It’s no secret that one of the best parts of New Orleans is its rich and abundant music scene. Despite natural disasters and various struggles, the city has persevered and thrived. Some of history’s most outstanding performers hail from the Southern city, and many of the industry’s best and brightest still call NOLA home.
The new film “Take Me To The River” tells the story of New Orleans through its musical history with some of the performers that pioneered the music scene and up-and-comers that are sure to rock the industry.
“Take Me To The River” debuts in the Big Easy this Friday at The Broad Theater, with additional debuts in New York and Los Angeles next week. I was treated to a screening of the film during Grammy weekend in Las Vegas, and talked with the film’s director, Martin Shore, about the beautiful production.
Martin Shore’s “Take Me To The River”
WT: First, I’dI’d like to say that the film was stunning. I absolutely love how you blended the pioneers of the music scene with the contemporary artists that hold New Orleans so close to their hearts. How did the film’s concept come about?
Shore: I think it was a logical extension from "Take Me to the River" Memphis, which is a story of the Mississippi Delta, and Memphis, the hub for American Music, with New Orleans and Louisiana is the story of World music with influences and inspiration from around the World.
WT: How long was production for the film? With so many artists contributing, was it all done separately over time or scheduled closer together? I imagine it was difficult to coordinate so many schedules?
Shore: Over three years, and with the pandemic, it added a lot more time, so in total, close to five years.
The most important thing in "Take Me to the River" is making sure that the story and the music are right and that it represents the city, the culture, the history, the legacy, the music and the community accurately.
Scheduling sessions with so many artists can be difficult, and as a non-profit, it can be even more difficult, but it just takes time. The musical community of New Orleans is so strong, so it’s just about finding the opportunity, and the musicians will come!
WT: I think the film paid respect to so many of the performers that passed in a wonderful way. Did their passing impact the order of the film or how it was presented?
Shore: It definitely did not affect the order of the film; the film has to speak to an overall narrative with overarching themes. Every session is a three-act play, and the film itself is a three-act play. The musicians and the music are the stars.
And yes, losing our master musicians and legends is incredibly difficult. But it shows all the more reason to document our musicians, our masters, while they are here so we can experience their genius and creative process and pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
WT: How did you find artists to participate in the film? It was such a well-rounded group, and it flowed so perfectly.
Shore: The producers had a big hand in helping ensure each session was as successful as possible. Each session was only one day, so we had to make good decisions as best we could about what would be a good collaboration and who would enjoy collaborating with each other. Every artist we talked to was enthusiastic about the project and really wanted to contribute. Musicians are the torch bearers of culture.
WT: What was it like being in a room with so many artists and creative minds and watching them put these sessions together? I personally loved watching the way the rap artists would string words together so quickly and create something so perfect.
Shore: If we are successful as a film, you are experiencing exactly what I experienced being in the room! The style of a living documentary is very “cinema vérité,” where you are a fly on the wall, being able to observe the masters’ legacy and their creative process.
By the way, as a producer, rappers always amaze me with their ability to write and lay down verses so easily and right on the spot. They are incredible!