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The Making and Digital Restoration of I WENT TO THE DANCE | SXSW 2021

Joe Nick Patoski
Writer at Austin to ATX
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SXSW 2021
March 17, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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The Making and Digital Restoration of I WENT TO THE DANCE | SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Joe Nick Patoski
Writer at Austin to ATX
Chris Strachwitz
President at Arhoolie Records Inc.
Maureen Gosling
Editor at Les Blank Films Inc
Chris Simon
Owner at Sageland Media
Harrod Blank
President at Les Blank Films Inc
Anthony Matt
Executive Director of Marketing & Operations at Prime Focus Technologies

Chris Strachwitz came to US as a refugee from Germany 1947. He started the independent roots music label Arhoolie Records (now in the Smithsonian Folkways Archive) in 1960. For 60 years he has produced 100s of recordings of the regional music he loves: blues, Mexican, Cajun/Zydeco, country, gospel, and more. He produced Chulas Fronteras with Les Blank (digitally restored, SXSW 2019). Today he is president of the Arhoolie Foundation.

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Maureen Gosling is an American documentary filmmaker, editor, and director. She is best known for her 20-year collaboration with the late director Les Blank.

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Chris Simon worked with Les Blank for 17 years doing everything from editing to sound recording to distribution. In 1995, she founded Sageland Media and since then has made seven independent films on traditional culture and environmental issues. She produced and directed, along with Maureen Gosling, the prizewinning THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC! about Chris Strachwitz & Arhoolie Record, which premiered at SXSW in 2013

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Harrod Blank is known for making and documenting art cars, including Oh My God! & Camera Van and films Wild Wheels & Automorphosis. Since 2005, he has been building an art car museum, Art Car World, in Douglas, AZ. His current 28-year film project is on the Burning Man festival, on which his father Les Blank was cinematographer. Since Les’s death in 2013, Harrod has been running the non-profit Les Blank Films to continue his legacy. He and Anthony Matt have teamed up to re-master one Les Blank film each year since his death.

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Anthony Matt has worked on restoration and preservation projects with numerous media archives including The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Children’s Television Workshop and The Andy Warhol Museum, Additionally, Anthony is a documentary filmmaker and stereo photographer. He a respected film-technologies historian, He has a bachelor degree in film and video from The School of Visual Arts.

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About the talk

This virtual Q & A, hosted by journalist/author, Joe Nick Patoski, goes behind the scenes of the making of the celebrated 1989 feature documentary on the roots of SW Louisiana’s Cajun & Creole/Zydeco music, I WENT TO THE DANCE. Featured are Co-Filmmaker/Producer, Chris Strachwitz, Co-Filmmaker/Editor Maureen Gosling and Associate Producer/Sound Recordist, Chris Simon. It also delves into the challenges and magic behind the 2021 ground-breaking 5k digital restoration of a documentary, I WENT TO THE DANCE, by Harrod Blank and Anthony Matt. Blank, the son of the late Co-Filmmaker/Cinematographer Les Blank, took on the task to bring back to life this exuberant film which celebrates the most important and influential performers of the era.

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Everybody on Joe, Nick patoski and I'm pleased to join these collaborators responsible for making in restoring a 1989 film. Jaya Tango ball went to the dance, the definitive film documentary, Cajun Creole music a film by Les blank. Morning Gosling is a filmmaker editor and sound recordist. Best known for her 20-year collaboration with less blank. Chris track width is found early records and the person who's done more for documentary preserving and shaping, American Roots Music over the past half-century as well as the producer of this still. Chris Simon was less blanks

collaborator for 17 years. Professionally, Ansari marriage in a filmmaker in her own, right? Herod blank is a film documentary. An inventor of the Art Car and curator of the Art Car Museum. In Douglas, Arizona, and keeper of his father less blanks Legacy. Play the restoration of this film 31 years after its release. Anthony Matt is a post production supervisor of digital restoration and a film technology historian. In addition to his work is a documentary filmmaker and stereo photographer, who has worked on a number of significant film

restoration projects, how do ya'll open up with Maureen? You've been making films with less blank for quite a while with several film, set in Southwest Louisiana? Why we return to this? Will try the ground, The first film that I worked with les blank on was dry wood and hot pepper, which focused on the black, French, Louisiana, culture and music. And we spend a lot of time with Clifton Chenier wasik are doing on and and Mark stuff, why who is white guy, but we stayed with him and Here we were

in the late 80s returning to Louisiana and for me, it was like coming home and a full circle because by that time over the years, I learned more about the musicians, the culture, many of them came from Louisiana to perform in the Bay Area. So, you know, now I was friends with Clifton Chenier and when we first found him, he was kind of Grouchy and we had a hard time getting him to sign a contract and so far. So for me, going back to do, I went to the dance was like a wonderful.

