Indigo Girls Discuss Unique Approach to Sundance Documentary 'It's Just Life After All'
The Indigo Girls also teased their upcoming movie "Glitter & Doom."
Think you're getting a traditional music documentary featuring Alexandria Bombach's It's Only Life After All? Think again.
This article does trace some of the careers of Amy Ray and Emily Cyrus as Indigo Girls, but the way Bambach uses interviews and archival footage of the duo does more than simply show them The journey from then to now. This is the only life after all, and it feels raw and real. Viewers can not only watch the steps they take, but also feel the evolution they undergo as musicians and human beings, and how they impact countless others for the better along the way.
To celebrate the 2023 Sundance premiere of It's Only Life After All, Bombach, Ray and Sailers visited the Collider Studio presented by Saratoga Spring Water to discuss their experience making the documentary . Bambach spoke about the transition from actual film to directing archival documentaries, and also highlighted the invaluable collaborator and friend she found in producer Brock Williams. Ray and Sailers reveal the elements of the finished film that surprised them the most, and tease another of their upcoming films, Glitter & Doom starring Alex Diaz, Alan Cammish, Ming-Na Wen, Missi Pyle and Tig Notaro.
Read all this and more in the video interview at the top of this article or in the transcript below:
I'm reading about how the original plan was to shoot a documentary while on tour, but then had to change. How you originally imagined the film What is the biggest difference between the end result and the plan you finally realized?
ALEXANDRIA BOMBACH: Before COVID, I definitely had a lot of different plans for this movie, but in the end everything worked out the way it was supposed to. When I start making a movie, I never know what it's going to be. I just know the big themes or things I want to hear or focus on, and the interviews we did in 2020 really determined most of this story. We didn't really know Amy had a huge archive of footage in her basement until eight months into filming. She said, 'Hey! You should come in and check it out. ’ I was like, ‘What happened? "I don't know [that] yet, so Really just another element. It was those shots plus the Sony shots and other stuff we came across [and] it ended up being over 1,000 hours of footage. My last film was a real film, so this is my first archival film, so it becomes...
EMILY SAILERS: First and last. [laughs]
BOMBACH: [laughs] Yes, the first and last archival film!
You chose to edit all of these shots yourself.
AMY RAY: Cray, Cray.
BOMBACH: Yes, totally crazy, crazy. [laughs]
Is there anything about making an archival film that might affect your work as you go back to authenticity?
BOMBACH: Wow, that's an amazing question.
Hope it's not all downhill from here. I can not guarantee! [laughter]
BOMBACH: Man, I hope so. Every movie I've made has taught me so much about storytelling, and my values are so strong in the movie itself. I think it's not just the editorial style but just learning a lot from Amy and Emily and how they prioritized community, activism, service and self-acceptance has fundamentally changed me as a person and therefore changed my Art, yes it has had a huge impact on my life. I am a completely different person now.
Amy and Emily, you guys really joked about this in the movie, saying you didn't know what was going on in the story. When you finally saw the finished film, what was the most surprising thing? The last story you told?
RAY: I guess I was really surprised by the nuances she extracted from all the footage, and realized that she might actually have seen every minute of all the footage, because what she extracted was very understated, not the same old tropes and the same old things. And then they're strung together in a way that's pretty neat to me. I have no idea. I don't think you can make a documentary about us with that flow and arc and nuance. The way we talk about it most of the time is pretty creepy. Not all the time. Just say half of it. So it's nice to have something artistic and subtle and tender, but also angry and Has it all, all dimensions. And be real. It's really true.
BOMBACH: Maybe a little punk.
Ray: Alright! Yes, a little punk.
What about you, Emily? Was there anything during filmmaking that surprised you in the final film?
SAILERS: It's been a pleasure revisiting interviews I've completely forgotten. We're just little babies, you know? It was fun to see that. I know Alexander is meticulous about everything she chooses, and I know she makes changes so everything is a very, very purposeful choice, so there's a scene -- a scene. Is that what you said? She was listening to a concert where these people were talking about what our music meant to them. It feels weird to say it, but that's what happened. There's this ugly old chair right in the middle of the outside stuff and that chair is juxtaposed and then they come and sit on the chair and a unique person Mainly, and then talk about the music. I found this especially poignant because they were so vulnerable to their lives, the struggles they went through, and their connection to music. There was something about that chair, fragility, that blew me away. So this movie hit me in ways I didn't expect, and I think I'm still processing it.
Brings up how meticulous you are with everything you choose, going into the editing phase, is there something specific you're sure you want to use and highlight, but during editing it ends up being properly de-prioritized out of your last shot Movie?
BOMBACH: As a fan, I was like, 'Oh my god, can I just pick my favorite song? How will this work? 'I don't know how to put music into a movie. These are lyrical songs, so it's hard to have a dialogue with the lyrics, so trying to figure out what it is - 40 years of songs, there's so much to choose from, it's also incredible. it's over It's just the story that dictates the passage of the song. But yeah, I don't know how that's going to be, and it's really interesting what ends up in the movie.
