Monday, June 30, 2014




Image: David BOWIE The ARCHER By John Robert Rowlands Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago Illinois USA

Welcome to The SUMMER 2014 Edition of BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE MAGAZINE. We are very pleased to bring you a New Slate of Interviews featuring writer Luis VALDEZ of Zoot Suit / La Bamba Fame. Our Guest Artist is Philadelphia Painter David PALUMBO. This Edition features The Iconic David BOWIE Essay and the Musical Tour Art Exhibition. Terry RICHARDSON with a New Photographic Essay from Elvis Presley's GRACELAND. David LEVINTHAL with a sampling from his Fine Art Photography. An Essay on Sci - Fi  Screen Writer George Clayton JOHNSON. Various In Depth Interviews with Fine Artists:   John WESTON, Gustavo GODOY, David FeBLAND and Designer Andrew WHITMORE. FILM Interviews with The Directors of Billy MIZE + The Bakersfield Sound, Druid PEAK, Lake Los Angeles, Supremacy & The PLEASURES of Being Out of Step: Notes on The Life of Nat HENTOFF. Music Interview/Top Ten List of Very Cool Things by Kenny VASOLI Four Chapters of The New FICTION: " They Call IT The City of ANGELS " by J.A. TRILIEGI  David FeBLAND's Fine Art Painting Catalog is accompaning The New Fiction Projects. We Welcome SomeKindaWonderful of Downtown Records as featured Music at The Site: The LA Classic 'California'. 




Mr Palumbo is a prolific painter working in a multitude of styles. David has an ongoing series of works including: The Tarot, The Portraits, Fantasy illustration, Gallery Fine Art and his sexually charged, if not controversial Quickies. The later available in publication as well as for purchase individually. Once familiar with David Palumbo's work, each style or series is immediately identifiable and interesting. The Quickies definitely push the envelope and raise the bar as well as the blood pressure on sexually charged and inspired figural art work. 

David Palumbo is that rare breed hybrid of working illustrator, fine artist and individual creator who is pushing the envelope on what can be done with an image. Mr Palumbo's portraits of well known personalities such as Sidney Poitier, Mathew McConaughey, David Bowie and Jane Fonda capture the essence of the person and also stamp his own style and interpretation accordingly. David Palumbo has what we might call a painterly style: excessive brush strokes, textural experimentation, impressionistic via the materials. Schooled as a classical figural painter with a keen interest in cinema and raised among a family of artists has led him to be commissioned by a wide variety of publications and we are very proud to have him as Guest Artist for The June/August Edition of BUREAU of Arts and Culture Magazine & BUREAU of Arts and Culture . com & Community Sites On Line. 

The David Palumbo Sci-Fi or Fantasy illustrative work is not only exciting, bold, striking, sometimes scary and even gory, but also imaginative, humorous and always services the story being told. BUREAU readers may remember Mr Palumbo's artworks affiliated with the Fiction project in the recent June edition of the magazine. David's work brought an entirely new & fresh approach to telling the story and we noticed right away how accessible and welcoming as well as supportive his work is to the text. The dark humor involved in his fantasy illustration harkens back to the American comic books from the nineteen sixties and even further back than that, some of his themes relate back to early 19th and 20th century illustrative technique's of the English variety: Sherlock Holmes and Jack The Ripper. With the resurgence and popularity of Vampires, Zombies and a new form of sexually expressive  
literature, art and film in today's current creative landscape, we are sure that the popularity of Mr David Palumbo's artworks is on the rise and we are glad to introduce our readers, as well as allow Mr Palumbo himself to describe his process and share a top ten of his favorites. We spoke with David Palumbo about his career, his education and his approach when it comes to making Art for a living and who he keeps an eye on when it comes to inspiration. Enjoy The David Palumbo Interview and many Artworks dispersed throughout. Rather than censor the artist, we give you full warning now, this is Mr Palumbo un - edited.

