Sundance: Musicians offer a close-up look at what it's all about
Music documentaries and concert films are nothing new at the Sundance Film Festival, but this year's crop includes two pop-related flicks that stand out from anything festival-goers have seen in the past.
"Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out" and ''Awesome: I F---in' Shot That!'' offer visual perspectives rarely seen in traditional rock docs and concert flicks, and both were directed by members of the bands captured on film.
"Everyone Stares" is the result of Police drummer Stewart Copeland's obsessive Super 8 filming of the run that took Copeland, bassist/singer Sting and guitarist Andy Summers from British punk obscurity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"I think we were in Phoenix or somewhere in Arizona [in the late 70s] with a day off, and we just got paid and had some loose change, which was rare in those days, so I got a movie camera and got into an obession of filming everything," Copeland said. "I pretty much lived the whole Police experience through the lens, which was sort of a drag. Then I forgot about it."
Copeland stashed his footage in a closet and went on to a successful career scoring films after the Police split in the mid-80s. Fast-forward a couple of decades, when Copeland gets a call from the Sundance Channel for a piece on film composers, asking if he has any old Police footage. Copeland pulled out his old film and, after it was converted into something he could play with on his computer, found himself editing a rough cut of what would become "Everyone Stares."
"It's about what it's like to be in a band like this," Copeland said, describing the insider's perspective of his movie. "It all comes into the camera. Everybody addresses the camera by name . . . The viewer of this film is being addressed personally by the screaming fans."
Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's "Awesome: I F---in' Shot That!" has a nearly opposite perspective. Yauch put 50 digital cameras in the hands of Beastie Boys fans to film the group's 2004 Madison Square Garden concert, creating a "concert film" like no other.
The only instruction that Yauch gave his amateur camera crew was to keep shooting the concert, beginning to end. Yauch added about 10 fixed cameras on stage to catch him, Mike D and King Ad-Rock performing, and in Mixmaster Mike's DJ booth.
"They could shoot anything they wanted," Yauch said, describing the fans. "There's certain moments when they're filming each other and you see different people getting into it, and you kind of see different people's personalities. To me, that's the most interesting stuff."
The Beastie Boys have been a fan-friendly act during their two-decade career, and even though Yauch isn't much of a fan of concert films, it was the fans themselves that inspired him to make "Awesome."
"We were on tour and I was looking at the band's [online] message boards one night, and some kid had shot part of the concert on his camera-phone and then posted it," Yauch said. ''Maybe 30 seconds of us running out on stage. It was all shaky and all over the place, but had an energy to it. The fact that it was at eye-level with the audience, it felt very real. I thought, 'Why don't we document a whole concert like that?' ''
Copeland's work on "Everyone Stares" was basically a solo mission, but he knew he would need Sting and Summer's approval to use Police music in the film, which he got.
"The main thing that struck me is how cheerful it all is," Copeland said. "I don't have any shots of us arguing. There's such a myth about the band fighting all the time that I tend to believe it myself."