“Should’ve Been There” really is the best way to describe the documentary by Leslie-Ann Coles, which premiered in the UK at Raindance Film Festival on 24th September and was screened again on 28th. The film recounts the story of the birth of rock journalism through the lens of legendary photographer Barrie Wentzell and in the words of those who got to be there.
Journalists Chris Welch, Chris Charlesworth, Alan Lewis, Allan Jones and Richard Williams are among those interviewed, along with musicians like Ian Anderson, Eric Burdon, Chris Squire, Alan White and Steve Howe. The film documents the transition of Melody Makers magazine from a jazz musicians’ trade paper into an incredibly influential publication that helped launch the careers of many great artists from the 60s onwards. Founded in 1926, it eventually closed in 2000, as a result of changing trends in both music and journalism.
“I was really inspired by Barrie’s photographs. We met in Toronto in 1996 and he took pictures for my first film, a 40-minute drama,” Coles told 60s Today. “Barrie inspired a series, which is now getting made. It’s going to be about different musical genres: punk, new wave, hip-hop, grunge, reggae, from the perspective of the photographer who captured these genres as they emerged. I will be getting it off the ground now that I’ve finished ‘Melody Makers’.”
The documentary took eight years to complete, the last of which was spent editing the 200-hour footage down to 97 minutes. Coles, who lives in Ontario, interviewed the musicians during their North American tours.
“‘Melody Makers’ wasn’t going to be ‘Melody Makers’; it started out as something else, and then it became this one-off feature because my series coincided with reality television,” Coles said. “At the time, no one was buying series because everybody was into reality television, so the timing wasn’t right.”
“One of the reasons it took so long to make was that I had to travel a lot and chase all the musicians. Finally I just said: ‘I’m not chasing anyone anymore; I’ve now got enough to tell the story I want to tell’.”
The film features some definitive pieces of 60s music, providing a captivating soundtrack to Wentzell’s amazing photographs. The tunes and the images, combined with countless inspiring and entertaining first-hand recollections, brilliantly resurrect a time that produced some of the most remarkable artists that have ever lived.
“I didn’t want the music in the film to sound like the radio, so we incorporated a lot of analog sound and the sound of vinyl. We recorded in an analog studio with a mixing board that was from the 60s. The composer brought session musicians in to the studio and we tried to make it sound authentic.”
Not all of the interviews were included in the documentary: Coles is saving the footage featuring John “Hoppy” Hopkins, a British photographer, journalist and political activist for a film that’s exclusively about him. Hopkins co-founded the underground newspaper International Times and shot for Melody Maker and other publications even before Wentzell.
The film was produced independently. Some funding for post-production work was provided by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).
Coles runs the Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) in Toronto, which is North America’s only international competitive women directors’ festival. The festival presents high-calibre short and feature films in drama, comedy, sci-fi, action, horror, documentary, animation, and experimental genres by debut and mid-career filmmakers, and also pays tribute to internationally recognized directors. FeFF also mentors young women who are working on their debut films.
Visit MelodyMakersMovie.com for more information.