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By Joshua TRILIEGI  

Luis VALDEZ  changed The Entire Literature Landscape with his Fierce Hit Play, "ZOOT  SUIT".  Here in Southern California, The Play is much more than words. It is a personal and positive Idea that gave many people the inspiration to do something with the things they saw, not only in their homes and neighborhoods , but to reclaim what was happening in the media, to own the stories that they were being told and to simply reclaim what was rightfully theirs to begin with: Their  Own  Family  Stories. In This Interview Bureau Editor Joshua TRILIEGI and Luis VALDEZ discuss his career, his working process and the development of a powerful force that continues to inspire millions of  Indigenous People around  the World and teaches everybody else.

Mr Valdez went on to create The Film "LA BAMBA", which told the very important story of Latin Musician & Songwriter, Ritchie Valens. Fueled by the proliferation of 1950's Retro Nostalgic Films such as American Graffiti and its follow up Happy Days, as well as The Musical Biographical genre's popularity of projects like The Buddy Holly Story, Elvis and the like: LA BAMBA was the perfect project that entirely launched the energy and force of ZOOT SUIT into the stratosphere of popular media and culture, finally  a story that rightfully claimed, explained and honored The Latino Experience, or as Luis Valdez might put it, "The Chicano Experience" in popular music history. The film itself touches on the family paradigm in both mythical and real circumstances.

A beautiful & entertaining film that holds up today just as it originally did upon its creation. In the same way that Zoot Suit gave us the career of Edward James Olmos, 'The Chicano Bogart', La Bamba gave us a multitude of talent in front  of and behind the scenes: Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Los Lobos & Others.

Since then, Mr Valdez has continued his influence as The Worlds Leading Latino and Chicano Playwright traveling everywhere, all the time, sharing his great wealth of knowledge and experience with a world thirsty for truth, experience & entertainment. 
We are proud to bring you Luis VALDEZ, unexpurgated, uninhibited and unbeaten.

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DAVID BOWIE: IS The Other Man 

David Bowie Is the most important contributor to Modern Rock and Roll. Many people forget that Bowie is actually the Godfather of Punk Rock and New Wave Music. That includes: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Souxie, Gary Glitter & The Entire English New Wave invasion of the 80's. The big difference being that, heoutlasted all of those who he had inspired. And to this day, he still puts out interesting, experimental Music. David Bowie is also the most influential contributor to Modern Rock & Roll, hands down. He is the original Chameleon.BOWIE is The Space man, The Thin White Duke, The Spider from Mars, The Cracked Actor, The Joker, The Glam-A-Rama, The Trusty Narrator of our Story, The Social Critic, The Sexual Seeker, The Man who Fell to Earth and so much more. Possibly the most daring and experimental performer in Rock and Roll ever, make that the most daring, most respected and the most successful performer in Rock and Roll Music History.   

Todays new music scene is entirely dependent on David Bowie's influence. Bowie alone brought back the return of : The Story, The Character, The Opera, The Entertainer, The Show, to Rock and Roll Music. He became his characters and then killed them off accordingly, like Mary Shelly and Doctor  Frankenstein did with The Monster. Bowie's musical alignments with fellow performers like Iggy Pop, John Lennon and Mick Jagger are legendary. Bowie is really the Elvis of a new time and place. He speaks to more than one generation in our homes. The albums are still very much classics. They take us on a journey. They are mini novels. They are sensitive, brash, gentle and oddly scathing. The music is not dated because it was decades ahead to begin with and so we return to David Bowie year after year, decade after decade, again and again. Bowie personified life in London, Berlin, Japan, New York, Hollywood and then, finally, the entire World. In "Young Americans", Bowie told Americans more about ourselves than we would ever know before. Speaking directly to sexuality, politics, housewives, young men, young women and to all of us kids. He spoke and we listened, even Bing Crosby couldn't deny Bowie's influence. 

