InDepth InterView Exclusive: Baillie Walsh Focuses In On SPRINGSTEEN & I Fathom Event, Plus Upcoming Projects & More
Today, BroadwayWorld presents an exclusive look behind the scenes at the innovative new Bruce Springsteen documentary SPRINGSTEEN & I, presented by Fathom in movie theaters nationwide for two special showings on July 22 and 30 only, by talking to the talented creator and director of the project, Baillie Walsh. Walsh has previously displayed his musical documentary skills with the Oasis project LORD DON'T SLOW ME DOWN, as well as shown off his cinematic skills with the feature film FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL, starring frequent collaborator Daniel Craig. In addition to film work, Walsh also enjoys success as a music video director - having helmed nearly a dozen Massive Attack videos, among others - as well as a designer commercial director, for brands such as Cartier, all of which he touches upon in this expansive chat. Most of all, Walsh examines the many layers of the new Springsteen salute, featuring fan-submitted footage and never-before-seen vintage and recent live concert captures of The Boss himself live, onstage, in action - and in charge, as always, of course. Also, Walsh discusses Springsteen's support of the film as well as master director/producer Ridley Scott's instructive involvement, as well as what fans can expect from the somewhat LIFE IN A DAY-esque music/film experience. Plus, Walsh expresses his enthusiasm for Fathom Events in general and expounds upon the role of technology in entertainment today. All of that and much, much more in this spotlight on one of the most unique and electric music films of the 21st century so far.
SPRINGSTEEN & I premieres at Fathom-equipped movie theaters nationwide on July 22, with an encore showing on July 30. More information is available at the official site here.
PC: Being primarily known for a lot of your British music videos and UK-based documentaries, how did you become the prime candidate to direct a film about an American music icon?
BW: [Laughs.] Right! Right. Well, honestly, I was asked - one day, the film company called me up and asked me if I would be interested in doing a film on Bruce Springsteen. This particular company knew that I had a history doing music videos and documentary-making - I think they were familiar with the Oasis documentary I did - and, so, basically, they felt like it was the right project for me and so they asked me to do it and they had the idea already to do it like we did it - sort of like LIFE IN A DAY.
PC: They had produced LIFE IN A DAY, as well, correct?
BW: Yes, they had produced LIFE IN A DAY - which was a wonderful documentary - and they had already gotten the word out on the internet to get people to submit their films for this new Bruce Springsteen project.
PC: The wheels were already in motion when you became involved, then, yes?
BW: They were. They had done a lot of the preparation for this by having already done LIFE IN A DAY, so they knew how to go about it. So, they really just felt like it would be a perfect fit - and, I have to admit, when I was asked, I couldn't see how this could be LIFE IN A DAY at all; I couldn't see how it could be that way. I mean, I saw LIFE IN A DAY and I thought it was extraordinary - but that film had its own concept. This was something that had to be different but have that same sort of feeling in it - and, I knew I wanted to see something like that; and, so, I decided that I wanted to make it.
PC: How did the submission process itself work exactly?
BW: They put a message up on Bruce Springsteen's fan sites and message boards on the internet and everything saying, you know, "We are making this film and we would like people to submit clips describing how Bruce has effected your life in some way." And, so, we got over 2000 contributions!
PC: No way! That's a lot to process.
BW: Yes! We got over 2000 contributors to the film - over 300 hours of film! We literally got everything from the fan sites and the real fans out there in the world besides the archive stuff we use.
PC: Did you personally view all of the submitted fan footage yourself or did you decide to split it up amongst yourself and your editors?
BW: Oh, no - I watched all of it myself. But, yeah, the thing that I was surprised with, actually, was that 300 hours sounds like a lot, but, in actual fact, you know, I was more terrified it was going to end up being 4000 hours or something when I become involved! [Laughs.]
PC: The Boss does have a lot of fans after all!
BW: He does! So, I knew going in that it was going to be a huge responsibility as a director of the film that I must see everything - everything. And, so, 300 hours actually was manageable - yeah, it's a lot of film; but, it's manageable. So, because of that, I was able to see every piece of film that came in.
PC: Editing is everything with a documentary, so what was your relationship like with yours on SPRINGSTEEN & I?
