Co-directors Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin‘s doc “loudQUIETloud: A Film about the Pixies,” which premiered in March at the SXSW Film Festival, caputres the 2004 reunion tour of American band the Pixies from their rehearsals through to their final show one year later. The film depicts interaction between the normally press shy band members as well as their day to day lives with their families and personal dramas. The film provides an “insider’s perspective” of a touring band’s life, from the loud, emotional highs of performing to sell out crowds, to renewed friction that arose between band members in addition to the striking concert footage highlighting some of the band’s most compelling music. Steven Cantor has directed for television as well as film, including “Bounce: Behind the Velvet Rope” in 2000, which won an audience award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He also received an Oscar nomination in 1994 for “Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann” (shared with Peter Spirer). This is the first directorial effort for Matthew Galkin, who has produced for television including other projects with Galkin. The film opens Friday, September 29 in New York’s Cinema Village and in San Francisco at The Roxie Cinema.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career.
SC: I grew up in New York City and always loved movies, but it never really occurred to me that it was a potential career. My first job out of college was at MTV and while there I made a short documentary about the photographer Sally Mann, which not only helped me get into USC film school, but also went on to screen at Sundance and earn an Oscar nomination. After that, directing work became a little easier to get and I have just kind of run with it ever since.
MG: I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland as a relatively happy and sheltered child, but I was quite shy. Putting a camera in my hands was like the golden key — I could talk to anyone, I could go anywhere. I studied film at NYU and was extremely myopic in my desire to direct narrative films for a living. It wasn’t until I got out of school that I began to realize that documentaries were thrilling to make. Here I was spending a lot of time and money trying to create an artifice that one would buy as truth, when there were truthful things happening all around — things which were much more interesting and accessible than anything I was creating out of thin air.
Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?
SC: Unlike Matthew, I am intrigued by the creative avenues that open up in fiction, so I am trying to make a move to a narrative feature right now. I have two scripts that I have developed and love.I might come running back to docs after a few negative experiences, but there’s only one way to find out. I have also just signed with a commercial producer called Independent Media, which specializes in bringing long-form directors into commercials.
Please talk about how the initial idea for “loudQUIETloud” came about.
MG: Steven and I were in production on the HBO documentary series “Family Bonds” when the line-up for the 2004 Coachella Music Festival was announced. We were shocked that the Pixies were one of the headliners. They had broken up twelve years earlier and the idea of a reunion had seemed impossible — they had split acrimoniously.
SC: Our first reaction was to order tickets. While we were waiting for Ticketmaster to process our request, we exchanged this weird knowing look that said “Wait a minute, we’re filmmakers. Let’s make a Pixies movie. To hell with tickets. We can get backstage passes.”
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences (if any), as well as your overall goals for the project?
MG: Steven and I were very clear to the band and to each other that we were not going to make a “behind the music,” archival-driven rock film. There was something potentially dramatic about these four people getting together after essentially not speaking for twelve years.
SC: We wanted to capture the reunion as unobtrusively as possible. So the verite masters — Pennebaker, Maysles — and their groundbreaking rock films (“Gimme Shelter” [and] “Don’t Look Back”) were certainly influences on us.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution?
MG: Just getting and keeping the access to the band was a challenge. They are managed by a notoriously prickly and protective guy and they themselves are not particularly outgoing so it was touch and go for a while. Apparently, we beat out about fifteen other filmmakers who had also approached the manager about making the film.
SC: Once filming began, we had the challenge of finding a story between four people who really do not communicate with one another and rarely leave their individual hotel rooms when they are on the road. I had a little voice in my head saying, “If we just get one good minute a day, we’ll be okay in the long-run.” Then some days we would shoot some very intimate or particularly relevant scenes and those good days would carry us through the slow ones, which were the majority.
How did the financing for the film come together?
SC: I have a company called Stick Figure Productions that is ten years-old and has in recent years moved into the TV series world (“Family Bonds,” “Amish in the City,” “#1 Single” etc.) And we financed it ourselves, secure in the knowledge that the Pixies were woefully under-documented in their prime and that there was a built-in fan base.
Who and/or what are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?
SC: For me the greatest influences have been the successful artists I have managed to spend time with. In making films about Sally Mann and Willie Nelson and developing a friendship with Peter Gabriel and some others. I have spent hours upon hours talking to them about their work and inspiration and the creative process in general. I have always felt like an apprentice learning at their feet, even if I was directing a film about them. Sally, in particular, is remarkable at psychologically dissecting and then explaining her process. She and I have an HBO/BBC film coming out, “What Remains,” which delves into that territory.
MG: The documentary that really spun my head around was “Brother’s Keeper.” It was one of the most involving, exciting, and disturbing films I had ever seen. Up until that point, documentaries to me were boring things my father watched on Sunday afternoons. “Brother’s Keeper” changed my entire view of what a nonfiction film could be. And then the verite filmmakers of the Sixties and Seventies certainly had an impact on me creatively. Beyond that, I have complete admiration for designers like Charles and Ray Eames — who not only designed furniture, but also made films, textiles, toys, installations, etc. They lived to create and all of their designs were startling in their fusion of form and function.
What other genres or stories would like to explore as a filmmaker? What is your next project?
MG: I am currently directing, and Steven is producing, an HBO documentary about PETA and its founder Ingrid Newkirk.
SC: I’m turning my attention to scripted material, hoping to make a fiction feature next year.
What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why? What are some of your recent favorite films?
SC: I tend to veer more towards narrative features as my favorites, whereas Matthew is more of a doc lover. I love (and crave) the ability to impart a clearly thought out visual structure on a film, which is difficult with documentaries. Last night I was watching “Network,” which is incredible. Every shot of Faye Dunaway is harsh and white and flatly lit and every one of William Holden is warm and deep and lit from the side. Even when they are in the same scene. Sidney Lumet is a master craftsman in my book. I couldn’t pick a favorite though.
What are your interests outside of film?
SC: My outside interests have been steadily falling by the wayside since my wife and I had a baby girl, Clara Blue, three years ago. That said, I collect fine art photography, a hobby jump-started by my ongoing friendship and working relationship with Sally Mann. I try to a take as much cultural advantage as possible of living in New York City, so we go to theater and art galleries and museums as much as possible.
MG: I am interested in all kinds of design — industrial, furniture, graphics. I also have a small obsession with baseball — a beautifully designed game.
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
SC: As far as documentaries go, it’s shocking how many times I hear ideas that have no story; perhaps some interesting character, but nothing going on in their lives. My best advice would be pick a story you can follow — someone setting out on an interesting journey or quest of some sort. That, and a comfortable pair of shoes because you’re on your feet a lot. When the director sits, everyone sits.
MG: Yeah I would say pick your subjects carefully, because the road to bringing your story to the screen will be long and painful, at times kind of like going to battle, and you can’t tire of your initial idea. Often, that is all you will have to motivate you.
Will you please share with us an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of?
MG: I am proud of “loudQUIETloud.” I think we achieved what we set out to do — make an observant, humanistic portrait of the Pixies, a cryptic band if there ever was one I am also proud that Steven and I survived co-directing a film and are still speaking. In fact, I think the experience drew us closer.
SC: Well put, Matthew. I would go to battle with you anytime.