There is so much yearning in Bowie's music, in his voice, in his lyrics, in his trembling statements about life, about love, about loss. He is connected with, on the one hand, Opera and on the other hand, Literature. And in the middle, is this very gentle and fierce performer who, when he grabs the microphone, and warms into the song, flinches his head, smiles, echoes & reinvents the performances as he goes along. When David Bowie gets into the performance, something quite magic happens, to us, to him, to the audience. David Bowie is elliptically responsible for the careers of film makers like David Lynch. Had Bowie not played The Elephant Man on Broadway, for recording breaking performances, in the 1970's, the play would not have been optioned and turned into a film, which launched the career of David Lynch. David Bowies foray into androgynous characters is also partly responsible for the rights of alternative lifestyles that are currently in the limelight at this time all around the world. His music invaded the toughest neighborhoods and even the toughest hoods in those 'hoods. Ziggy Stradust alone is possibly the most legendary music character to celebrate the beauty of Performance, Insanity and Displaced Heroism ever created by anyone ever.  Its starts with " Ziggy played Guitar … " and then it ends with, "… Ziggy played Guitar."  The bookends of Rock and Roll for The Modern Man: End of The Story.  Well, at least until the Next David Bowie album. 

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MARNI ZELNICK:  Film Director

BUREAU Editor Joshua Triliegi talks with Marni Zelnick about her most recent feature film.

TRILIEGI: DRUID PEAK is a wonderful film. Tell us about your earliest interest in this particular subject and how you went about developing the project. 

MARNI ZELNICK: A lot of the story elements that eventually became part of Druid Peak were things that had been germinating with me for a long time. The effect external geography can have on our internal selves; the almost haphazard but devastatingly permanent way life can be lost when you’re a teenager; the fact that people so rarely ask the right questions of each other; the power animals have to communicate without speaking, and how their vulnerability can move even the most stoic heart. I think every writer has those things. But the immediate catalyst for the film was a $100,000 production grant offered by the Sloan Foundation for a script dealing with science or technology.  Funding for first features can be incredibly difficult to find and I knew I wanted to apply for the grant. I went to their information session and they were probably no more than fifteen minutes into it when the image of a kid running alongside a pack of wolves streamed through my head.  It was the unification of a million things I cared about.  All of those ideas I mentioned plus Jackson Hole, Wyoming—a place that had been significant to me both as a teenager and an adult.  The story kind of grew out of and around that image.  

TRILIEGI: The Film starts out with a common problem facing much of the youth of today: Urban Dissatisfaction. Your lead character, Owen, goes through a slow and steady transformation, discuss the arc of this character. 

MARNI ZELNICK: You know, I would say it a little bit differently.  I would call it environmental dissatisfaction, rather than urban dissatisfaction.  I think it would have been easy to make Owen an urban teen and for the conflict to simply be urban versus rural life.  But as a film with an environmental subject, I wanted the issue to be more complicated than that.  I specifically set Owen in West Virginia because it’s a place as potentially beautiful as Wyoming, but we’ve used the land very differently.  The town we shot in, Mt. Hope, was an old coal town where the seam was mined to exhaustion.  The land was depleted and the town never recovered. So a potentially very beautiful place had been used in a way that left its inhabitants with very little, both visually and in terms of opportunity.  Owen is a smart kid who feels crushed by the claustrophobia of the place.  There’s nothing there for him.  He may not be self-aware enough to articulate it that way, but he’s stopped trying to make anything of himself or his life because he doesn’t see where it could lead—what the point is.  His arc is a lot about realizing that there are still choices to be made.  He can choose a different place, a different life, a different self.  

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BUREAU: We first came across your work at SABINA LEE Gallery in Los Angeles Chinatown a few years ago. That was a particularly humorous, colorful and sexually symbolic exhibition. What have you been doing since that time ? 

JOHN WESTON: I just finished an intensive installation at Venice 6114 in Culver City.  Venice 6114 is an alternative space run by Sergio Bromberg, and our concept for the show was to install a one bedroom apartment inside of the space. My focus was on the bedroom.  I painted or wallpapered all of the walls, on top of which I hung drawings and paintings.  We also carpeted the room and brought in a bed and I had a few sculptures in the show as well.  The work for the show came from a few different bodies of work created over the past 5 years or so, all of which were sexually charged in one way or another which I felt worked perfectly for the bedroom.  The exhibition will be up until September 13.