BW: Oh, well, my editor, Ben, and I got along great - this was his first feature film, actually; his first documentary feature, too. I had previously done a teeny, tiny, little job with him - a commercial we did together - and it was very important to me in finding an editor that, first of all, I like the person; I knew we were going to be spending a lot of time together! So, I knew that we had a similar sensibility. With Ben, he was absolutely the right person for this project. And, we had a great assistant editor in the same room with us, too - Sam; she was just a great assistant editor. So, it was, literally, six months with three people in the same room making this film.
PC: A handmade documentary - from the fans, for the fans, by the fans; in a sense.
BW: Yeah, yeah - exactly. So, it was a really nice, really enjoyable experience putting it together.
PC: It is a credit to your integrity as a documentarian to choose all the specific clips and cuts used in the film yourself - that is not always the case in collage-type projects such as this.
BW: I know what you mean - but, for this project, I felt a real responsibility; I didn't want to be a hands-off director, especially not with something like this. I like to get my hands dirty - I mean, if I am going to see my name up there on the screen as the director I feel a real responsibility to deliver the best possible film that I can. And, I think that we have with SPRINGSTEEN & I - I really do.
PC: How did Ridley Scott become involved as a producer on the project?
BW: Well, basically, Ridley really liked the film when he saw it, so he wanted to become an executive producer and lend us his credit. His involvement, in a sense, was always there because of his film company being involved with the film, but, also, Ridley's involvement there as an executive producer and as someone who approved of the film - even though he was not involved with the day-to-day workings of the film - means a lot. I mean, Ridley Scott holds an awful lot of clout! [Laughs.]
PC: To say the very least!
BW: So, yeah - I honestly don't think I could have made this film without Ridley's involvement and support; you know, when you approach someone on the level of Bruce Springsteen with a project such as this and you have Ridley Scott involved already, they know to take you very seriously.
PC: Had you met Bruce prior to your involvement with SPRINGSTEEN & I?
BW: No, I hadn't. My first exposure to Bruce was when I got involved with this.
PC: What was your first meeting with him like?
BW: Well, we had a meeting to discuss this project with him and I have to say, first of all, that he was very, very charming.
PC: When did this occur exactly?
BW: The first meeting was before a gig in New Jersey, actually - so, I think he had a couple of other things on his mind at the time, too, honestly! [Laughs.] But, yeah, we approached him - the three producers and I - and he decided that day that he would approve of the project and he didn't need to have any sign-off editorially on it because he trusted us. They gave us total access to the archives and the music and all they wanted was to be able to see the finished film.
PC: Wow - carte blanche, basically, then?
BW: Yes, yes - they were incredibly generous to us; and, trusting! Very trusting.
PC: How did you decide to integrate the music with the concert footage and fan confessions as you did?
BW: Well, you see, I actually didn't come to this project as a Bruce Springsteen fan - I didn't come to the film with a pre-set play list. So, the fans' stories dictated what music is in the film - I thought that that was the best way to do it. There is a lot of archive footage in there, too - you see Bruce over the whole span of his career in the film. I don't know if there's every been another film that quite does what this does. It's very interesting to see this man through the ages - remember, he has had a forty-year career!
PC: A living legend.
BW: It's really something - and, you see it all in this. There's a rough quality to some of the concert footage in the film, as well, but I think that it really marries really well with the home footage from the fans and how we use that - it feels real and authentic.
PC: There fan-shot concert footage in the film, as well, is there not?
BW: Oh, yes - absolutely, absolutely. They let us use everything we wanted to, too. And, obviously, we had Bruce's permission for all of it. For me, personally, I really loved using that stuff - and I loved the stories that they all told, too. You know, we've got a lot of stuff in this film that was originally filmed on an iPhone and is now being projected on a big screen, so I think that there's something very modern and quite charming about that. Like I said, there are many different periods in this movie and it's interesting to notice from the quality of the footage when the particular clip was made and how it fits into the film as we have made it.
PC: How did you address differing aspect ratios and whether or not to make the whole film one universal size?
BW: Well, because of LIFE IN A DAY, many of the people involved had already experienced those problems - of formatting and sound and everything; I think all of that was actually a really, really big problem on that film. But, since they had already dealt with those problems once on LIFE IN A DAY, they knew how to approach it and deal with it all because they had already done it once before we had done our film. They knew how to approach it already.
PC: Would you say LIFE IN THE DAY is the primary influence for SPRINGSTEEN & I, more or less? The main inspiration?
