RMW: Hey this is Tony Fennell with Rock my world, and today we’re lucky enough to have director Steven Cantor and producer Jamie Schutz on the line. Our guests have put together the highly acclaimed documentary about Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, called Between Me and My Mind.
RMW: Hi guys.
Steven and Jamie: Hi Tony.
RMW: Well firstly, thank you for taking out the time to talk with us today as I know you are inundated, and rightly so, with requests for interviews.
As a quick introduction, for those of you that are hearing about the movie for the first time, the documentary chronicles Trey Anastasio of Phish as he starts work on a new side project while at the same time, preparing for Phish’s New Year’s Eve shows.
So, coming off the back of a fantastic premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, Between Me and My Mind will now be screening in movie theaters across North America for one night only, July 17th, this has got to have you guys totally psyched. Right?
Steven and Jamie: That’s an unbelievable opportunity. Very rarely do documentaries go across the nation to popular theaters now.
RMW: yeah, it’s totally insane, you guys are going to rule that night.
RMW: Let’s talk about how the film came to be. Firstly Steven What was the driving force between behind the two of you to make the film, and what were the main obstacles you faced and had to overcome before day one of shooting?
Steven: Well, the driving force was really Jamie, I was aware of Phish, and I totally respect that there are great musicians but I was no huge fan, but Jamie my now longtime business partner as a huge fan and really wanted to make this film, and he’s the one who lured Trey, and through his manager Patrick, led Trey into our office for a meeting and the meeting went on for three hours, and then on for two years because really we just never stopped talking after that first meeting and eventually just added cameras to the mix.
RMW: Excellent, Well here’s one for you then Jamie, how did you guys come up with the idea, or you actually, come up with the idea for the film and had the two of you worked on any projects together prior to making the movie?
Jamie: Yeah so, as Steve mentioned I’m a longtime Phish fan, I’ve been a fan since 92 and I always thought it’d be great to be able to make a film on Phish and Trey but, obviously never really thought it was possible until I reached out to Patrick who is Trey’s manager and we started having a conversation and then Trey came in and met and as Steve mentioned, we just sort of started from there. It was a very exciting process and I think it probably just all goes back to being a fan from 1992. I just really thought that these guys be interesting subjects and specifically Trey. He’s such a creative guy and is just overflowing with ideas, and as a fan, I really didn’t have that much insight into how he actually created everything. So that was really what drove this, my curiosity to see behind the creative process.
RMW: Well actually that leads me to my next question. How difficult was it to separate yourself from being fans of the band and Trey of course, and being moviemakers? I mean that must have been pretty hard at times. You know the old church and state scenario. How did you separate the two?
Steven: That was hard for Jamie. That was never an issue for me. : )
Steven: I really do respect that they’re great musicians, and I’m a huge fan of Trey both professionally and personally, I think he’s an amazing guy. His life and conversations with him in the film are just exploding with kindness and creativity and I love being around him so I’m a fan. But it was, you know, it’s business first, and make sure we make a great movie here.
RMW: Oh absolutely. I read that Trey made the decision to allow you guys to make the movie because he was impressed by the “filmmakers’ pitch about letting people into the creative process.” My question to you both is, how did that initial meeting go down. You kind of alluded to it early on but, was it a long drawn out process or was Trey pretty much on board straight away?
Steven: I think for the first for the first at least three or four months at least, he was very apprehensive. It was very touch and go. I think he was in a place like, my life is fabulous right now. I’m on top of the world, my career is going great, Phish has never been hotter, we’re in an incredibly vibrant creative time right now. My marriage is great, my kids are great, why would I ever want to expose anything and take any kind of risk with the documentary. And he was interested and liked our films, and we kept talking and we’re shooting some stuff and then all of a sudden he sort of cross the threshold into this is going to be a really great experience for all of us. And once he crossed that point and committed to it, there was no stopping. He was fully on board, we were allowed access to everything and he never told us to stop shooting. There was no question was too difficult, in fact you want to go deeper into everything, so once he was in, he was in.