In addition to that installation, I have been busy in my studio making a new body of work called Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair.  These works pick up where the show at Sabina Lee (Pleasure Paintings) left off.  The work was initially made in anticipation of another solo show.  Since that show has not materialized, the bulk of the work (about 20 paintings and drawings) will be shown in a 3 person show titled May Contain Explicit Imagery at CB1 Gallery in Downtown LA.  The show is about sexualized abstraction and it opens July 27.

BUREAU: Some of the work you are doing appears to be rather time intensive. Many of todays artists will create prints utilizing technology, where it seems that you get a similar effect, but it's all painted by hand. Would you consider yourself old school with a futuristic style or futuristic with an old school technique ? 

JOHN WESTON: Much of my work is pretty labor intensive.  While a lot of the colors are applied with a flat technique leaving little evidence of brushwork (a quality which could lend itself to a variety of printmaking options) I feel that one's relationship to a painting made by hand is fundamentally different that one's relationship to a print.  I think there is a quality that comes from a handmade object that would get lost in a print.  I am not against printmaking, and I use silk-screening for a number of projects like wallpapers and 'zines, but I feel that the paintings operate in a different way. 

I guess my technique is a little bit "old school."  While I do use relatively traditional techniques, the decision comes more from the results that they produce rather than any commitment to tradition.  As far as futuristic, I'm not sure that applies to my imagery.  I think that if there is anything futuristic, it may be the hybridization in the work; mixing elements from various visual worlds (ie: comics, op art, traditional crafts, etc.) rather than adhering to one unified style.  

We spoke with Kenny Vasoli of the Band VACATIONER about his process in making music, composing, inspiration and touring with the band. BUREAU Magazine readers 
will recognize VACATIONER Music, We showcased it on The Bureau Site in JUNE.   

BUREAU: Here at The BUREAU were all about ART + Culture. Give us a List of top ten Cultural References for our readers to check out: Art, Film, Music, Surfing, Design, Etc…

K.V. : 
1.Daniel Madeline Collage artist. I've always liked trippy collage work, this guy seems to be among the trippiest.

2. Matt Schwartz Photographer, I recently had the pleasure of working with Matt. I had been a fan of his work prior to the shoot. His pictures are colorful and vibrant, and he usually shoots really beautiful girls.

3. Duncan Trussel Comedian & podcast host. Duncan has a personality that shines brightly through his voice and his words. An expressively positive human who can verbalize thought-provoking humor with inherent ease.  To say he is a comedian isn't framing it perfectly.  He is somewhere closer to a humorous Terence McKenna. His podcast is called The Duncan Trussell Family hour, I highly recommend it.

4. Yorgos Lanthimos Filmmaker. His most recent movie, Alps, blew me away. Without spoiling too much, I love the way he makes you feel around in the dark for what exactly is going on.  But even when you figure it out, something is still very alien. It feels like a Twilight Zone episode a bit, like you are in a different dimension of earth. Yorgos is perfect example of someone who is able to rattle me with their art.

5. Antonio Carlos Jobim Musician & composer . I've been swallowed by a deepening interest in 60's/70's era Brazilian music.  When you go down that hole, you are bound to come across Antonio Carlos Jobim. He wrote and performed some of the greats.  The album "Wave" is considered a masterpiece. "Stone Flower," however, is my favorite of his records.

6. Eckart Tolle Author & Spiritual Philosopher.  I occasionally receive an eyebrow lift when I discuss spiritual philosophy, and understandably so.  It's deep into the hippy dipping pond.  I'd simply be remiss to leave Eckart Tolle off of my list, he is a significant cultural character in my life. Hearing him speak relaxes me a great deal, so I listen often.

7. James Murphy Musician, producer and just rad dude. This guy knows how to live! LCD was my favorite band when they played their last show, and somehow I felt great about the closure. I'll always get excited seeing his name attached to a project.

