Film-maker Matthew Buzzell talks about "Tell Me Do You Miss Me"
On Friday the premiere of the Luna documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me is
taking place as part of the Tribeca Film
Festival. A Head Full of Wishes used
this opportunity to ask the film maker Matthew Buzzell about the making of the
film and how he came to be working with Luna.
Matthew’s previous work includes a documentary about Jazz legend Jimmy Scott
called Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew and
he also has a short film showing at the festival - Putting the River in Reverse
features Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint.
New Yorker’s should head to the Tribeca Film Festival
website to buy their tickets to one of
the five screenings the film will receive - the rest of us will have to drum
our fingers and wait for the Rhino DVD release on the
20th of June.
#5: Matthew Buzzell
A Head Full of Wishes: When and how did you get involved with Luna and who’s idea was it that the final tour would make a good documentary?
Matthew: Sean Eden is an old friend. We were in college together at The North Carolina School of the Arts. A few years later, in New York, we were roommates and briefly played in a band together. We played exactly one show while I was with the band. Lee Wall was actually at NCSA at the same time Sean and I were there but I did not know him. And neither did Sean. This was, as Lee might say, “back in the 80s.”
My first impulse to make a film about Luna was probably around 1995 when I was
living in Athens, GA. This was around the dawn of the digital revolution. Non-
linear editing was just out of reach. And those kind of tools were expensive
dreams. I was making experimental films on Super 8 at the time and actually
shot some footage of Luna performing at the 40 Watt Club one evening. It
turned out too dark.
Sometime after I moved to Los Angeles for graduate studies at The American
Film Institute, I really began thinking in earnest about doing something with
Luna. I began pestering them. I even submitted storyboards for a music video
for “Dear Diary.” That music video, of course, was never made. A few of those
storyboard panels did, however, turn up on a Luna calendar around the time of
release of The Days Of Our Nights.
After I graduated from AFI, I began making mini-documentary portraits of
musicians for a web series that never quite took off. The second one I made
was called “Psychobabble.” It featured a bit of Luna rehearsing “Pup Tent”, a
slightly tipsy Dean talking about early memories, and a staged shot of a
shirtless Sean passed out on the bathroom floor of one of their hotel rooms at
Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. It was later released on Warner’s DVD magazine
Circuit. If memory serves, it was issue 9.
I again kicked around the idea of doing a Luna film - a tour film - but
logistics and financing were always challenge.
When the band told me that they were going to disband, I went into overdrive
and approached Rhino to help as they had released the DVD of my film Jimmy
Scott: If You Only Knew. As
it turned out, the gentleman who could greenlight the making of a Luna
documentary happened to be BIG Luna fan. He had even worked at Rough Trade
during the Galaxie era. His name is Robin Hurley and I cannot thank him enough
for his continued support of the project. A real gentleman.
A Head Full of Wishes: Do you think the film shows the band as they really are? Did you ever get the feeling that the band changed when the camera was around? Do we get to see the dark side of Luna? Is there a dark side of Luna?
Matthew: This is a tough question to answer. I think there are many honest moments in the film. Having said that, I do feel the band did change a bit when the camera was on. Especially early on in the process. How natural can it be when you have someone following you around all the time with a camera? Overall, I do feel that you what you see is the band as they really are. Of course, it is almost impossible to accurately capture every aspect of four individual’s personalities, showcase some terrific rock songs, and travel around the world in 103 minutes, and make it feel definitive. I think we came pretty close, though.
A dark side? Are you trying to tell me there is a light side? There are, I
must add, some very brave and candid revelations in the film and I thank Luna
for them. Luna’s gift of access is the film. They are terrific people.
A Head Full of Wishes: How does the documentary compare (in style) with the classic music documentary films - The Last Waltz, Woodstock or Spinal Tap? What are your favourite rock films and ‘rockumentaries’? Do you wear a baseball cap for your interviews like Scorcese in The Last Waltz and Marty DiBergi in Spinal Tap?
Matthew: I am embarrassed to admit that I have not seen The Last Waltz! I promise I will get around to it.
Before and during the shooting of Tell Me Do You Miss Me, I made a conscious
decision to not watch any rock or music documentaries and to try to make my
film as personal a film as I could. I did not want to be influenced by
anything that had come before. Now that the film is finished, I am playing
catch up. I still need to see
that Wilco movie!
I do not know how Tell Me Do You Miss Me compares. I will leave that to you!
Like Britta, I really love Let’s Get Lost
and Gimme Shelter.
I recently saw a documentary about The Police that was made back in the 80’s
called The Police Around The World. It is kind of corny but I really loved it.
This is not the new documentary by Stewart Copeland that premiered at Sundance
recently but an old one. This was a straight to video release from around
- Long out of print. I had seen it before, as Lee might again say, “back
in the 80s” and remember being bored by it. But I watched it again a few
nights ago and it now has that special something…(AHFoW: you can see this
documentary on YouTube)
And while it is not a documentary per se, I really enjoy the DVD that came out
a few years ago called The Complete Jam. It
features some really wonderful and raw performance footage of The Jam back in
the day. I love looking at people in the audience in these older films,
watching them dance, and checking out what they were wearing. And, of
course…the music! I am a big fan of The Jam.
I rarely wear a baseball cap. Usually only on the golf course.
A Head Full of Wishes: Any clues as to what the bonus features on the DVD will be?
Matthew: There are quite a few bonus materials on the DVD - a number of deleted scenes, some extended performances, a commentary track, and an insert with photos and an essay. The packaging is really nice. Frank Olinksy did a lovely job!
Everyone needs to own this DVD! Rent not! This one’s a keeper!
A Head Full of Wishes: What’s next for you?
Matthew: Since Tell Me Do You Miss Me, I have completed a film about the first major recording session to take place in New Orleans post- Hurricane Katrina - a collaboration between Elvis Costello and Crescent City legend Allen Toussaint. It is called Putting The River In Reverse. Like Tell Me, it will premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. I am very proud of this little film.
I am also just now finishing a long time collaborative effort called
Companeras. It is about America’s first all-female Mariachi band!
While I am sure there will be more music-related films in my future, I am
hoping in the next year to move away from them. There is some talk of a rather
big political/social documentary. We shall see what comes of this.
I have also been working for a few years on an ongoing documentary about the
artistry, politics, and poetics to be found in the films featuring Japan’s
biggest star - Godzilla.
I will also be returning to narrative filmmaking at some point. I long to
again work with a script, actors, and a crew.