Justin Kreutzmann on Move Me Brightly, Bobby, Pete, Eddie and Jerry
*JPG: Compared to other TRI events I’ve watched, it looked as if it was really packed in the studio space during the Move Me Brightly event. How are you able to have cameramen and still photographers do what they need to do yet keep the crowd from moving up and getting in the way? Are there instructions to the audience to get them to behave? *
JK: Well, no one would listen to us if we asked them to do that. (slight laugh) The dolly track going in front of the stage with the big heavy camera going in front of them was a big deterrent. A lot of the time it’s a rugby game. I’ll have cameramen who are just elbowing people politely to find space because TRI is not set up for people. It’s set up to do broadcasts and record with a very small group of people. That show was big.
It’s a juggling act. But they’re all very nice. It’s not like people don’t move out of the way. They understand that they’re watching for better or worse a TV show being filmed. So, a lot of people get it. It gets crowded and it’s tough, and if it looks a little crowded on the visuals it was nowhere near…it looks better on TV than it actually was. It was a lot harder to maneuver in there than it usually is, but that show in particular there was a lot of people.
JPG: For an event like that did you set up a lot of stationary cameras or even use something like GoPro cameras?
JK: I think there’s a whole GoPro reality that should come to TRI. It’s just balancing it out with what we have because I love the human touch. My personal aesthetic is one cameraman is worth five locked-off shots. I want that human angle.
We’ve been talking to GoPro people and they love the space. We’re talking about doing some stuff. I’m interested in exploring it. I know GoPro from sports and it’s fantastic. We want to be taking that and applying it to our aesthetic and seeing what we come up with ‘cause a lot of the music we do at TRI isn’t breakneck tempos. So, maybe there’s a different way to incorporate that stuff into what we do. I’m really excited to explore GoPro. That sounds like an ad. (laughs) Well, they gave me a free camera, so I’m pretty stoked to check it out.
JPG: I’ve seen GoPro used in different situations besides sports. I’ve really noticed their use in the Jerry Seinfeld web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” He has what looks like one team in a van following him but for much of the car scenes it’s three or four GoPro cameras set up. It looks good on a computer. I don’t know how it would look on a TV screen or something bigger.
JK: I know one of the cameramen that work on that show. They use more than just GoPro. Some of those car shots you can’t get a human being to be sitting there and I can’t see the difference when they’re cutting from a bigger camera to the GoPro stuff. To me that’s a great testament to the future for those cameras.
JPG: Going back, you mentioned about talking with Jerry about The Grateful Dead Movie. Usually you see the offspring of musicians pick up the mantle. In Move Me Brightly there’s Harper Simon, son of Paul, and Lukas Nelson, son of Willie, playing. What brought you towards film rather than music?
JK: When I was a kid my dad used to leave drum sets in my room. I don’t know if that had an exact opposite effect. When I was a kid, everyone wanted to be a drummer. All the other Dead kids…well, not all of ‘em but a lot of the people in our circle wanted to be a drummer. I just got the film bug. They were doing Apocalypse Now and my dad and Mickey [Hart] were working on some of the percussion. I was seven or eight, and I would just watch Francis [Ford Coppola]..this was when Apocalypse Now was like six hours long. I would sit there and he would be talking to everybody and describing the film in terms of the sounds the jungle makes. It was fascinating!
And, he’s such a great guy and I loved his family. I just loved that world. There was nothing Hollywood about it. It was…Francis Coppola, just this cool northern California [vibe of] making films and film as art but they still have lots of explosions…it just got me. And right about that time Star Wars came out, too. So, between Francis and George Lucas I was in.
Then, my dad bought me a Super 8 camera and I started shooting films when I was eight. Fortunately, I’ve been able to have a life because of it.
JPG: You got the Super 8 camera after the Apocalypse Now sessions?
JK: Yeah. It was right in that whole time period. I remember this really distinctly, being at a show and my dad asking Bill Graham to ask George Lucas the best way to get me started into film. I don’t have this letter but Bill wrote George and George wrote back, “Get him a Super 8 camera and tell him to start. That’s the best way you do it.” And that’s exactly what I did.
JPG: Speaking of Super 8 footage, and other footage, you must have shot a lot backstage and onstage. Have you looked at it and is any of it worthwhile to put together as Backstage Pass 2 or used somewhere else?
JK: There is a lot of stuff, particularly the main period that I was shooting was ’86-’90 because we just bought a new video camera. I wasn’t working on anything for the Dead. I was working on different projects but I wasn’t shooting for any purposes because back then, it’s not like today, the video quality was such that it was unusable despite what people would think. So, there is a large stockpile of it but I don’t see it becoming its own thing.
For instance, I’m in Los Angeles right now and we’re doing a Bob Weir feature that’s going to come out next year. We’re sprinkling it with shots from my stuff because it’s the only perspective you see of those guys is from my perspective and stuff like that. Whenever it gets around to somebody doing the ultimate Grateful Dead movie…anything that involves telling the story of these guys I see this as a great little batch of stuff that you can sprinkle in even in its late ‘80s home video look. You don’t see the band in hotels and in the van or offstage candid moments but little touches here and there can be used really well.
JPG: I can’t remember right now but was any of your footage used in the Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 DVD?
JK: I wasn’t on that trip. A guy named Richard Loren shot a lot of Super 8. He was the band’s manager back then. They called him Zippy. If you watch Backstage Pass I use a lot of Zippy’s footage when they’re walking around the Sphinx, the different pyramids and the different parts of Egypt whose names I definitely will butcher and probably get completely incorrectly. But, there is some good Super 8 from that. I didn’t go on that trip so none of it is mine.