8. Maggie Hayes Artist. Maggie is a beautifully talented painter, mixed - media artist, photographer & model. Another figure in my life who positively motivates me to raise my own bar.

9. Righteous Jolly Mixologist.  I know of Righteous through mutual friends, I first met him at a pal's birthday celebration at a bar he was managing. He was making some of the most interesting drinks I'd ever experienced, with ingredients he created himself. If you are in Philadelphia, he has a place called Bourbon & Branch. Ask him to make you the one that has the jalapeno in it! Yum.

10. Jimmy Cobra Carbonetti Guitar-maker. Cobra plays guitar in Caveman, he builds every guitar they use.  They look and sound gorgeous.  Beautiful timeless style.
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Billy MIZE & The Bakersfield Sound 


 History is sometimes told by outsiders, sometimes by insiders and sometimes by someone simply very interested in the facts, in this case: it's a little of each. Billy MIZE and The Bakersfield Sound is a New Documentary that tells the story of California's forgotten history. We have got a lot of those around this Golden State. So very much has happened out here in The West. William J. Saunders steps up to tell the story of his Grandfather, songwriter and musician, Mr Billy Mize. A local legend of sorts for anyone living in the middle of California in the 1950's & 1960's. Billy Mize was a big part of what is now commonly called, 'The Bakersfield Sound'. An offshoot of Country Western Music with its own Rock - a - Billy bar room blend of hard driving guitar, rough edged rhythm and wide audience appeal that to this today is influential to musicians such as Dave Alvin, who appears in this film to help tell the story. So too does Merle Haggard and a host of people who were there or highly influenced by the music that was created during that time. A hard driving, hard working community of people whom many migrated to California during The Great Depression ala John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and settled into middle California seeking employment in Agriculture. 

" This is a Patchwork Quilt of a Film that is 
                                        Truly American in its Creation. " 

Billy Mize and his pals had to actually establish the Academy of Country Western Music to chime in and recognize each other and their contemporaries out West. Artists such as Elvis, Dean Martin, Barbara Mandrell and others are sited as influenced and impressed by The Bakersfield Scene. Billy Mize, looked after new talent, collaborated, produced and performed with the likes of folks such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, who would go on to prosperous profits and notoriety while Billy, sometimes, did not. This documentary elliptically raises the question: What is Success ? Is it a top ten hit or is it a happy marriage or is it simply being satisfied with the things you have done ? Ask that question to three different people and you will get three different answers. This film allows each viewer to decide for themselves that answer and meanwhile we learn much about the center of California, The Music of Bakersfield and the career(s) of a whole group of people that clearly deserve our recognition. This is a patchwork quilt of a film that is truly American in its creation.  


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BUREAU: Tell us about your relationship with creating imagery: When & how did it start? 

David FeBLAND: I began creating imagery in my head long before its physical embodiment on canvas. I didn’t even think of myself as an artist until I reached my 20’s, and I began to create wholly self-expressive work only as I reached the age of 40. I was a 6 year old child growing up in the bucolic countryside of Southern England when suddenly my family relocated to Coney Island, Brooklyn. It was 1955, during the ebbing but still raucous era of side shows and bawdy entertainments of a working class seaside town. The giant spatulas hadn’t yet been affixed to the front of the Sanitation trucks, better to evenly tan the Unfortunates who fell by the wayside.  That was coming but still in the future. My new neighborhood was a lively place where Freak shows were commonplace, and the people who worked them for a living went about their local errands after hours. My first explorations in my new country included quotidian encounters with The Hairy Lady (full mustache & beard), The Leopard Girl (skin half black, half white), The Fat Man (at 400 lbs, a real standout rather than today’s next-in-line at McDonalds), Mr. Pinhead (don’t ask) and a supporting cast of dwarves, simians & fire-breathers. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This seminal experience gestated for a long time before finding its way into art as I engaged in a variety other life pursuits, but it formed my view of public life forever. I never really took my eyes off the street again, and l believe that at that early age my interest in human interaction with our physical surroundings was set. However unconsciously, my lifelong determination to cast the world around me as dramatic narrative was established. We carry a few essential ideas into and through our creative lives. We go back to them again and again in a process of refinement. Our craft improves, we discover new methodologies and media, but they always support a nucleus of what I would call essential truths that we form early in our experience.



