Q & A w/Filmmaker Emmett Malloy of BIG EASY EXPRESS
In April 2011, Emmett Malloy and his film crew boarded an antique train to venture across the country and chronicle the Railroad Revival Tour (a six-stop sojourn in which all featured performers traveled exclusively in vintage railcars). In his new documentary BIG EASY EXPRESS, the Los Angeles-based director follows tour members Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show on their weeklong voyage throughout the American Southwest. Like Malloy’s last feature film (the much-acclaimed White Stripes tour documentary UNDER GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS), BIG EASY EXPRESSsweeps viewers into the ramshackle adventure of the tour while elegantly capturing the authenticity and spirit that infuses each band’s music.
What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
Certainly, the tour the Grateful Dead, The Band and many others did back in the day called Festival Express was the primary influence for this whole trip. My subjects sort of found me on this one. I did a film about the White Stripes where I documented them touring through Canada, and the bands were fans of that film and felt like I would be a good fit to join them on the train.
What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
The biggest challenge was certainly just moving a crew up and down a quarter mile train with all of our gear. Anytime we needed a new piece of gear, our camera crew had to bounce on down the line to get what we needed. Their legs were like Jell-O at the end of each day. Surprises were just how beautiful our country still is.
What was your VERY FIRST film?
My very first film was a surf film called THICKER THAN WATER, which I made with Jack Johnson and my cousin Chris Malloy.
What is your proudest professional moment?
Directing my first White Stripes video with my brother.
What other projects are in the pipeline?
I hope to make a feature length narrative film. I have a comedy in development with Ben Stiller and a few other projects that I would love to do. I also hope to finally get to a long form project on Nick Drake, celebrating his music and influence.
Why did you become a filmmaker?
Because my Dad’s construction business was having a tough go because of the recession and that was the only other gig in LA, it seemed.
What are some of your creative influences?
The surfer, Tom Curren. The musician Chet Baker and the filmmaker Hal Ashby.
Did you go to film school?
Not even close.
What do you shoot on?
More than anything else 16mm film, but I will say the 5D’s are really impressive. We just finished an HBO series called ON: FREDDIE ROACH and shot it entirely on 5D’s and 7D’s and I love the way it felt. That was an eye opener.
What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
We have only had this film play at one festival so far. It had two screenings in Austin at the SXSW festival and certainly winning the “Audience Award” was unexpected. Austin was the right town for this film.
2012 marks our tenth edition of the Festival. Why did you want to screen your film at Silverdocs?
I love Tenth Editions, I guess.
How old are you in your head?
60. I am an old soul.