EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Ballad of Shovels & Rope

web-thumbnailI had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Jace Freeman & Sean Clark of The Moving Picture Boys a few weeks back. Though this interview is slightly delayed, the content still remains relevant and the overall message is clear; take every opportunity you can to catch a screening of this film, a show from Shovels & Rope, or a production of this team. Enjoy!

From what I’ve learned about the film, you and your team met Cary Ann & Michael back in 2010, right as they started playing live as Shovels & Rope, correct? What was the introduction like, along with the days that followed during those first sessions?
JF: We met Michael and Cary Ann back in 2010 days before they officially decided to move full steam ahead as Shovels & Rope.  A mutual friend, Paul Bannister, connected us to make a couple videos to help people “get” this new two-man family band.   Like a lot of people, I was quickly smitten by Cary Ann’s big personality and Southern charm and then slowly getting to know Michael, I realized that this was a duo of equal parts extremely talented songwriters.  Watching these then newly weds combine two careers into one was an interesting lesson in humility and respect.  Later, we noticed while editing the film that Michael and Cary Ann never talk over or interrupt each other while speaking.  The one always listens to the other, and gives them full thought and consideration before speaking their mind.  Even with having two highly independent and strong creative opinions,  they compliment each other perfectly making them even better together than apart.
Film Still

Film Still

Three years, 100+ hours of filming, and more than a dozen cities; Was there ever a point where the project felt like it was getting too expansive? I understand the final product is going to be far different from what the first proposal intended the film to be, but was it ever overwhelming?

SC: Looking back, we stayed focused on the next building block in the story, which usually turned out to be pretty exciting, and kept us from getting overwhelmed. I guess that, and the fact that we were in way to deep, and invested too much time to ever think about letting the project get the best of us, so we stayed along for the ride.
How did the band’s rapid trajectory into the spotlight affect the overall timeline + focus of the film?
JF: We set out to film the making of the record in the Spring of 2011, but as you’ll see in the film, things never go according to plan.  But as luck may have it, these twists and turns kept making the story more interesting.  The band’s trajectory never caught us off guard, as we saw firsthand the amount of handwork and diligence put into making the band a success.  Even with as much talent and creativity as these two had, a successful career is not possible without putting in your time.  We kind of expected the band to become bigger, and the national spotlight definitely helped us put a tidy little bow on the end of the film.  We really saw their national TV debut on Letterman as the moment when the band was introduced to the world.  And that moment is at the end of our story, as we wanted to show everything that happens privately behind the scenes for a band to get to that public stage.
Film Still

Film Still

You gave the project 34 days to be completed funded – it took just 12 hours. Funding had reached $43,000+ by the time the deadline was reached. I’m sure you’ve had this questions asked a number of times, but what opportunities has the additional funding provided this project?

SC: Without the Kickstarter funding, this movie would probably have taken another year to complete. We asked for the bare minimum that we thought it would take to finish by Spring 2014, which we estimated at $20,000 minus rewards and fees. This was basically for finishing the movie, printing one run of DVD’s, making the Kickstarter rewards, and that was about it. The movie would still be in debt, and we’d have to cut corners on art, and finishing services, as well as limiting us to a couple of festival submissions, which, by the way, would have been incredible by our standards. However, the extra money has lifted the movie out of debt, provided a budget for festival submissions, allowed us to hire the artists we wanted (DVD cover, titles, shirts, etc), and most importantly provided a network of over 800 excited people who are invested in this project. Like the rest of the making of the movie, it was over and beyond our expectations.
September 18th of last year must have a been a high point in your career – aside from the complete funding of the project’s goal, Shovels & Rope took home the award for “Song of the Year” at the Americana Music Awards – and you all were there filming… What were those 24 hours like?
JF: Those 24 hours were definitely a high point in the film’s three year production. Before that day, we didn’t have an ending and we didn’t have any financial resources to bring the project into fruition. That day answered a lot of open ended questions. As a documentary filmmaker, you dive into the unknown and start filming hoping that the documented path leads somewhere or at least the journey makes sense in the end. We knew we had captured an interesting journey, but it was nice to have a fitting destination.
What can you tell us about the timeline for the film’s debut?
SC: The movie had its world premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival on March 23rd! The folks in Cleveland were super excited, and we were too! We have submitted to a couple more Spring/Summer festivals, which we hope to attend as well. We plan on releasing the movie to the public after the festival run, which is not yet determined, so stay tuned!
Without revealing too much, is there a particular scene in the film that you’re personally most excited for people to see? 
JF: There is a particular scene when Michael and Cary Ann sing a new song backstage filled with sexual innuendos for a stunned Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell.  To give you an idea, its called “Hard, Hard Feeling”.
What’s next for The Moving Picture Boys? Any artists or film makers you’ve come across in all your travels that you’d encourage we check out?
SC: We are actually starting research for our next feature-length documentary! It’s too soon to tell, but we encourage everyone who’s interested to follow to us on one of the social networks to stay updated. We also produce an ongoing web series called the Nashville Docujournal, which will get a little more attention now that this film is complete.
As for recommendations,  we spent a lot of time in Charleston over the last three years, and definitely fell in love with charm of the city. Favorite musical acts there have to be the eclectic Mechanical River, and the party rocker Punks & Snakes. There is a thriving music scene in Charleston with a lot of talented people doing what they love, so check it out.
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