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  By Joshua TRILIEGI

This magazine was once an Art Studio, it transformed into a professional Gallery and later into a multi media center for celebrating the arts of all types: Fine Art, Painting Sculpture, Photography, Classic and Contemporary Arts, Poetry, Music and Film. About this time of year almost twenty years ago, we decided to screen several original Twilight Zone prints on 16MM film reels and invite an audience. Back then, if you were sincere, forthright and naive enough, you could simply pick up the phone, make a few inquiries and next thing knew, you were on the phone with someone like George Clayton Johnson. 
By the way, thank you to the lady at the writers guild who broke protocol sensing that many of our older, wiser and more talented writers in this town were not getting enough attention from the next generation. In Bogart and Bacall fashion, she helped Sam Spade. 

The phone rings several times, " Hello, Is this George Clayton Johnson the original writer for The Twilight Zone ? ", I asked, sounding not unlike a child actor from an Old Time Radio Show: raspy, anxious, hurried. At that time, I had no idea that George also wrote Logan's Run, The story for The Original Oceans Eleven and a slew of Television shows including: The first Star Trek episode, Kung Fu, Route 66 & Alfred Hitchcock Presents. "Yes, this is he." The voice on the other line replied. I was ecstatic, this was not the first writer from the series I had called, many had passed away, others lived in New York or elsewhere, and to top it off George had actually been the writer of one of the reels we were showing and of some of the best work in the Zone series: Kick The Can, A Penny for Your Thoughts, A Game of Pool, Nothing in The Dark : Each Twilight Zone Classics. 

I explained what we had planned and asked if he might be interested in appearing for the screenings, [ long pause ] "Yes, I would."  In Hollywood, that is the phrase that opens doors, that is the phrase that begins careers, that is the phrase that starts the great journey, it is the phrase we want to hear from those we love, those we wish to work with and those we admire. And, in classic sci-fi style: everything appeared different after that dialogue. The objects in my office seemed different, as if gravity meant nothing, the world was do able, the opportunities seemed endless and I was about to hang out with a writer I had admired since childhood. Suddenly, we were The Bureau of Arts and Culture, we were purveyors of not just Art, Music and Poetry, but now, we were actually presenting and honoring great writers in town. George showed up trailed by a film crew, he was the great 
philosopher and old pro and I was a mere student & enthusiast: the perfect combination.

It was Obi Wan & Luke. It was the great Chief and a New Warrior. It was George and I. 
It was also our first official, 'Question and Answer ' exchange with a real working writer. Mr Johnson was a fabulous guest, there was standing room only, we were 'On The Map'. Flash forward almost 20 years. Mr Johnson has had a total resurgence, due to the many  remakes of his original story: Oceans Eleven by director Steven Soderberg and the other  subsequent films including, Oceans Twelve and Oceans Thirteen. From what we are hearing around town, there will soon be a new Logans Run. We at the BUREAU are very 
proud to have been on the forefront of recognizing one of The most imaginative and greatest writers working in Hollywood since the early Nineteen Sixties. We wish to thank 
George Clayton Johnson for his contribution, not only to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Film and Television, but for his collaboration, cooperation and very cool demeanor in  working with and recognizing our earnest and heartfelt efforts at a time when many pros  had no idea who we were and what it was we were doing at the time. Many still haven't. Mr. George Clayton Johnson has always been ahead of his time and in a way, so are we. 

Even our name  was confusing to people: The BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE. It sure sounded official for an Artist run organization. So much so that, curators from Cultural Affairs working for the city actually came down and hand picked artists for Exhibitions. So to did many reporters for Vanity Fair, Coagula Arts Journal, The LA Weekly, The LA Times, The New Times, Venice Magazine, Fine Art International. Cultural Non profits such as LA Goethe Institute were extremely enthusiastic about our exhibitions & events. 