BW: Well, I would say that it was an influence in the sense that that is where the idea came from, but I don't know if I would say inspiration because I really do feel that they are very, very different films - but, I really do love LIFE IN A DAY and I think it is a great film. I think that that film being there acted as a comfort to me when I was first doing this film, because I really do love it and I felt like it was such a great starting point for something like this.
PC: So, there is some particularly rare live Springsteen footage we see in the film. Is it new?
BW: Oh, yeah - there is some brand new archive stuff in there that hasn't been seen before; lots of it.
PC Also, is that Elvis I spot in there somewhere?
BW: Oh, that's Nick! [Laughs.] That's not the real Elvis - that's Philly Elvis, they call him. Yeah, that's a fun moment - a really, really great off-stage moment happens then that I think people will enjoy when they see it. But, again, that is a case of it is all culled from the Philly fans and from their bits of film.
PC: How did you decide to structure the film how you have?
BW: We thought it would be best to, you know, have a story from a fan and then play the track they talk about or play a clip from the concert they want to and then go onto the next - they have a massive, massive archive of music that we had access to, so they were a tremendous help to us in finding specific recordings when we didn't have the best quality sound for a certain gig we wanted to use in the film and stuff like that.
PC: So, what did The Boss think of the finished film? Has he seen it yet?
BW: Yes, he did see the final film and he did enjoy it quite a bit, I think. I mean, there was a certain amount of self-consciousness for him when he was watching it, I think, but I think he enjoyed it - especially the humor in it and especially the emotional content, in particular. He really enjoyed it and said he liked it a lot.
PC: What are your thoughts on Fathom presentations in general and their unique place in the industry?
BW: Oh, I think it's really wonderful - and, you know why? Because it's a chance to bring a group of fans together all at once. So, for SPRINGSTEEN & I, all the Springsteen fans will be able to get together and see it at once - it will be like going to a gig! So, hopefully, there will be a lot of joy in that room, too.
PC: A community feel.
BW: Yes. So, you know, instead of going to see it at 3 PM on a Monday afternoon with three other people in the theater with you, you're going to get the vibe and vibrations off of the whole audience around you, with many of them being fans. You know, it's a very easy film to participate in because there is a lot - a lot - of Bruce's music in there! And there's a lot of chances for laughter and warmth, as well.
PC: Have audiences been responding to it favorably - particularly the Springsteen fans?
BW: I would definitely say so - I've seen the film a couple of times now with an audience and each time I have seen it I have enjoyed other people's responses to certain parts of it and to the film in general. I think people are going to really like it - especially the fans.
PC: Will there be additional content released somehow in the future given that there is over 300 hours of fan footage alone that has been generated for the project? Perhaps online or on the DVD?
BW: Oh, I would hope so. We have a lot of additional footage and a lot of really good stuff did not make it into the final, finished film. So, I really hope that when the DVD is released they will be putting a lot of that content on there. Of course, it's not my decision - you know, I've been voicing it all along, though, and I hope that they listen! I mean, everybody - everybody - asks me that after the film. "Is there more? Is there enough for a sequel?" So, I am really hoping they put a lot more of it on the DVD.
PC: Would you be open to recording a commentary for the DVD, as well, perhaps?
BW: Oh, of course, I would be open to it if they asked me - but, honestly, with this film I really don't think I need to. Of course, once you see the film, you realize it's not about my take - the director's take - on it, you know? I think I would be interrupting it and what the film is about - who these people are and how they have chosen to present themselves; it's very clear what they are saying and it is very clear why people enjoy them in the film, at least to me. So, I don't know if a commentary would really add anything.
PC: So, what is your personal favorite Springsteen song having worked so intimately with his music for almost a year now?
BW: [Pause. Sighs.] Well, I'd have to say that, honestly, "Blood Brothers" is an extraordinary song and I've really come to love that one most of all, I think.
PC: A great choice - particularly pertinent these days, it seems; as are a lot of his songs.
BW: Yeah, I actually got familiar with it through the film BLOOD BROTHERS - which is an amazing documentary about the recording of that track back when the E-Street Band came back together. So, I just love that track and I love the emotion in it. I think it's a very, very beautiful song.
PC: Springsteen's "Glory Days" was famously covered by Cory Monteith on GLEE this last season. So, I am curious: would you say that SPRINGSTEEN & I is fit for the GLEE crowd?
