EXCLUSIVE: Q&A on Human Highway Director's Cut
This week, the World Premiere of Human Highway (Director's Cut) will be held at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Thrasher's Wheat is pleased to bring our readers an exclusive Q&A session with a member of Neil Young's Shakey Pictures crew who worked on the research, editing and meticulous restoration under the supervision of Director Bernard Shakey.
Neil Young's 1982 post-apocalyptic musical comedy, has long been out of circulation and is regarded as a cult classic with its mythical history of production mayhem, post-production chaos and forgotten legacy.
Now, 32 years after Human Highways' first screening, Bernard Shakey's crew is ready to answer a few questions.
Thrasher's Wheat - The film Human Highway is considered to be a cult classic somewhat similar to the legendary Journey Through the Past and has been described as "if David Lynch directed "The Wizard of Oz on acid." What surprised you going back to the footage shot back in late 70's?
Shakey Pictures - Maybe not so much surprising, but very noticeable was how well shot the film was under the direction of David Myers.
[ed - David Myers (1914–2004) was the cinematographer for the film Woodstock and Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz among many other concert documentaries.]
TW - So what prompted the desire to produce a director's cut version of Human Highway?
SP - The version that was first screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 1982 really could be considered the Director’s Cut. Time went on and various edits of the film had their moment in the sun, but Mr Shakey still held onto his original vision. Along with Producer L.A Johnson, he dispatched the Shakey Pictures crew to locate, catalog and collect for assembly all the original footage that had been cut out of Human Highway post- Mill Valley. It was a lengthy undertaking.
TW - The original release of Human Highway was 88 minutes. The director's cut version is 80 minutes. Usually these director's cut versions go to longer side not shorter. Is this tweaking/ shortening up longer scenes or scenes removed?
SP - That is correct. Once the 1982 Director’s Cut was reassembled, Bernard oversaw further refinements to the story. An astute viewer will note that while the running time of the movie is shorter than that on VHS, there are actually some new elements in the final presentation that will be screened at TIFF.
TW - Was this filmed in 35mm?
SP - Human Highway was shot in both 35mm and in 16mm film.
TW - What are we looking at now? Film edited on high resolution digital video?
SP - The Shakey Pictures team found and transferred the original negatives of the film footage, which then underwent extensive restoration and cleaning, frame by frame. Editing was in high resolution digital.
TW - What is the sound format resolution compared to original?
SP - The sound quality is much improved over the original. The same attention to detail that was given to picture was also given to audio on this project.
The film’s original master 16 track analog tapes were transferred at 24 bit/ 192kHz, as well as the original dialog and music reels.
The new mix of Human Highway is now presented in 5.1 surround as well as in stereo.
TW - What are the release format plans? Blu-ray?
SP - After Human Highway’s theatrical run, it would be fair to say that you can expect to to see Blu-ray and DVD releases.
TW - We know folks would love to hear the story of Woody, the wooden Indian and his mates. Were they really burned in the desert? Is Woody, the wooden Indian, we've seen recently onstage with Neil the same? A survivor?
SP - Yes, that is indeed Woody in the film. He has some scenes in the garage at Otto’s Corner. I don’t know his back story or what stock he came from, but do know that Woody embodies the strong silent type. That is well depicted in Human Highway.
TW - Will there be a director's cut video release with "special features"? Like a vinyl album soundtrack, a booklet, deleted scenes, 'making of' documentaries, etc?
SP - It’s a bit too early to reveal what comes next out of the Shakey Pictures archives in relation to Human Highway, but there is definitely some stuff in the vaults.
Thanks Shakey Pictures!
More at Shakey Pictures - Human Highway.