All in all, The BUREAU found itself at the correct place at the correct time doing what many Institutes do with big bank rolls, non profit status or major grants from corporate and private institutes. We did it with enthusiasm, we did it with honesty, we did it with care and we did it without all the phony and fake affiliative aspects that now have pervaded the entire landscape of entertainment, art institutes and music/film related non profits of today. Were still doing it with this publication and we will go on doing just that with whatever venture this artist run organization enters into. After all, we also make Art, Films and Books. Without the George Clayton Johnson's of the world, This organization  would not be what it is: Thank You George. 



Documentary Film maker Davis L. Lewis  speaks  with  Bureau  Editor Joshua Triliegi 
about the new documentary, " The Pleasures Of Being Out Of Step ": Notes On The Life Of Nat Hentoff which features music by Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, John Coltrane  and Duke Ellington. The film focuses on an interesting story and the career of one of America's leading Music Critics and Independent writing voices in last few decades. An authentic and personal film with a an up - close look  at  a  very  outspoken  writer.

BUREAU: Your new Documentary on Nat Hentoff, which recently received festival awards, relies heavily on the actual thoughts, opinions and participation of the subject. What were both the pluses and challenges in having NAT HENTOFF allow such all access to you as a film maker.

Davis L. Lewis: We tried to capture Hentoff at the perfect moment in his career, at a point where he was able to reflect with great depth on his life and explain it as he explained so many other lives and creations. He was around 83 and 84 when we shot the three interviews.  [continued ]

Davis L. Lewis: [ - continued ] If you think of your subject as a “text,” the very great advantage we had was to have a primary text to interrogate at the very center of our story. Much different than trying to make a film about someone who has already passed. He could be a little cantankerous, and didn’t love having cameras invade his space. For instance, it took me six months to convince him to let us shoot a simple scene with him in his neighborhood barbershop, and even then he tried to back out the night before. We exchanged some blunt words over that, but that often happens in a project of this size, and he went ahead. Afterwards, he said he was glad we did it.  

" I will always be grateful for the freedom and respect he and his family gave us. " 

But besides that he was a pleasure to work with. He never told us what we could or could not ask, or who we could or could not talk to. I don’t think it was out of any particular respect for me — he didn’t know me very well when we first started. I think it was out of respect for journalism and the journalistic process. I don’t think he likes everything we put in the film, but I think he appreciates the honesty and integrity we tried to bring to the project. I don’t think he would have liked an unadulterated hagiography, and I will always be grateful for the freedom and respect he and his family gave us.

BUREAU: NAT HENTOFF is quite an interesting character: we enjoyed the film. How did you come to choose this subject as a feature documentary and tell us about the journey from impetus to final release if you will ?

Davis L. Lewis: I’m glad you enjoyed it! The initial impulse was complicated but basically boils down to this: As a journalist myself, I’ve always loved the “war stories” I heard in the newsrooms and bars where we tend to congregate. As I got older, and as the digital age crept up & then roared over us, I began to realize that we are losing a generation of journalists who made their lives in the printed word. We are very good about telling other people’s stories, but not so good at telling our own. I felt an overwhelming desire to preserve some of that history. There were lots of possible subjects, but Hentoff presented a particularly intriguing one because of the jazz. I was never an aficionado, and only had a vague awareness of his earlier work. So the chance to learn more about the music was big draw. I remember how hard I worked to prepare for the interview we did on jazz — and how nervous I was when we sat down to do it. Afterward, I asked him how we did, and he said, “At least you knew the right questions to ask.” That was a big relief! I’ve worked all over print and broadcast journalism, but this was my first feature-length film, my first large-scale independent project. The creative challenge as the director was to try to get past the usual bio-pic documentary formula and create a film with its own aesthetic that helped us tell the story. I think we did pretty well at that, although I’m sure not all the critics will agree. As the producer, the biggest pleasure was putting together a great team that helped me keep up the creative momentum over the length of the production. The biggest challenge, of course, was finding the resources to get it all done.  

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