Saturday, August 22, 2009

'It Might Get Loud': A Storytelling Lesson

Go see (and hear!) ' It Might Get Loud,' a new untraditional documentary.

Rock icons from three different generations -- Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes) -- come together to talk about the electric guitar and their musical influences. The maestros swap stories and crank up their instruments on an empty soundstage for a superstar jam session. Along the way, they visit the majestic hall where "Stairway to Heaven'' was composed, and we are taken to the high school classroom where U2 first met and rehearsed in their teens. Jack White composes a song on-camera at a Tennessee farmhouse, and the Edge lays down tracks for a U2 single.

It's directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed Al Gore's Oscar-winning global-warming documentary, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' along with a slew of critically acclaimed TV series.

'It Might Get Loud' sets out to explain the influence of electric guitars on our lives in a way that hasn't been attempted before -- by intertwining the intimate stories of three who have famously mastered it. We are treated to small personal moments from three very different lives and careers, shot over the course of a year on two continents and artfully woven together, culminating in a combined jam that was shot with seven cameras on a Hollywood sound stage .

Says Guggenheim: "I hope the audience will fall in love with these guys as much as I did, not just as rock stars, but as individuals and artists who turned their individual life experiences into music: beautiful, raw, in-your-face, visceral, and transcendent."

The film succeeds in capturing what collectively excites us about electric guitars through the prism of three strong protagonists and their private journeys. And in the great rock 'n' roll spirit, those individual solos build to a tour de force ensemble climax.

One element that distinguishes this documentary style is that the filmmaker has imposed his own template and agenda -- bringing together three people who would not have otherwise assembled but for this film.

Lesson for videojournalists: Look for instances in which it makes narrative sense to physically bring together characters who might not otherwise meet. Their natural interactions and conversations can be exponentially more colorful and illuminating than anything that might be revealed through individual talking-head interviews.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Looks like an excellent work, made all the more poignant because the man who gave them all their instrument, Les Paul, just passed away. I'd bet his name comes up in the movie somewhere, sometime.