Circle and I was really happy to be there in Cajun Country, revisiting people and sharing that culture. Again, it was great. So I did sound and some sound and then I was the editor on the film and Because of the collaboration that happened in this project. It was a film by Les blank Christine. Chris Stark wits and Maureen Gosling but Chris Simon was extremely involved in this project to as an associate producer. She was on set the whole time. And so it, the film is a real collaboration prescribed, which you'd produce music films

by lesson. Wolverine what made this one different from the ones that you done before? Produce one of the film with less blank which I also conceived and produced and that was Chulas Fronteras. And as you perhaps know, I've been recording having a wonderful time doing so of various Regional musical traditions in this country, especially in South. Texas was the Mexican music there and here in Louisiana with a K2 and the Creole musicians. And so I got together with less blank for this particular project

because I know all the wonderful work you've done, especially with man, slips, who was the first man? I ever recorded for arhoolie records and I thought that I should ask something to his typical film, which was basically letting these people speak for themselves? Well, I was never Keen about Talking Heads in the film, but in this particular field, I think we're very lucky that we found several people including very ancelet and 1st at marks aligned in Michael do say who were very

expressive, gave us a good bit of history and background to the people. And I think that was a tremendous addition. It was just as the light of meeting these people on a different way. You know, I can hold this. I just recorded them. I took their photographs and so and as I learn to do an early in my career and so this was I didn't have the money when I started recording, you see? You ever even think about film, but I meant less. I think it was probably in the late sixties and feel like this time. When we came to make this film, I was doing quite well, not only

with my record label, but also was my Distributing Company, my retail store in, with my music publishing company. And that's it. I really like the document. This music, this crazy 930 music from Southwest Louisiana and I hope to make a kind of historic film, including all of these wonderful musicians were still around. And, of course, having the ability to use some of Lisa's footage that he shot over the previous, I don't know, was it almost 10 years or five six years? I forgot. So I put my money down and I was always considered

to conceive her and producer of these films because it was basically my ID and blessed, and they agree to that. Because, at first, I didn't know what if he said, he's the one who pays the money, I said, okay? But it was also my idea of what to do and how do cats and boots and cats and we're okay, that'll give you some feeling of cold. You did make it historic document that yet persist today in the people that you captured. I mean, it's like going back in history that. I kind of cried when I wash it

again. It's a loss of all these great people. And the people that I got to encounter in in my time, Chris Simon, Chris Pratt quits talks a good game here. Letting you know, let's, let's do this film Justice Court Document, but I understand less blank was not completely enthusiastic about jumping into this project. I'm sure that's correct. I mean, you made the definitive films, you done free down, Southern Louisiana. Spend it all driveway and hot pepper, and he thought he'd done it. So I know that I'm sure. Chris and I both remember

just how difficult it was and His last would if he didn't feel like filming, he just wouldn't take a nap usually naps at picnics, Gumbo Fest, naps all over and you know what? Actually quite unpleasant, a lot of the time but we are also another phone at the same time which was ended up being Yum. Yum, Yum about chasing cooking. He has talked about that and happily. We are able to sort of combined both of them and the other to make yourself on Mark and Dan salvato to

but there's a lot of less wrangling that went on. The other hand there's more reading and Kristen Bell who is our cameras and Center all. Do I like So, wonderful and I was too. And then there's less. But, you know, he came around and he ended up loving the film and being extremely proud of it. As I think we all are. The rest of you all. The rest of the crew was having a pretty good time. Making this film, that trail ride that's in the film was one of the more amazing experiences of my life. I mean,