RMW: Well this is a question for Jamie. As well as capturing the obviously the creative process the Trey’s ‘Ghosts of The Forest’ album, you guys were allowed unprecedented access to Trey and the rest of Phish’s preparations for their epic ‘Soul Planet’ New Year’s Eve show in 2017.
Firstly, that must have been intense and the serious trip you guys. But, more importantly, can you explain how you were able to be up close and personal and yet still stay out of the way enough for Trey the band to do their thing.
Jamie: Sure. Yes obviously it was exciting as a fan to be around Trey and the rest of the band and I think like most documentaries you start to gain the trust of your subject and also, you start to gain the trust of the people around the subject. The tour managers, the managers, the sound people, really everybody that helps put Phish on stage every single night is looking at these new people coming into their environment saying “Who are these guys.” So I think we had to earn their trust which we did over the course of two years of shooting. I think the thing that helps is the fact that as documentarians we come in with relatively small crews. It’s usually just Steve and myself, our cinematographer, and the sound person. So the footprint that we make is very small. And I think we’ve been able over the years to figure out the nice balance between being too invasive and also being just on the fringes.
RMW: Yeah I mean I’ve actually been lucky enough over the years to tour myself and tour buses as big as they look on the outside. They are very very small on the inside. Hats off to you both that you got through that.
RMW: This is a question for both of you. Was there ever a moment during the filming where either one of you guys thought, “oh boy, we’ve bitten off more than we can chew here.” I mean you’re on the road with Trey and the band for a year, and there must have been some point where you must have thought oh boy? How you managed to stay out of the way is really quite interesting to me.
Jamie: Well, I’ll just say from my perspective, and then I’m curious to hear what Steve has to say on this one. I’ve always felt, and Steve knows this, an incredible responsibility and also an incredible pressure to deliver a great film that Phish fans would embrace. Because as a fish fan, I know fish fans, and I know how much they love this man and also how obsessed with details they are. So I knew that we were definitely going to have to over-deliver so that’s just fans said you know this was something that I can get behind and I really like and so far people seem to be enjoying the film which really brings me a lot of pleasure. But I have to say that that was nerve-wracking because I really wanted to make a film that just fans embraced.
RMW: Well that’s it, I mean, you can dial it in all you want, but real fans will actually see that and will understand that straightaway. It’s quite obvious that there’s a lot of love here.
RMW: I got one last question for both of you. The movie’s finished, and it’s nothing but rave reviews. But, if you had the opportunity to go back in time and add one more scene to the movie what would that be. Of course, you can say no it’s perfect the way it is, but I thought I’d. Steven, how about you first?
Steven: Oh that’s a good question, no one has ever asked that. I mean over the course of two years of making this film, every single morning my phone would ring and my wife would say oh it’s your work husband and it would be Trey, and we’d be talking through all the possibilities for the film and the album and what exactly we were capturing and he really thought it was exquisite timing, it was just such a creative burgeoning period for Phish and for him personally. We captured him just at the perfect moment, and he gave us access to everything, there was nothing. I mean I had two years of thinking about this every single day and talking to Jamie about what we might shoot, and anything we wanted to shoot, we had access to, so there’s nothing that I think, oh man, if only we had captured that.
Jamie: I would agree with that. With that said, Trey, as you know, is extraordinarily creative and also extremely talkative and shares a lot. So, we have quite a few scenes that never made the movie and all lots of interviews and lots of footage that never made the movie which at some point hopefully we’ll be able to share with the Phish public. I agree with Steve that there is not one particular scene that I say, you know, should have been in a movie but there are probably 30 other scenes that at some point hopefully will make a DVD extra or something like that.
RMW: Oh yeah. And you can guarantee the diehards will be absolutely clambering for that sort of stuff.
I’ve actually found out that it’s playing not far from me here in Massachusetts, so when we get off this call I’m going to book tickets and I’ll get me a nice big comfy chair and watch it. I just want to say thank you very much for taking this time with us today. I wish you continued success and I hope you have a blast wherever you watch the movie on July 17th.
Steven and Jamie: Thank you, Tony, thanks for your enthusiasm. Really appreciate it.