Music documentary

Guy Clark’s Music Documentary Seeks To Get Its SXSW Due, Year Later

“Well, that may sound like déjà vu …”, wrote filmmaker Tamara Saviano on her Facebook page this week, alerting her friends that her documentary on musician Guy Clark, “Without Getting Killed or Caught” was announced. Thursday as this year’s South By premiere. Southwest Film Festival… as it was announced last year. The good news is that this year’s SXSW, being virtual, cannot be canceled (at least unless there are dire societal circumstances even worse than a pandemic), so the doc is pretty much certain to meet its premiere date this time around. .

Saviano made the difficult decision last March to wait a year and resubmit it in the hopes that the festival’s screening committee wouldn’t change their mind. If a film about some of Texas’ most famous singer-songwriters – Townes Van Zandt also being a main subject – couldn’t premiere at SXSW, where could it premiere? Well, lots of other virtual festivals, probably, but the relevance of an Austin launch made Saviano feel like it was worth putting the orange film on hold for a year, after rushing to finish it early. 2020.

“When we applied to South By for the 2020 festival, I wasn’t sure if we would be there,” says Saviano – unlikely as that prospect is, between the subject of the film and its quality. “It’s hard to get into big film festivals like this. And when it got canceled, we got accepted into virtual film festivals that were happening later in 2020. And I was like, you know what? I want to wait and see if we can get into South By again. It was not a guarantee because, at first, we didn’t even know if South By was coming, and also, we were very lucky because a lot of films accepted in 2020 were not accepted in 2021. We really lucky twice, because the first in South By Southwest is what I always wanted.

Any Clark fan who doesn’t want to buy a festival pass just to see the movie won’t have to wait long for another. More than a week, in fact, before the start of a campaign of virtual projections. It’s a mark of how much independent film distribution has changed over the year since what would have been the documentary’s bow in 2020.

“I hate everything about this pandemic so I don’t want to give it credit at all,” says Saviano. But there is a silver lining in “the year I had to study cinema.” Over the past year, of course, the world of cinema has changed dramatically. It’s like the music industry was about 10 years ago, where suddenly there were so many options going direct to consumer, cutting out the middleman. It is happening in cinema right now in a big way.

“And there are so many different distribution options. I mean, it’s mind-boggling how many opportunities there are for filmmakers, especially in my situation, because we’re not trying to reach out to all “Wonder Woman” fans. We have a built-in niche audience, and it’s a growing niche. We know how to reach that audience and go straight to them. So while I don’t know what will happen in South by Southwest – maybe a big distributor will come and give me an offer I can’t refuse – the release of my movie is not far from it. I have so many options. And I wouldn’t have known that last year in South By. I would have just let my agent find out with whoever wanted it, and now I don’t have to do that anymore, which is great. Although I wish we were all in Austin together and I was the big party animal and we had the big gig that we were going to have.

The SXSW Film Fest takes place online March 16-29, but, as Saviano told friends, “if you’re willing to wait a few extra days until March 23, you can bypass the festival ticket and attend our first virtual screening event, sponsored by Kessler Presents, with special guest Rodney Crowell “(who features in the film, having stepped out of the same Texas-Nashville scene in the ’70s and’ 80s). More virtual events are scheduled for April 8, 16 and beyond, sponsored by SiriiusXM’s Outlaw Country Channel, Yeti (!) And other sponsors, with guests to be announced. Other such screenings will likely take place for a few months before “Caught” becomes available for video on demand, possibly in May, with actual theatrical screenings as soon as pandemics permit. (Screenings and other information can be followed on the film’s official website, here.)

Saviano, who co-directed and co-produced the film with her husband, Paul Whitfield, designed the film primarily for those already interested in Clark and the first prototype of the American music scene that swirled around him. But “for people who don’t really know Guy, what I hope is that they become captivated by the music. There are 26 songs in the film. And I hope that gets them to descend into Guy Clark’s rabbit hole, because I think everyone should be a Guy Clark fan.

But the film’s portrayal of a triangle between three strong, artistic, and strangely intertwined personalities – Clark, Van Zandt and Clark’s wife, Susanna – may intrigue moviegoers who have never even heard classic songs like “Desperados Waiting for a Train “or” LA Freeway “before. There is an indefinable love triangle at the center of the film, which would make it almost suitable for a double bill with a film like “Jules and Jim”, as the lines between romance, friendship, resentment, and respect. become more difficult to define as these relationships age. the decades.

Saviano wrote a biography of the same name, published in 2016, which was more sprawling. She knew she had to find more than one story for narrative screen purposes.

“My book is 450 pages and sort of covers everything, and I knew I had to reduce the focus for the film. I feel like while I was writing the book Susanna’s voice was still lost in this mix. And that was such an important voice, because she was the muse – and she was the successful songwriter. She was the one who made money writing songs, and she was a painter and an artist in her own right. So I wanted it to come from Susanna’s voice. And the three of them had such an interesting relationship. The way Susanna framed it – it’s in the movie that way – is that Guy was her husband, Guy and Townes were best friends, and Susanna and Townes were soul mates. And Guy accepted. I mean, they were all willing members of this triangle. And I think Susanna’s relationship with Townes kind of relieved Guy; he didn’t have to be the lovely husband all the time, you know? So I found this relationship fascinating. And in the winter of 2017, my co-writer, Bart Knaggs, and I took an eight-week screenwriting workshop in Austin, and that’s when we really decided to try to tell it from Susanna’s point of view and focus on the three of them. It all fell into place so that was the way to go, and I’m really happy with that angle.

Working on the book for seven years, Saviano had read the diaries of Susanna Clark, who was the flame that attracted all Houston and Nashville butterflies in the ’70s,’ 80s, and ’90s. But she resisted listening. of all the audio cassettes that Susanna left behind. Once she did, after the book was released and filming began, she decided that Susanna should be the narrator for the film. But it wasn’t Susanna’s literal voice she was using (although some of those tapes are heard in the movie). She had the idea to ask Sissy Spacek to be the voice of Susanna in the film.

Saviano didn’t have to wonder if there was an audience for the movie while she was doing it. A year before the book’s publication in 2016, she set up a Kickstarter for Clark fans to support the film.

“The reason we created the Kickstarters was because I knew music licenses were going to be very expensive. So I thought if we could raise $ 80,000, that could put a big dent in music licensing, and then I would feel like there is enough audience to do that. But if not, I won’t even do it. So we passed $ 75,000 in three days. And I was like, ‘Oooh! Obviously an audience. We raised $ 180,000 on Kickstarter, which was our seed money to get started. And our investors all heard about our movie through Kickstarter and came to us because of it. From a marketing standpoint, this gave me a lot of information, and it was very helpful to me when my book came out as well. I was shocked because all month I was like, ‘Oh my gosh people always give money.’ So we’re here thanks to Kickstarter. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

Delaying the film’s 12-month premiere meant spending an extra year in Guy Clark’s world – although she had other things on her plate as well, such as until recently being Kris Kristofferson’s manager. It’s an open space she has lived in since she started the book 13 years ago.

“I didn’t think I was going to stay here that long, that’s for sure, but I don’t regret a thing. The people I met on the trip were wonderful. Spending this intimate time with Guy, now that he’s gone, and think about how I was at his house almost every day for eight years (before he died in 2016) – what a gift. So yes, I can’t wait to do other things, but it has been the trip of a lifetime.