I've been a lot of trail rides in, but none like that. Especially what are the shots to look out for? Was his mom getting down on the Dance Floor? She's wearing a white shirt and she's always danced with young partners. A real inspiration. And then I mean dinner with Mark and and mark would cook us extraordinary meals and it was just a wonderful time. I meet you. I think, you know, the lasting friendships that came out of the snow. Words, so deeply meaningful, I can speak for us all,

and that relationship with Ann and Mark said, why persisted that to this day continues, right? Absolutely, I talked to Adam last week, she has her new book out on the history of Cajun music going to six gardneri. It lasted, I mean I passed away Mark and Amber. The first people to call Aaron in addition to your own film career, you've been an Ardent champion of lessons Legacy to the point of getting the Leon Russell Film Forum is a naked person, finally finished, and released and doing

your restoration at work. On his day has been extensive. Why this film and why now? Okay. Well this film actually came about because I was working on Chulas, Fronteras with Anthony Mack and I had to get the a and b rolls. And I ended up going down and Chris Rock was his vault with. I think it was Tom Diamante because Chris was out of town and and I saw all the while I was looking for the negative spiritual us from terrorists, I saw the negatives for. I went to the dance and you know, the room

isn't that cold? And I was just thinking well we we should probably do that Phil next time because I saw it on the Shelf. If I hadn't seen it on the shelf that honestly, it wasn't high on the list of less has instructions before he died. He gave me this list, and the first thing on the list was a poem, is a naked person by far, that was what he really wanted, if he thought that was his Masterpiece and then Chulas Fronteras was next. And after that, I have to find Less, but I think I went to the dance was further down, like maybe four or five more films, but seeing those A&B rolls on the

Shelf, it's tangible. It's their it's time to go and I will give you a little bit of the back story before less died. I asked him if he wanted to meet with Anthony Matt, who I have been working on my own films, Autumn work with this weave. Did the post together on that and less said, yeah, I really would like to meet them because I want to know that my film film to be taken care of and so he flew Anthony up and we met with laugh in his rocking chair and Anthony just talked to him about what could be done and the process and less felt so

good about it. I remember that day, I gave him Solace before he died to know that we were going to team up, and we were going to do this for his legacy and remaster these films and it just so happens that Remastering all of the films that last and Chris Rock With, You know, did together with Maureen and Chris Simon. And we did all those together. We did you show us from terrorists delmaro, Carson. And then I went to the dance and so it's it's sort of like this is the book end of this body of work the collaboration with Chris Rock which I think it's

really cool to put these two bad forever. And and by the way, this film and Anthony can talk more about this, this film is even higher quality than Chulas Fronteras. Anthony, you understand this process of film restoration, like few others, probably more than any of us in this room. For sure, what kind of particular challenges did. I went to the dance present to you is a film restoration is a very challenging projects to work on cuz the film element for Molly's different eras. And we worked at the high

resolution that the scans are bigger than you would manage try to feed and try to manage your home. And we figured out some clever ways to get more power into the into my home. So I can actually power all the computers, the kind of Drive the playback and then we couldn't actually meet in person and only you'd sit around and make decisions about the color of the sound. So we had a remote work lower, we synchronize Harrods computer is the my computer and then the color is computer.

And then I just spent probably about four months doing kind of painstaking to restoration on all the film elements. There's a concert near that was repurposed from a mother footage from another film that. I don't think it was splices that had to be handed out and and the back and forth. Process of Franklin. All that was really challenging but it's great to have a venue like stop by self Southwest. The relaunch of feeling like this and you know, we've been a pretty good

track record now is like our third South by Southwest film that we've been watching for the laughs and and and we just stood Chulas Fronteras and great experiences and give it a second wife. It looks brand new and it feels brand new Chris crap. There's a lot of different kinds of American folk music. What is it about Cajun and creole music to resonate far beyond the culture that it's got International peel? And I don't know. It seems like they have a much better sense of

who they are than most folks and folk music down kind of music. Like when I first went to Louisiana, you know, I asked for any service station, you know, you know, where I can find any, any Cajun music, what do you want with those people? You know, and everywhere you turned, it was in 1960. I think, when I first time to go from the Houston to Lafayette That was a general attitude of most of the people who are living in that area because they were there from other states like Mississippi and god-knows-where because of the oil they really have no kind words

for Caitlin. They can citizens like the Romanians would consider Gypsy you know any other time you take them all back home with you to the states and be very happy. So I think that's very slowly came about because The Fosters started recording there. And of course What really did it? I think when they went to New porch as he's doing both of you know and they were exposed to this huge audience of young white kid who was very much like the ones you were interested in blues and other kinds of like

what we used to call it goes, please play music and so far as they call it now and it was extraordinary how they really grew instead of this that Peter, Paul and Mary stuff. And that is really the real folk people who grew up in a bag, High Society, usually, and magnificent Regional tradition that in most cases, my way way back. And that's certainly the case with most of these genres here and the Creole thing, one, and the other one. Is the Black Version but it took a long time to explain that to people. What's the difference? What's the difference between Zydeco and Cajun? Music,

