Brett Morgen – Exclusive Interview – CHICAGO 10

     February 21, 2008

Opening on February 29th is “Chicago 10,” a very cool documentary about the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968. The film was written and directed by Brett Morgen (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”), and it’s like no documentary you’ve ever seen. What he’s done is taken archival footage and intercut it with animation and modern music to create a movie that’s both historically accurate, but doesn’t feel dated.

Add to that, the stuff that actually happened in the courtroom is so outrageous, you can’t believe what you’re watching and hearing. It’s like that courtroom was located in another universe and they also spoke English. And if you think you’ve heard of “Chicago 10,” but not this version, it’s because Steven Spielberg has been talking about making a film based on the same events.

In the coming days I’ll have some movie clips and a lot more to say about the film as it’s really worth your time, but I wanted to post what’s below immediately.

Yesterday I was able to interview writer/director Brett Morgen for about twenty minutes. Very soon I’ll post the entire Q&A, but as usual, I wanted to get the juicy stuff up right now.

At the end of the interview we talked about what he has coming up, and he said that he’s working on a mixed media animated documentary about Kurt Cobain. He also said he’s working on a film about the Iran Contra affair, but the Kurt film would be first.

The great part of this mixed media doc is that he intends to use some of the same methods he made “Chicago 10” with to tell the story, and he’s also gotten Courtney Love’s blessing to tell the story and use old Kurt movies and painting. The end of the interview – where he talks about a Raiders of the Lost Ark type warehouse – is worth reading. Funny stuff.

Anyway, here’s what he said. Look for the full interview very soon. But, if you can’t wait, here’s the audio.

Collider: What are you working on now?

Brett Morgen: Well, I think I told you I’m like my full-time job is I’m a commercial director…

Collider: I meant what’s your next…?

Brett Morgen: My next project…I’m going to do a mixed media animated documentary about Kurt Cobain…

Collider: Really?

Brett Morgen: Yeah, that Courtney Love sort of sanctioned me to do. And we’ll probably start that sometime this year. Been working on a feature… my first narrative feature about the Iran Contra affair and that’s pretty much…those are the 2 big things.

Collider: Well, those 2 though—do you have one that you think is going to be the first one you do?

Brett Morgen: The Kurt Cobain film I want to start in the next few months, but I think it’s going to take 3 or 4 years to make.

Collider: And she gave you rights to all the music?

Brett Morgen: It’s sort of like…yeah. It’s more than that. It’s all of Kurt’s artifacts and archives and journals and yeah we’ll have the music of course but the…his home movies. He did stop action animation, which I don’t know if anyone’s ever seen but I saw it and it’s fucking great. I mean it was crude and I’m gonna probably refine it, you know, in a way, I mean some of his stuff was out of focus or whatever—like unintentionally out of focus but we’re going to make a film as if Kurt Cobain was making his autobiography and so and one of the things about using animation in it is that at first I was like oh, man all the, you know, it was the worst time for archival films because from like ’83 to ’92 video sucked. You know, people were shooting ¾ then they were using these nasty 8mm handy cams, so all the grunge videos like whenever you see videos from grunge bands they always look like shit so I was like oh God, you know I’m sort of a fetishist with film and whatnot. I was like how am I going to do this? How am I going to do this? I was like oh, fuck. We’ll rotoscope, we’ll animate, we’ll like take audio. There’s stuff that I really liked in Chicago 10 where those phone calls with Abby and Bob and the black and white stand-up was…I think the black and white stand-up was my favorite animated moments of Chicago 10—just that hard key lighting really worked with the render style. So you know I’ll probably take that further than I did with Chicago 10 and ultimately I think the goal for that film is to make sort of a Catcher on the Rye for the next decade? The reason Kurt still resonates all over the world—you go anywhere all over this planet and you’ll find kids who are like have Kurt tattooed on their arms. It’s because he spoke—he was able to articulate his experiences as an alienated, disenfranchised kid and that’s why I think his music is still relevant today and resonates all over the world and I think we have to make the film that’s in every one of those kid’s heads that represents them. And obviously it’s another heavily traveled subject—well mythologized and you’ve got to look at something like that and go, well if you’re gonna do something on that subject that a lot of people are familiar with you gotta do something different and new and add something to the cannon of work and so I think what this film will do is really get inside Kurt’s head and sort of see the world from the inside out. I mean one of the things I think with all my movies, if I won the lottery last night you know, one day I’d love to open up a theme park like Disneyland with rides based on all my movies because I think that like when I did The Kid Stays in The Picture, to me it was like the Disneyland ride about Bob Evans. If Disneyland had a ride called Bob Evans The Kid Says in the Picture it’s that? When I did Chicago 10, I kept thinking this is a Chicago experience. This is like Space Mountain with like police coming out at you and whatnot. The same thing with Kurt Cobain, it’s what the Seattle music experience should be in a way. It’s going to be like this 3 dimensional visceral sort of sublime you know movie.

Collider: I actually really am looking forward to your vision on that. Sincerely.

Brett Morgen: Thanks.

Collider: Did you read the book by I forget the guy’s name?

Brett Morgen: There’s so many books.

Collider: The one that Courtney allegedly gave…

Brett Morgen: Charlie Prospect?

Collider: Yeah, the one with the journals in it, the entries…

Brett Morgen: Yeah. Like I said there’s a lot of Kurt’s stuff has been out there but like I’ve never seen his paintings before. He’s like an amazing…his paintings are…

Collider: Does she just have like a little arsenal of like stuff to…

Brett Morgen: It’s like Raiders of the….there’s an archive that was housed…originally it was up in Seattle like next to all the Microsoft stuff in this warehouse. You get like these Raiders of the Lost Ark images but whereas there’s like 20 massive canvases and you know his clothes and his objects that he would make. He was like a real multi-media artist and I think you saw a little of that in Heart Shaped Box video, you know, it was very Kurt—very much like Kurt’s world view, and a lot of the iconography that he’d been playing with for years and so I think it will be pretty cool man.

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