BW: Oh, yeah - I think the film is appropriate for absolutely anybody almost. I mean, we have fans from the age of 7 to fans in their 70s in this film; he really does span the generations. Anybody could love it.
PC: How would you compare your experience on SPRINGSTEEN & I to your time spent shooting your other music documentary, on Oasis?
BW: Oh, well, I had a blast working on the Oasis one! At the time that we were making that film they were getting along rather well, actually! I think it was probably the best world tour they had ever done - mostly because they were getting on so well! So, obviously, I had a very, very good time working on that - but, of course, it was a very, very different experience for me and from my perspective; I mean, I was behind the camera the entire time...
PC: Much different than being in the editing room.
BW: Yes, very. I mean, on this I didn't film one thing! That was kind of a decision we made early on, though - I always wanted this to be purely by the fans, for the fans. I didn't want anyone to be able to feel my presence in this film at all. So, you know, I chose not to go in large on this and film a bunch of stuff to fill it out or anything. There's an enormous charm and honesty and naturalness to the way these people have presented themselves and if I turned up there with a camera and tried to talk to them or capture them again somewhere, it would change the whole message of the movie, I think.
PC: Those situations often become stilted and seem somewhat staged, as well.
BW: Exactly! Exactly. Precisely. So, we wanted this to seem as authentic as possible at all times - and I think it does.
PC: It feels real. In juxtaposition, your Hugo Boss ad with Ryan Reynolds for Warrior is so impressively modern and sleek - even sort of David Fincher-esque a bit, I think, yes?
BW: Oh, thank you for saying that. You know, when I do perfume ads and such, I like to exploit that aspect of it - I sort of like to go into the glamorous world occasionally, I guess. [Pause.] You know, I suppose you could say it is sort of Fincher-esque, though, thinking about it, isn't it? Yeah, I guess it is. But, yes, I do like to mix it up and I do like to work in the glossy world sometimes - like with that. [View the Hugo Boss Warrior commercial here.]
PC: Do you enjoy working with more artistic freedom and bigger budgets like you are afforded on commercials, I would presume?
BW: Oh, yes, of course! It's great. Because you are entertaining into another world - like I am - it is very exciting indeed [to work on commercials]. But, again, I do really like to mix it up, so it's not something that I would be happy just working in that world, you know? Like with the Springsteen film, it was really good experience for me - really enjoyable - because it's completely at the other end of the spectrum from anything I have done.
PC: A challenge.
BW: Yes, exactly - a challenge.
PC: I also wanted to touch on your acting career briefly - is it true you appear in the surreal LOVE IS THE DEVIL?
BW: Yes, I am in LOVE IS THE DEVIL - albeit very, very briefly! I am a policeman in it. That was a lot of fun to do. I mean, my boyfriend at the time, that was his movie... so, of course I'm in it! [Laughs.]
PC: Is that how you first met Daniel Craig, prior to directing him yourself in FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL?
BW: Yes, we met on LOVE IS THE DEVIL and that's how we ended up doing FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL together later on - and everything else.
PC: You also did the Sony SKYFALL commercial with him recently, as well, did you not?
BW: Yes, we did a special SKYFALL TV commercial together last year - that's how I like to be, though; as I said at the beginning, I like to go back and forth. So, after that, I did SPRINGSTEEN & I and I've just done a commercial in Hong Kong with Andy Lau. [View the Sony SKYFALL commercial here].
PC: What's next?
BW: Well, right now I am going to be doing commercial work for a while until I find my next film project. The last commercial that played in America for me was the Sony SKYFALL one, but I've just made a Cartier ad with Andy Lau and that will be coming out in September, I believe, so I guess that is the next thing.
PC: Do you have a favorite of all your commercials thus far?
BW: Oh, that's a good question! Hmm. Let me think. [Pause.] Well, I did a commercial for a Flake [cereal] ad in England - [Cadbury's] Flake has a sort of history of doing really great commercials, so I felt really lucky to be able to do a Flake ad and I think it turned it out really well. So, for people in the US, look it up because I think you might enjoy it! [View the Cadbury's Flake commercial here.]
PC: Thank you so much for this today, Baillie. SPRINGSTEEN & I is an unprecedented Fathom event to go along with the best of the rest and you are to be commended for your work on it!
BW: Oh, thank you so much, Pat. This was a lot of fun today. Bye bye.
BONUS: View the trailer for SPRINGSTEEN & I below.
Photos Credits: SPRINGSTEEN & I