"It's easier to bone the President's wife than to get a movie made." Ray Charles.

How a cult music book became a cult music documentary, and it only took ten years.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Making a living out of music documentaries seems to be an uphill struggle – how many of them actually get any kind of serious profile? Last year, there was Standing In the Shadows of Motown, which I have to admit I didn’t see – it got great festival exposure, and a good TV slot, but no cinema release. Then this year there was the excellent Ramones doc, End of the Century, which I think won an award at Sundance, and ran in cinemas in NYC and London, and is getting a high-profile DVD release (hopefully with tons of extras) later in the year. Since I’ve been trying to think through a biz plan for our potential investors, I looked up the co-producer/co-director of the latter film on the net, sent him a long email and was very impressed to get his response almost immediately – a long, informative and, to be honest, quite depressing response. All I’ll say is that the filmmakers don’t seem likely to make a penny out of all their work, due to some extremely ruthless management strategies deployed by people who were in a position to have the film killed if they didn’t get their way. I’ve always felt that when it comes to sheer, coldblooded greed and viciousness, the music business has film beat hands down, and that confirms the belief.

On the other hand, there’s always schmucks like me who just like the music a lot and want to tell people about it... and I’ve had an email from another such, Deryle, who’s making a movie about the great Eddie Hinton. And if you haven’t heard any Eddie Hinton, go out and find some, soonest. He's got a track on each of the two Country Got Soul CDs, they're pretty widely available and they're great. His first solo album has probably one of my favourite titles, ever - it's called Very Extremely Dangerous. I think I gave Donnie Fritts credit for writing Breakfast in Bed a few posts back, but it was co-written with Eddie. Not only could he write, he had the wildest, most soulful voice imaginable, and could have been a huge star – I don’t know why he didn’t make it, it might be that he didn’t look the part, and from what I hear he had some of the usual substance abuse problems, maybe more than the usual, and I think I remember Jim Dickinson telling me that he eventually got too hard to work with (and for Jim to say that, having dealt with Chilton, the Replacements and quite a few other, er, difficult customers, is really something...) – anyway, from what Deryle tells me, his film was sparked off by a suggestion from Robert Cray, who’s a serious Hinton fan. When someone like him talks, you listen. Which is how most of us get into this kind of situation – making movies for no money about people most of the world couldn’t care less about... until you get it into Sundance, win an award and end up on the transcontinental silver screen express, drinking the complimentary cocktails and wondering when you’re actually going to make any, y’know, money, out of all this....

Also through the genius of the Interweb, I’ve been in touch with Chuck Prophet’s manager, and the former Green on Red guy, ace songwriter and Dickinson cohort is playing London next month, so we get a good window to interview him. It’s a real shame that Jim and Chuck are missing each other by only ten days – the live CD Jim recorded with Chuck, 1000 Footsteps in the Sand, is really something. I’m looking forward to meeting the guy, he’s really one of the not-very-many rockers who have flown the flag for our kind of music, relentlessly, in the face of incomprehension and disbelief, over many years. I hear he’s doing well and selling lots of records these days, and I’m very happy to hear that. Sticking to your guns is a rare virtue in the music biz, it seems, and it’s even rarer to be actually rewarded for it.
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