Porchlight Sessions: Anna Schwaber

(Originally posted October 17, 2012)

When I first heard about this new documentary that was being made about Old-Time and Bluegrass music, I thought, this kind of thing has been way over done, so I was kind of skeptical…but I thought I’d check it out none the less. I found the trailer online and it caught my attention.

I thought that it was a new take on Old-Time and Bluegrass music and did a great job of interviewing pretty much everyone from today’s Old-Time and Bluegrass scene. What really got my attention was how the interviews varied from people from the older generation of musicians to the up and coming generation. That is one thing I love about this type of music, the passing down from one generation to the next and I think this documentary does a great job of conveying that importat piece of the music.

Porchlight Sessions just made its primere so please check out their websitewww.porchlightsessions.com to see where it is playing and when it will be available on DVD.

Below you will find an interview I did with Producer/Director Anna Schwaber, who came up with the concept for Porchlight Sessions after meeting and talking to many different old time and bluegrass musicians from around the world.

The Whole (S)tory (TWS): How/Where/When did you get into the old time/bluegrass music scene? Who influenced your love of this type of culture and music?

Anna Schwaber (AS): I grew up in Nashville but I didn’t get into Old-Time and Bluegrass music until after college. I was living in Canberra, Australia where I had befriended a banjo player. I started traveling with his band, exploring the genre of bluegrass through the community that had developed in the countryside of Australia. It was through their interest in the music that originated in the spaces I grew up in that sparked my own.

TWS: Whose vision was it to start this whole project?

AS: It was my vision but the idea developed from some of the discussions I’d had about the misconceptions of Bluegrass music with friends in Australia. I’d been working on a lot of live music productions and music docs at the time and  just had a vision that I could create a beautiful film for the bluegrass community that brought the music into the mainstream Cinematic Spotlight.

TWS: What was the process for completing the project and following through with making the documentary?

AS: Making this film has forced me to develop a different kind of lifestyle. These days I value minimalism and portability so that I can go where the project needs me to go. There are so many new opportunities available to independent filmmakers that I’ve tried to leverage from Film Markets, Kickstarter fundraising, and building a social presence that allows for free marketing through the film’s website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Vimeo. My goal is to reach as many people as possible with our message and I knew that it would be important to build a community around the project for it to really have legs.

Following through has been the easiest part. All along this has been a passion project, which has taken me all over the US into musicians homes, tour buses, backstage, campgrounds, and deep into the mountains and big cities, searching for all the pieces of the puzzle. I’ve gotten to work with some amazing talent who believe in my vision from musicians, to luthiers, photographers, and filmmakers. That is the most rewarding part.

TWS: How long did the process to complete the project take as a whole? What were the different stages or completion?

AS: I started filming about 3 years ago and we are still going strong. We are in the licensing phase, planning the film festival schedule, and making a plan for exhibition and distribution. The stages for making this film include pre-production, production, and post-production. The first year I worked on the original concept and shopped it around to fundraise. Then we began post-production as we were still in production meaning we were filming alongside the editorial process. Currently, we are still in the finishing phases of post-production and have just had our World Premiere and Nashville Premiere.

TWS: There is so much to go along with this old music and it’s culture, how did you organize your thoughts about what would go into the documentary and how you would present it to the people?

AS: That’s a great question. I’d say that there were 4 major rounds of filming. The first was to start exploring ideas with musicians, interviews, and performances to gage where and what this project might look like. The second round was more targeted towards broad strokes of the history and performances with legendary figures. The third round of filming was a lot of festivals and quick interviews with the right people who’s opinions I was hoping to include. Then the fourth round of filming was very historically and conceptually targeted as we aimed to fill in specific gaps that we felt existed in the film. I also spent a lot of time researching each artist, the history and timeline, and also just observing what was trending in the bluegrass and indie music scene.

TWS: What does this culture mean to you and how has it impacted your life?

AS: The community has been such a family to me in the past few years. I have grown up a lot in creating this project and really look to the support and openness of the community as my greatest motivation.

TWS: When I ask people what old time music or bluegrass music is, most of the time they have no idea, why would you say that it is important to keep passing on to generations to come? How do you feel it impacts our Country and it’s culture?

AS: Old-Time and Bluegrass music is a community-based folk tradition that is important to America’s history and future. It is one tightly connected world of amazing musicians and beautiful people. I think it is the one thing about America that has really rooted me and had me wanting to learn more and more. It’s not “trendy” music but fortunately that also means the music is timeless.

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