DOCUMENTARY FILM COMPETITION SPOTLIGHT: Exclusive Interview with RADIO UNNAMEABLE directors PAUL LOVELACE and JESSICA WOLFSON!
I cannot urge you enough to take a look at all the amazing entries in our Documentary Film Competition! If you're interested in nature and the environment you will love Chasing Ice and The Atomic States of America! Interested in the economy? Detropia is the one for you. Ballet? First Position offers a visually stunning look at young ballet dancers in competition. The justice system? Justice for Sale is your flim. In you were enlightened and moved by How to Die in Oregon last year than you must see The Patron Saints this year! The David "little guy" versus the "Goliath" big corporations? Big Boys Gone Bananas is your ticket. And if you love fringe radio and want to know how giants like Bob Dylan first gained notice on the air, I present to you Radio Unnameable! CLICK ON ANY OF THE FILM TITLES I JUST LISTED TO BUY TICKETS NOW! I mean it, Speed Racer, they're going FAST!
THE INSIDER: What inspired you to make a documentary about the legendary radio presenter Bob Fass?
PAUL LOVELACE: I co-directed a previous film called The Holy Modal Rounders... Bound to Lose (which screened at SFF in 2006) about the psychedelic folk duo from New York City. They were on Radio Unnameable many times in the 60's and 70's, especially co-founder Peter Stampfel, who still goes on Bob's show today. Peter would talk about this crazy and great radio program that was unlike anything on the air, then and now. We also heard that Bob Fass had in his possession an unprecedented audio archive, so we were curious. We called him up and pitched the idea of making a film.
THE INSIDER: Tell us about just a few of the trails Bob Fass has been blazing since 1962.
JESSICA WOLFSON: One unique feature about Radio Unnameable, particularly in the early days, is that people would stumble in off the street and drop in unannounced. Everyone from Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman and Arlo Guthrie to local artists and activists would come up to participate in this freewheeling show. It was like the after party of the downtown New York scene. It's mind blowing the amount of freedom that Bob had and still has on the air. He might take a phone call from a listener that completely changes the direction of the show. Someone might call with an idea for a demonstration, then someone else calls to offer support or suggestions and it mushrooms from there. This type of live radio, a forum for organizing and sharing information echoes today's social media like Facebook and Twitter. His innovations certainly transcend radio.
THE INSIDER: What kind of material ?
JESSICA WOLFSON: Bob has a huge archive of still photographs, video, ephemera and a ton of audio. He has been on WBAI since 1962 and for the first fifteen years, Radio Unnameable was on five nights a week, 6 hours a night, so that's a lot of live radio! Neither Paul nor myself had worked with open reel audio before, which is how all of the shows pre-1977 were recorded. In 2008, a small army of volunteers gathered to help us organize the materials that had been sitting in Bob's home for many years. Slowly we began transferring these reels to a more accessible digital format. We listened to hundreds of Radio Unnameable recordings and were surprised how great and fresh the show still sounded. It was exciting, but also a lot of work. For the film, we were pulling from thousands of hours of audio, choosing the best moments, editing it down to just a few minutes. There is still a lot of material not in the film that we hope will see the light of day and become accessible when the film is released.
THE INSIDER: What challenges did you face getting the film made? How did you make this radio show visual in your movie?
PAUL LOVELACE: Again, the sheer volume of material we had to condense into a digestible 90-minute film took a long time to assemble. And since radio is an aural medium, we had to figure out how to make it visual in the context of the film. Our goal was not to take a literal approach but more of a collage of sights and sounds. Sometimes the visuals match with the audio, but more often it is a visceral feeling we are trying to convey. We were very lucky to have the run of Bob Fass's incredible photographs. He was on the scene at every happening and anti-war demonstration with camera in hand, in addition to a portable tape recorder. And in those days the equipment was rather bulky. He jokes about it, saying he felt like "The Hunchback of Mixed Media". Additionally, we did a lot of outreach and were able to locate and integrate some amazing material from a plethora of filmmakers and photographers, many who were listeners of Radio Unnameable and participated in the events Bob helped organize.
THE INSIDER: What would you like audiences to take from your film?
JESSICA WOLFSON: We want to offer an immersive journey through this singular radio program that is equal parts entertaining and inspiring. Radio Unnameable is approaching fifty years old and as radio has evolved, it's unlikely a program such as Bob's could exist today on the tightly controlled, fairly watered down commercial band. What Bob Fass did on the radio — creating a community, opening up the airwaves and having a forum where you can say things that can't be heard anywhere else — deserves to be celebrated. And we hope that's what our film does.
Wanted by motion picture executives for revealing industry secrets to a public with the Right to Know, "The Insider" has spent over 15 years working behind the scenes in almost every aspect of "The Biz" developing a secret network of contacts, spies, moles, and highly trained counter-intelligence operatives and movie ninjas whose only goal is to inform and entertain you-and help you make this the best year of the Sarasota Film Festival ever!