One of the great living documentary makers of the modern day, Les Blank joins BYOD. After fifty years making incredible docs that showcase the human spirit through art, struggle and humor, Les Blank has a wealth of knowledge to share with Ondi and Vlad.
Mr. Blank takes us through his early days and his decision to pick up the camera, his jump to film making and dealing with subjects on the outside of society, to dealing with artists to find the human spirit. He spares few details along the way and let’s us in on his life-threatening filming Herzog, from the jungle of South America on “Burden of Dreams,” to filming the director famously eating his own shoe. Mr. Blank is still a brilliant artist and illuminating guide through the history of doc making.
Watch new episodes of BYOD live each week on Tuesdays at noon on TheLip.TV, or tune in for the archived replay starting here on the following Thursday.
BYOD is co-hosted by Ondi Timoner, director of “DIG!,” “JOIN US” and “WE LIVE IN PUBLIC,” and has the rare distinction of winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance twice, and Vladimir Radovanov, entertainment attorney, and executive producer of “WE LIVE IN PUBLIC.” Each week the show explores a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking, with special guests and a live Q&A– diving deep into creative process and the business realities of producing and distributing films. Ondi and Vladimir share their insider views, opinions, and personal stories, welcoming audience participation. BYOD aims to entertain, inform, and elevate documentaries in general by bringing attention to films and film makers that deserve exposure.
Les Blank is a prize-winning independent filmmaker, who the New York Times have famously called, “a master of movies about the American idiom… one of our most original filmmakers.”
In 1967, after two years in the Ph.D. film program at the University of Southern California, and five years of freelancing in Los Angeles, he began his first independent films, on Texas blues singer Lightnin’ Hopkins (The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins) and the newly forming sub-culture known as flower children, (God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance).
Blank’s films are marked by series of intimate glimpses into the lives and music of passionate people who live at the periphery of society. Having profiled subjects as soulful and serious as Sonny Rhodes (Cigarette Blues) and Werner Herzog (Burden Of Dreams; Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe), to more whimsical subjects as Garlic Fanatics (Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers) and gap-toothed women (Gap-Toothed Women), Mr. Blank has solidified his reputation over the last 50 years as one of America’s most treasured film makers.
00:01 BYOD Introduction
01:30 Welcoming Les Blank
01:48 Les’ start in film, from writer to director.
04:30 “Always for Pleasure,” clip.
05:59 “What do you film on?”
06:57 Getting down and filming in New Orleans.
13:06 Establishing Flower films and getting grants to film.
13:36 Filming creole culture in “Dry Wood and Hot Pepper.”
15:04 “Gap-Toothed Women,” clip.
16:16 Inspiration of “Gap Toothed Women.”
20:42 “Do you make films about what you love?” Cigarette Blues, Clip.
22:47 Filming “Cigarette Blues.”
25:05 “Cigarette Blues,” dancing woman
26:07 Filming Sonny Rhodes and getting inspired in different directions.
28:25 Convincing Lightnin’ Hopkins to let him film.
31:58 Following a lyrical idea when filming the blues.
33:40 “The blues according to Lightnin’ Hopkins,” clip.
36:05 “A-ha!” moments during filming.
39:05 “Is music the most important art form? “
41:46 “Which are your favorite film makers of today?”
43:46 “What are you working on now? “
47:17 Old School traveling artist and businessman.
49:28 Thoughts on compiling his collected works.
50:50 Making “Burden of Dreams.”
53:10 “Werner Herzog eats his shoe.”
55:36 “Burden of Dreams,” Clip.
56:55 When “Fitzcarraldo,” and “Burden of Dreams,” were in peril.
1:00:40 “Do you have questions when you make films?”
1:01:27 “How would you describe yourself? “
1:03:05 Advice for aspiring film makers.
1:04:40 “Is making money easier or harder, now? “
1:06:32 “Burden of Dreams,” clip.
1:08:27 Trying to get a boat up a mountain and eating a shoe.
1:10:10 Taking questions from viewers.
1:14:59 “What does it mean to sell out?”
1:16:08 “Do you prefer film or digital?”
1:18:57 The pains of selling out to rock n’ roll.
1:20:22 Wrapping up with Les Blank.