More than a quarter century after making "The Blank Generation" with Ivan Kral, a film which featured New York's emerging punk scene, director Amos Poe has returned to music for his latest project.
More than a quarter century after making "The Blank Generation" with Ivan Kral, a film which featured New York's emerging punk scene, director Amos Poe has returned to music for his latest project. The result is "Just An American Boy," a work-in-progress Steve Earle "portrait" that made its world premiere recently at Toronto's North By Northeast Music and Film Festival.
"While it was kind of a documentary, it was more of a portrait," Poe tells Billboard.com. "And then it started to take shape. The musical performances started to take over more of the film, which is the jumping-off point from the initial idea to the final product. Initially there was going to be very little music and in the end it ended up being a lot of music."
The director previously worked with the musician on the video for "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)," a track from Earle's 2000 album "Transcendental Blues." Artemis Records CEO Danny Goldberg asked Poe if he was interested in doing a documentary on Earle and he agreed. Shooting began last October in San Francisco, with Poe intermittently spending 15 to 25 days with Earle over a four-to-five month period of touring.
And while Earle made headlines with the song "John Walker's Blues," written about the captured American Taliban of the same name, the controversy is only a small part of the film.
"There was no shape to it," Poe says of the film. "There was all this content stuff but there was no formal shape to it. And, the story kept changing as we tried to figure out what the shape of it was going to be. There are a number of reasons for it but mainly [it is] because he's musically driven."
Featuring cameos from Conan O'Brien and Nora Guthrie, the film contains portions of Earle's MTV special "To Hell and Back," clips from his role in the HBO series, "The Wire," and footage from the "Transcendental Blues Live" DVD. Poe says the film, originally intended for a DVD release only, has a "fairly rough" look.
"The whole thing was shot with a tiny little camera with a tiny microphone on the camera," he says. "We were amazed at how much good material we got. I was sort of trying to get to the rougher edge of the technology. And some subjects are good for that and I thought Steve was good for that."
"The one thing is that Steve was so comfortable in being open in front of the camera," he continues. "We had essentially complete access. Then it was just a question of what we need to get in there. He loves picking up stuff, learning stuff because he's not schooled -- he's sort of a life learning guy. Consequently he has to sort of tell you what he knows. So as a subject for a documentary, that's also perfect. He's not somebody who doesn't hold back per se. He also doesn't mind if you're going to use it in your film."
Although no official release date has been set, Poe says the DVD will contain bonus footage, and, according to Earle, will also include a live album from his recent tour. A separate live album will be released at the same time, with tracks taken primarily from recent stops in Toronto and Bloomington, Ind.