color is a fool who plays it and not just the color is the whole culture behind it because it's very, very different. I think Rodger has been playing things straight away. They hear it in the Creole music because in the beginning, since they played for both, like I'm obviously played for both the black and white people just like many early to whoever they performed for in that. Anyway, that's really is the gist of it that it was definitely not popular at all that has happened because Since then

it has gotten wide audience. Do to people like beausoleil for example when really a big traveling organization that he got on that very popular radio program, I forgot that you know, he must have been three basic nearby local I discovered I can you buy a black guy and I was in the early 50s. I guess I better shut up. After, you know, you mentioned Chris festivals were kind of the conduit as it was, it was an eye-opener way to go out and play your music and be appreciated and make money

but you know, beyond the festival's. Chris Simon. What do you think the impact of this film documentary is, as far as furthering, the knowledge of Cajuns and letting people is an entree, a portal to the Cajun culture and Cajun music and creole culture known for a long time. And I have to say it is an extraordinary experience of the colors and that you got Sheridan. Answer me that you did and looks gorgeous. I hope everybody gets to see it on the big screen at some point, but

I think Sid. this, I mean, unlike most of glasses stones, It's some it has a lot of history to it so you can understand where you're coming from. And the resultant impact of the culture was a big part of getting Cajun music out there too because he taught all over the nation and I have to say that, you know, I'm a folklorist and the way I heard it from many people in soccer lamp. It was the screening of spend it all on track marks a bus and it all went out, which is less his first film on Cajun music. And it went out on National Television, all the Marquis of Hell

about how all the sudden lack his little cousin for coming in and wanted accordion to learn Cajun music that was Steve Riley. He was talking about who's become a major power in Cajun music at this point. So I think that's the media really has an impact and now even more because of the internet, but just Getting these music out, two major world out of their communities, and into the world at mr. Chris. Is really someone who tests we've been talking about Les blank. But

someone may be watching it saying, who who's left blank? How do you explain your father in 10 words in 10 seconds? That last was a very eccentric. He had a very eccentric eccentric tastes. And when he did his first film, on the lightning Hopkins, which is a 31 minute film in, and he was Nineteen sixty-seven, it literally launched his career. Now, back at that, in those days, if you came out with a a good movie, that resonated, it would go all over the world because the

only been used to show a movie where film festivals and some of our house theaters and in the educational Market, less less really struck a chord in the educational Market. But as times have changed, like the transition from filmed Digital and distribution. Really took a toll on last because he couldn't, he just couldn't get there in in the digital realm and asked if, you know, when he died, he didn't even hit his films, haven't even been digitized for the most part. So that's where I come in and ironically, I'm sort of like a dinosaur because I was trained

by Les in film, not digital. So, I'm I'm right at the cusp of film and that's why I think we're able to work with these old for Mass the film and then get them with the help of Anthony map to a digital format that is actually higher quality than the original format. So I mean, this resolution on this film is higher than the human eye. Can see it's 5. With this audience from South by Southwest all over the world. I'm hoping that this exposes people to the films of left blank, Chris Rock with

Maureen, Gosling Chris Simon, all of us. And and it has a broader audience. So you can go back and then see these other work that they did because I think they're all so important. And this part of culture, just seem to get left behind over and over again. People can't get access to these films. And so I just think it's a great blessing at South by Southwest is relaunching, this film, and it's a testament to the film. This film is 1989 on Cajun culture and South by Southwest has picked it. That says so much about this movie and I'm just

so proud and grateful to be a part of this. I think it's, I think it's a great thing for Cajun culture. I think it's a great thing for arhoolie records. Chris Rock with all of us. It's a great thing in this time is so amazing to watch people hug and dance and be close to each other. And, you know, it's like to look at this. Is being like the Pinnacle of human civilization, you know, where people could dance and and the environment wasn't falling apart and there weren't endless Wars going on, you know, all of the world and and there wasn't a pandemic going on and

people are just having fun, you know, I know it's it's a great escape I think for these times to watch this movie right now, but I wish we didn't have to. Thank you. Maureen. Gosling. Thank you. Chris. Brackets. Thank you. Chris Simon. Thank you. Harold blank. Thank you. Anthony, Matt for all that you've done and Long Live less blank.

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Joe Nick Patoski
Chris Strachwitz
Maureen Gosling
Chris Simon
Harrod Blank
Anthony Matt