By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
As far as rock documentaries go, this particular film is not presented in a particularly unique way. It is the subject of this film who is totally unique and quite remarkable. Danny Fields became a regular fixture in the sixties rock scene, hanging with The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol’s entourage, The Doors, and several others. During the transition between the late sixties and early seventies, Danny would get involved in a new rock movement which would make its indelible mark on the music world–Punk. Danny went on to manage The Stooges, MC5, and The Ramones, using his flamboyant and brash personality to promote and mentor these legendary artists. Danny Fields is a rock ‘n roll rebel, but certainly not a high profile one.
Brendan Toller’s film may not be presented in the most unique way, but that is not to say that it isn’t very well done and presented in exciting ways. Using interviews, archive footage, and animation, Toller and his crew put a lot of work into this documentary and it pays off well. The director obviously has much love for his subject and this labor of love took a lot of time, patience, money and skill to accomplish its loving tribute. The film is a fascinating portrait of a truly remarkable man who worked behind some of the most legendary artists of punk rock.
During the SXSW festival, I had the pleasure of speaking with Brendan Toller who expressed much warmth and zeal for his subject.
Mark Saldana: How did you meet Danny Fields?
Brendan Toller: I was working on my first film, I Need That Record! which was sort of about the early mid 2000’s record stores. Every outlet was like, “Well, that’s it. Digital is here. Goodbye CD’s and vinyl.” Through my girlfriend at the time, Ariel Rosenbloom, her grandmother insisted that I meet him. We had an interview for I Need That Record! and it never made the cut because Danny’s amazing and we didn’t even get to talk about record stores. We just became friends. I went to New York and asked him if he wanted to do this (the documentary) and he said yes.
M.S.: How difficult was it to secure all these interviews and testimonials for the film?
B.T.: That is why the film took 5 1/2 years. We did interview 60 people, but it really did help shape Danny in a real, round way. We chased after a lot of these people for a while. So it took us a while, but to have a film without Iggy (Pop) and Alice (Cooper)…You gotta have these people in it!
M.S.: You seem relatively young.
M.S.: How did you originally discover these artists?
B.T.: When I was 15, my uncle who like lives in 1968/1969, and even restores cars from that time…My Uncle Paul gave me FunHouse and “Kick Out the Jams” for me to borrow. At the time, the kids I went to school with were into Good Charlotte and stuff like that which was kind of a fake punk revival. I listened to FunHouse and The Stooges’ first album on repeat for like two years coming home for school.
M.S.: Talk about the use of animation in your documentary.
B.T.: I really tried to use archives and the best takes of interviews, but I love animation as a form and I wish it was brought into more documentaries and more feature films. I thought it would be a fascinating thing to do to break up the talking heads. The animation in the Doors sequence (in the documentary) was so good!
M.S.: Are you a musician as well?
B.T.: I am actually. I got asked by these friends in this band called Jacques Le Coque to fill in on bass and I recorded an album with them and it’s out on cassette on King Pizza Records and it’s out digitally through Windian which is this really great garage label.
M.S.: Do you have any dream film projects?
B.T.: My dream is I’d really love to make a movie with Eric Clapton about the Derek and the Dominos album (Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs) because it is a very tragic story.
M.S.: Can you talk about any issues or problems securing the rights to use the music and footage in the film?
B.T.: We’re still dealing with that. This is just the festival cut (of the film). We’re working with Global Image Works, a clearance firm and we’re going to pull all the favors we can. A good amount of the footage falls under fair use which is great and I encourage other documentary filmmakers to really seek opinions on that. The modes of production are so democratized and the rights are not. So many documentaries have been held hostage by rights. It’s gotta change. There are so many filmmakers unable to do what they want to do even on an avant garde level.
M.S.: What do you want people to take away from your documentary?
B.T.: It’s about the music industry as a whole. It’s terrible that people like Danny Fields aren’t even in the record business anymore.
Danny Says will screen one more time on Saturday, March 21, 12:00 p.m., at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar B.