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indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Lian Lunson, Director of “Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man”

indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Lian Lunson, Director of "Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man"

Fresh from a run on the fest circuit that has included stops in Toronto, Sundance, and Berlin (among many others) is Lian Lunson‘s “Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man,” a documentary about the acclaimed and influential musician. Opening this Wednesday at Film Forum in New York, the movie is anchored at a the “Came So Far For Beauty” show, a tribute to Leonard Cohen at the Sydney Opera House in Australia last year. The film features interview footage with Cohen as well as live performances by Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton, Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Julie Christensen and Perla Battala, and a performance of “Tower of Song” by Cohen with U2.

Lian Lunson recently responded to indieWIRE’s email questionnaire, his answers to our questions are published below.

Please tell us about yourself…:

I was born and raised in Australia. Went to drama school, became an actress and did a few movies before I moved to America in 1987. Apart from being an actress, I have done every job on a film set that there is to do. Ultimately I became a producer, which is a very helpful background to have if you want to make your own movies from the ground up.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

I learned filmmaking by working on sets and watching people do things I would never do. I learned what not to do first, and that covered a lot of bases. At least if you know what you don’t like and what not to do…you have a head start. Filmmaking is a collaborative and creative process and often you are not sure what it is you want because you haven’t seen it yet. Knowing clearly what you don’t want to see is a good start.

I became a filmmaker because I like to create things. I like the challenge of creating an atmosphere and a heightened world.

“Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man” director Lian Lunson. Photo provided by Lionsgate

Where did the initial idea for your film come from?

The initial idea for this film came from listening to some tracks of the Leonard Cohen tribute concert that Hal Willner had put together. There was a possibility that this tribute show would be performed as part of the Sydney Festival in Australia.

I thought that if I could include Leonard Cohen then I had the makings of the film. But hearing the music first was where the idea began. I have always been inspired by films, music, literature that present some sort of otherness. I wanted the film to really show the essence of Leonard Cohen. I felt that all of these songs were like chapters in his life and that somehow all of these different performers were all different parts of him.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

The challenge was putting the film together with that in mind, merging the concert and Leonard Cohen into a world that was something other than just that. Having extraordinarily gifted performers helped. I am not sure if I was entirely successful in doing that, but that was my goal.

What is your definition of “independent film”?

I think the concept of ‘independent film’ has changed dramatically with the introduction of the digital world. I mean I could get in a car with my camera and my laptop and drive across America and make a film single handedly now. And a lot of people are doing that. So I think the concept of that phrase has changed.

What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why? What are some of your recent favorite films?

My all time favorite films are “Night Of The Hunter“, I first saw it as a child and it stayed with me forever. The documentary “When We Were Kings” because it truly captures the beauty, brilliance and grace that is Muhammad Ali and “Moulin Rouge” because it is so gorgeous.

Recent favorite films have been “Brokeback Mountain” for every reason and Wim Wenders‘ “Don’t Come Knocking” because it was visually so beautiful and a real ode to the cowboy genre.

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