Larry Johnson & Elliot Roberts Interview
From DVDFILE.COM: Ten Questions - Larry Johnson & Elliot Roberts by Mike Restaino.
I've never seen anything like Greendale before.
Larry Johnson: Well, here at Shakey Pictures [Neil Young's production company] we pride ourselves on things like that. (laughs)
It's been quite a while since Neil Young's last directorial effort [1982's Human Highway]. How did this movie version of Greendale initially come about?
Eliot Roberts: It started when Neil began writing. We had already set up the recording studio to be filmed - from the very beginning we had blue screens set up so we could film the band as they laid down their tracks. Then Neil started bringing in these great songs about these amazing characters, and once things started rolling, the film just started to evolve.
What was your role in the recording of the album?
LJ: I produced the record. Neil came into the studio with two members of Crazy Horse [Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot] and started recording. It was really interesting - we had a small crew there to film everything and once Neil started playing these songs about characters he created, after we'd get them down, all of us would ask, "What about grandpa? What happened to grandpa?" All these plots and relationships had become developed. Neil would just come in every day with a new chapter to the Greendale story. The town of Greendale became real.
When did it go from being a concert movie to becoming a full-fledged musical of sorts?
ER: Probably about halfway through. The story didn't really finish evolving until all the songs were finished, but as this was all happening, we knew that there was going to be something more to Greendale than just blue screens on the wall.
Greendale, at least for public consumption, started off as a series of live concert performances. Was the film shot before these shows?
LJ: Yeah. We filmed the movie and then the tour was an extension of that. We all got really into it. The shows got really good and everyone started wanting more out of this little town. Whether it was a live show or a movie or a filmed concert - Greendale was a thing that could really just go on and on. Greendale is such a dysfunctional town. It's typical small-town America: Everyone has a story. Everyone has good and bad sides.
Was it always intended to be an elaborate stage production?
ER: We actually did an acoustic solo tour of Europe first, and as that was happening, the idea for the stage show became a reality. It wasn't until we came back to the States to do another series of acoustic shows that we really started developing the more theatrical elements of Greendale.
Greendale had been through so many permutations by the time it hit the festival circuit. What was it like seeing the finished film?
ER: I've been involved with the project from the recording process to the very end of the whole thing. It's a very long process, but you never get a chance to sit back and just look at it. It's constantly evolving.
LJ: For me, the movie really came alive in the editing process. It came alive at live shows as well, but it wasn't until we took it on the road - we showed at Toronto and in Texas and a bunch of other places - that it really kicked in. It was an interesting run.
The film has a very down-home feel. Where did you shoot?
EJ: We shot in and around Half Moon Bay in Northern California - we shot a little in Pescadero, as well. It was really great - there was a great deal of spontaneity in making the film. We shot near our homes, we worked with our friends. It was a really wonderful process.
How long did it take to shoot and edit the film?
LJ: We shot for about thirteen days. Then we did some pick-ups after the first round of editing. And then the editing process lasted about two months. It wasn't very long.
What's next for Shakey Pictures?
LF: We're getting the extended version of Human Highway ready for DVD later this year. Shakey Pictures has been very active for the last few months, and we're just going to keep going until our projects are finished. With Greendale and then this - it's been a great experience.
Also, see Neil Young's Greendale concerts and reviews.
More on Neil Young's manager Elliot Roberts and other friends of Neil Young.