‘I picture you in the sun wondering what went wrong
And falling down on your knees asking for sympathy
And being caught in between all you wish for and all you’sve seen And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in’
To raise awareness of the challenges that Hurricane Katrina survivors are still facing, and to raise dollars to help them in their plight now that the headlines have faded, Michael Stipe, lead singer for R.E.M., and one of alternative rock’s most innovative and respected pioneers, has recorded a half dozen versions of In The Sun, available for download at iTunes, with friends including Chris Martin from Coldplay, Joseph Arthur, who penned the powerful anthemic ballad, James Iha formerly of The Smashing Pumpkins, will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas, and Justin Timberlake.
In addition to the recordings, Stipe efforts will receive worldwide exposure through a 15-minute film, In The Sun: Michael Stipe and Special Guests, that will premiere on the Sundance Channel Monday, April 3, at 9:00PM, and will repeat numerous times throughout the month. A 40-minute version of the program is also slated to air on the Sundance Channel at a future date.
The 15-minute documentary short version of In The Sun: Michael Stipe and Special Guests is the story of a song, the story of a region, and the story our ability as a community to care for our own. This film focuses on the musicians, the tune, and the genesis of the project. Much of the narrative features interviews with Michael Stipe, Joseph Arthur, James Iha, Chris Martin, will.i.am, historian Douglas Brinkley, hurricane survivors and volunteers helping with the recovery efforts, and chronicles the current state of devastation along the Gulf Coast.
The longer version delves deeper and paints, in greater detail, a portrait of the people of the Gulf Region, their experiences with the storm and its aftermath, and their continuing need for help.
Director and acclaimed rock photographer Danny Clinch, of Three On The Tree Productions (New York, NY), wanted Fluid Bruce Ashley to cut this new documentary. The two had recently collaborated on Bruce Springsteen Grammy-nominated Devils & Dust (Columbia Records) DualDisc DVD, which featured the first live performances of Devils & Dust material, each with Springsteen’s extensive, personal introductions.
Clinch has a signature look and the grittiness, the graininess of the images he captured with his Super 8 and Panasonic DVX100 cameras poignantly communicate the incomprehensible suffering endured by those whose lives were decimated by Katrina.
The subjects of the documentary tell their stories and, while painting a bleak picture of the current status of the rehabilitation of their communities, they each express hope for the rebuilding of the area, their lives and their futures.
‘For me, part of the challenge was to stylistically preserve Danny look while conveying both the why and how of the project origins and, at the same time, weaving together a cohesive and compelling story about the people, their experiences and the politics of the situation,’ explained Fluid Editor Bruce Ashley.
‘It wasn’st until I saw the footage that I had any idea how total was the devastation in the area. I had over 20 hours of interview footage plus ‘b-roll’ shot on 24p video and other b-roll footage and textual elements shot on Super 8. We created a ‘content bed’ that consisted of the sound bites and interviews strung together and then edited down the superfluous material. The interviewers were provided a series of questions that were asked of each interviewee so I was able to group topics together and work on the creative structure until there was a dramatic arc. The trick was finding transitions. I had to dig out various sound bites that helped to create a transition, or employed a musical device with relevant footage, allowing breathing room from one topic to another, creating natural segues. I took great pains with the storytelling and pacing. The transitions were helpful, as were the lingering shots. Although no film can convey the breadth and depth of Katrina wrath, I think In The Sun will help the viewer better understand the scope of this disaster,’ continued Ashley. ‘Although we were asked to initially deliver a 15 to 20 minute version for Sundance, the footage was so compelling and so rich that we were able to create a longer and significantly more poignant version, highlighting the plight of the people. For me the 40- minute version does the most justice to the situation, the people and the cause. It is well worth watching,” he concluded.
Director Danny Clinch said of his experience working with Bruce Ashley, ‘Bruce is a great storyteller. He crafted the individual stories, putting you in the shoes of each of the interviewees, allowing you to see from their perspective, making you care for each of them. I think sometimes when people see Super 8 footage it almost reminds them of their home movies and somehow makes what you are witnessing more real. To convey the extent of the continuing problem in the Gulf communities, we let some of the footage roll on and on and on so the viewer could get a sense of the vastness of the destruction. In the end, I think the viewer genuinely cares and understands that by downloading the various In The Sun recordings he or she can contribute and make a difference in the lives of those battered by Katrina.’
cYclops LLC Producer Sheri Howell added, ‘This is the first time I’sve worked with Bruce and I found him to be an unbelievably intuitive editor, he sees and hears everything uniquely and completely, so his choice of music and words against visuals is wonderful. In addition, Fluid was an unbelievably pleasant place to work.’
‘This documentary is really terrific. Very powerful, emotional, compelling. It skillfully weaves the story of the destruction with the artistic impulse and process, and avoids all possible pitfalls in doing so. It just masterful,’ added the project Executive Producer Bertis Downs.
In The Sun: Michael Stipe and Special Guests is a co-production of cYclops LLC (New York, NY) and Three On The Tree Productions (New York, NY) in association with the Sundance Channel. The documentary was directed by Danny Clinch (Three On The Tree Productions); produced by Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) and Sheri Howell (cYclops LLC); executive produced by Bertis Downs (R.E.M. Athens) and Mike Jurkovac and Venus Brown (cYclops LLC). The documentaries were created for Stipe In The Sun Foundation.
Charlex (New York, NY) and Creative Director Alex Weil, Designer Jeff Stevens and Producer Nicole Martin created the title sequence and credits.
Company 3 (Santa Monica, CA) and Colorist John Zaik, Producer Kim Graville and Executive Producer Missy Papageorge were responsible for the color-correction.
Video Box Studios (Los Angeles, CA) provided the online services for the two documentaries with the help of Owner/Editor Justin Hixon, Owner Jeff Hixon, Online Post Supervisor Erick Henson and Audio Mixer David Becker. Independent editor Chris Jones provided some additional editorial on the 15-minute version of the documentary at Video Box as well.
Additional music was contributed by Daniel Lanois (courtesy of Epitaph Records), Joseph Arthur and composer/screenwriter/musician Rob Williamson.
Fluid, the New York-based, award-winning music and editorial studio, is headquartered at 532 Broadway, 5th floor, New York, NY 10012; phone (212) 431-4342; fax (212) 431-6525. Visit the FLUID website at www.fluidny.com. For more information, or to see a reel, contact Jessica Millington.