where it comes from…..but it happens. So, who knows why you become passionate about what you are doing. My father was a corporate sales executive, not an artist so much. He was very much in the business world. A funny thing that happened recently at a family dinner, is my mother asked a question to everyone, “Tell me, if you weren’t doing what you were doing, what would you want to do?” And my father, who really surprised me, told everyone that he would have really loved to have been an artist!!! For me, I felt as if I was doing what I wanted to be doing.

 

Pennebaker   I think that the language acquisition moment—it can happen at any time in your life. It was when my friend Francis Thompson brought in a film and showed it on my wall. I had a projector in my apartment and a turntable underneath it. We used to show films like this with music going with a film, and I was about 25 or 26 at the time….and I had thought a lot about music, art and poetry, I was writing at the time, and doing a lot of stuff that was peripheral around the arts, and he had this film called NYNY and it was all abstract pictures of New York City.

 

It wasn’t that the pictures told me anything amazing, it was that he had done it by himself and I knew that I was probably not going to write a big novel, and while I had friends who were painters, I knew that I wasn’t a great painter, I knew that there were people who knew more than I did, and I couldn’t catch up with them, and I knew they would lead, and I became very depressed. But I had a company downtown that made computers and I abandoned it. And when I saw this film, and I realized “that’s it! That’s what I am going to do the rest of my life. I wanted to make films!

 

And I had all of these other things I have started, and I had a wife, and a child, and a life going, and now it became so clear to me…..and I knew how to make distorted pictures like Francis used, but I wanted to make a film by myself, the idea of controlling the work was so amazing….. and I loved working on films, and I learned how to make a scene, and how to make dialogue by doing it, but I couldn’t stand not being responsible for the final thing…. The final thing should be a jewel….and in most cases it was flawed and a badly cut film (by others) because they didn’t have the control of its final destination. It was a bad imitation of a jewel. And the first time I made a film the way I wanted to make it was don’t look back

 

Were you a Dylan fan?

 

Pennebaker    I knew that he was going to be a very important person.

 

So you weren’t a fan initially?

 

Pennebaker   Well, I became a fan because he was such an amazing musician. I was looking into the fiery furnace there, and I was about 40 watching a younger person trying out things, experiment. I had no doubts that the film I was going to make would be around for 25 years after I made it.

 

How long did it take to edit?

 

About three weeks.

 

 

Did you know what you wanted it to look like when you were done filming?

 

Pennebaker   No, I didn’t. I put off editing for about two months. I didn’t know what the film was about really, and it wasn’t until Michael Quinn said “If you’re not going to do it, I will do it. So I put my mind to it, and edited it on a viewer, not really an editing machine…”

 

How could you suggest to the up and coming filmmakers, art students, music students, anyone who is in the creative fields to find a way to maintain a level of autonomy, with the understanding that most of the people at the top levels of the studios, don’t really care about the story they are telling but are interested in the financial return.

 

Pennebaker     They really need feedback. They want somebody to tell them they love them, or that they have something good, it comes out of that need initially.

 

Hegedus     People in our career, you have to be incredibly passionate and have incredibly strong convictions of what you want to do. There are not a lot of financial rewards.

 

Pennebaker    You also have to be brave. Because with every chance, there is a chance of total disaster. And you have to be able to deal with that. But to deal with the idea that it might be a disaster. That is an aspect of independents that people don’t think about—is they are very brave. Bands such as Depeche Mode—are very brave….. But you didn’t answer my question. Art versus journalism.

 

I don’t really know. Isn’t life part of journalism?

Pennebaker     And now my final question….Do you have any sense in your own head of what defines art?

 

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