SINGER, SONGWRITER AND FILMMAKER
Jakob Dylan brought his mid-'60s L.A.-musicscene documentary, Echo in the Canyon, to Hawai‘i for its regional premiere last fall. Echo in the Canyon, produced and directed by Jakob Dylan and Andrew Slater, focuses on the music being created in Laurel Canyon in the '60s. We know the iconic songs by the legendary artists, and in the film, their stories and the stories behind the stories are engagingly captured and revealed by an interviewer who is no stranger to the upper pantheon of the music industry. Dylan and Slater premiered the film in Hawai‘i during Hawaii International Film Festival, and sat down with Kahala Life to talk about the film's inception.
How did the idea come about to make a film about this era?
We started by making a record first—a cover album. When we were getting with all the people behind the songs, we realized there was so much more to be done than just a covers record, and it [took off from there].
Who did you focus on in the film?
We thought it would be interesting to hear these people talk specifically about the people who were there, in Laurel Canyon, in the mid-'60s. Beyond just being fans, they were the ones who were there. We've all talked about the era and the music as fans, and we've all assumed a lot of things, but it was really an opportunity to talk these people. If they could remember what was going on, they would know; some of them ... I don't think they could remember too much! Everyone in the movie [Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, David Crosby, etc.] were people who were critical to be involved in the telling of the stories.
This is your first foray into film making, and the movie has a very natural, conversational cadence to it, which can be hard to capture in taped interviews. How did you achieve that?
The interviews were all very casual, and I knew everybody. It wasn't a situation where they were set up with a big pitch—it was me contacting them, some are friends, people I know, and it was very organic. I just asked them if they wanted to come down and share a few stories. What also made it casual is that I'm not a journalist. Artists spend so much of their time speaking to journalists, and they'll have a natural edge when they're doing that because they get to choose how to present themselves. Because I wasn't that, we were able to have the same kind of dialogue and conversations that we had in the studio, except with the cameras on. It was a situation that someone like I could do, and with my music background, it put them in their own camp.
You've mentioned that it was rather intimidating, interviewing artists. Who did you start with?
I started with Eric Clapton. Might as well just dive right in, right? It is daunting contacting people.
Was there a big adjustment from making music to making a movie?
I don't think so. And that's probably because I've been in front of a camera, plenty of times. And this is a conversation with people; a documentary, and the story unfolds as one goes along. You start out with an idea, then depending on what gets shared, suddenly it goes off in a different direction and one has to go backwards and fill in a little.
Were you able to talk to everyone you wanted to interview?
Yes, for the most part—everyone came forward pretty quickly saying yes. Well, there was one [who wanted to be interviewed,] Tom Petty. I did know Tom, and I took the record to his house and played it for him. He heard the record and someone told him about the documentary, and he called and asked, “Why haven't you asked me to be in the movie?”
What were you hoping to convey to viewers?
It was a magical time, and it is so important to capture these stories—they happened long before the modern world where everybody knows everything. If these people don't tell them, and don't share the stories, they'll just slip away. And I wanted to convey how all these songs build upon each other, how the songs morphed from one song into another.
Have you been in Hawai‘i before?
I have, but not to O‘ahu, this is my first time here … I've been to Maui. I've been there a bunch of times, but I'd like to come back to Honolulu, I'm planning to come back with my family. And, I'm looking for a quiet, tranquil beach …