Nick Mead’s soulful documentary Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am screens at the New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 7, 2019!
Here is my interview with Nick:
Nigrin: Your film Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am? highlights Clarence’s life as musician while also presenting another side of that not many saw when he lit up the stage. Please tell us more about your film and what motivated you to make it?
Mead: The film started out as a personal journey to China in 2005 — this was documented in a rather light hearted way with no rehearsal or preplanning, what happened happened and was caught as best it could at the moment. It was a thing that Clarence and I used to do called “playing around the corner” he’d go out with his sax and I’d follow with the camera, and we’d “see what happens” — we’d say that to each other every time we’d go out, “let’s see what happens”.
When Clarence passed away we had to re think the entire film. It was no longer an inspired trip to China, it had become a lasting legacy of sorts. Clarence’s life was one long ongoing journey, he was never satisfied with what had been achieved, he always wanted more. He worked hard and even harder on himself. Long periods of his life searching inside himself, and it was a long trip, and occasionally a very lonely one. He was a reflective man and that’s why I chose to shoot the roads and segues the way I did. Long periods of reflection, the journey continues but it’s a long and lonely one - most of the time you hope you’re vaguely heading in the right direction. I chose Death Valley as the location for this so it became a meditation of sorts even getting there, you have to drive and it’s 5 or 6 hours each way, longer if you’re stopping off to take it all in and find the right roads.
Nigrin: Your film is mostly shot with the interviews and ambient shots of the empty roads, radio dial, etc. in black and white and the concert/archival footage and movie clips in color. Why did you decide to present the film this way?
Mead: The interviews - the framing, lighting and composition were partly to get away from the traditional music themed film, usually sequential archive mixed up with interviews. I wanted them to reflect Clarence’s bold take on life, he wasn’t shy or backward in coming forward. I chose to do the interviews in a full on way to camera. The use of the radio dial was to give us a device, a relevant device, to tune in and out of parts of Clarence’s life. Why black and white? Everything shot after Clarence passed was shot in Black and white. Clarence took the color out of the world in my mind I when he left us. I spent a lot of time trying to make images look like they’d been shot on Tri-X film, which was my black and white film stock of choice as a photographer way way back when. The shots of Clarence looking full on to camera were found after he had passed away. I’d forgotten I’d shot them, when I started a new edit I had all the original footage re digitized again, it was then that they were rediscovered, so were used in black and white
Nigrin: Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you would like to relay to our readers?
Mead: Hopefully you can see from the answers to these questions that Clarence was there all along, we started out making this film together and he was there when it was completed. The eventual concept was that this film would reflect Clarence, and looking at the response thus far we seem to have achieved that in the way it moves people. The way Clarence moved people, he would lift them up and take them on a musical journey, and that was the intent of this film.
Two incredible animated short films will precede Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am. Here is more info on the screening:
Carlotta’s Face – Valentin Riedl (Munich, Germany) and Frédéric Schuld (Hamburg, Germany) As a child, Carlotta didn’t expect the people around her to have faces. She couldn’t even recognize her own face. Years later, she learned that she suffers from a rare, untreatable brain defect. Remarkably, however, she turns to art, as a medium that offers her a way to finally recognize herself. In German, subtitled. 2018; 5 min.
Fuse – Shadi Adib (Stuttgart, Germany) A mousetrap snaps shut, a market place awakens. A group of men heatedly discuss how to kill the animal in the little box. One after the other, they try to trump each other’s sadistic fantasies, and even a stranger’s suggestion to let the creature loose, turns out to be a sick manipulation. But as the macabre game unfolds and spirals out of control, both victim and tormentor suffer the same fate. The animated film was drawn entirely on paper and features, among others, Nick Cave as one of the main voice actors. 2018, 7 min.
Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am – Nick Mead (Newton, Pennsylvania) Bruce Springsteen's right-hand man Clarence Clemons was a force on stage. But who was he when the lights went down? Featuring interviews with President Bill Clinton, Joe Walsh, former bandmates, friends, and close family members, Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am? highlights Clemon’s life as musician while also presenting another side of that not many saw when he lit up the stage. This is an intimate portrait of a musician who searched for enlightenment during the unknowingly final years of his life. 2019; 90 min Q+A Session with Producer Joseph Amodei! Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University American Studies Department!
Friday, June 7, 2019 at 7:00 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey
$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends
Information: (848) 932-8482; www.njfilmfest.com