Go back to what you said about the person sitting in that chair and share what your work means to them. You're all very humble, and we see a lot in the movies, and I think you downplay the huge impact you have on a lot of people. I know you said you're still processing it, but now that you've seen the finished film, does it matter more than ever? Can you fully accept the fact that your work has changed countless people?
SAILERS: My feeling about this is that I don't own what happened. It has many mysteries. There's a lot of community, with all the people who came before us, songwriters, activists, and people who listen to our music, so it's impossible to have it. It's complicated, you know? i know what it is It felt like accessing the music I needed at a pivotal time in my life that would meet my needs emotionally or intellectually or whatever the situation was. So I know music is at the center of my life, so I get that, but trying to feel the impact of affecting people's lives in that way just because of us, I just can't. Yep, I just can't do it.
I can understand not fully accepting it, but it's there. This is a fact. This is a fact.
RAY: It was sort of like an energy exchange, because when we started, we were young. We don’t know much about our sexuality, our gender, our family, our politics, or our activism, so many of the people who listen to us do a great job of sharing ideas. There's a lot of stuff that feels like something we've mixed together to brew and we all drink it, and it kind of lifts us up and gives us strength and stuff. so we can embrace it, but We're embracing its mystique and the power of its musical lineage, because we came from listening to The Roches and Ferron and the Carter Family, you know what I mean? think about it. There is so much DNA in a musical note, and we just become a part of it.
SAILERS: We do appreciate that, of course. If we met you at the crossroads of your life, the intersection, then I really appreciate that we were the ones who met you at the crossroads at that time.
In honor of the Sundance Film Festival, to add a cinematic element to this idea, each of you have a film you fell in love with that impacted your own life as much as your music impacted so many There?
SAILERS: So many. I can start to list a few.
I'm here for it!
SAILERS: This is in the film. I talked about personal bests and what it's like when a scared person finds out and sees their sexuality. but, you know, the movie Like Cinema Paradiso and I used to watch a lot of foreign movies through cinemas. Please call me by your name is very touching. Black Panther is totally affected. Moonlight, very touching. Omg there are so many. These are just the first ones that come to mind. I will regret the ones I forgot.
RAY: "The Four Hundred Blows" by François Truffaut was really important to me when I was young. Peter Greenaway really matters. Daughters of the Dust is one of my all time favorite movies and I still go back to it often. It really influenced me and changed my perspective and made me dig deeper into anti-racism work and history and so on.
I'll ask a somewhat similar question your way, Alexandria. It's very special when two artists are able to find each other and realize they are the right collaborators. Who would you say Amy and Emily are your filmmakers, people you can always turn to when you need support on a film?
BOMBACH: Oh, definitely Brock Williams. 100% Brock Williams. Brock is like my brother, my family. it will make me cry talk about it. [to Williams] Don't look at me, Brock! He's been there for me, he saved two of my films and even got them to Sundance. I'm sure we wouldn't have this movie ready in time without him. He's my best friend, emotional support from a great producer, to the guy who opened my orange yesterday because my nails wouldn't go in, and an amazing creative collaborator. He trusts me, he respects my work, I trust him, I respect his opinion, and I don't think you can ask for more.
Bringing up the challenge idea of making a film, I remember reading that you wanted to tell the story in a way that was inconsistent with a traditional music biopic, which would mean you would have to make it independently, which leads me to assume you have some bigger sessions, Maybe you can get more funding to make a movie like this. This is a very dire situation, know that in order to stay true to the vision in your heart, You need to deliver something like that, so can you walk us through that thought process a little bit?
BOMBACH: I think it's a very attractive thing to do in the mold of a music biopic. It's so common in the industry, and there are great movies that follow that formula, but Amy and Emily haven't followed any formula in their careers. They're not typical and different in many ways, and I felt the film needed to reflect that. Also, a lot of the reason a lot of other musicians talk about the importance of another musician in these biopics is because you need to fill in the blanks and say those things in other interviews because maybe those people didn't say their mistakes or He didn't express his feelings at the time. But Amy and Emily are very open, and I know they will because we talk like that all the time [and] I know they can tell their own stories, and I think that's going to be the most powerful thing. i don't need any other famous musicians to come And tell us how important they are, or their lessons. At the end of the day, the interview is looking straight into the camera because I want it to feel like a conversation. It was a conversation with me during the interview, but it felt like a conversation with the audience. This movie reflects who they are. I hope it reflects their music and does justice to their legacy as musicians and activists.
For what it's worth, from my perspective it does!
Given your unique experience making this film, what did you come out of this film that might influence the films you make in the future?
BOMBACH: There is no doubt that this film influenced me in many ways. It helped me accept my queerness. It helped me understand my relationship to activism in a whole new way. A lot of the films I make are about really difficult topics, and really, I started this film pretty frustrated, but really feel reinvigorated now about grassroots activism and a whole new lease. Especially when it comes to community values, this movie really changed my life. I want to get into filmmaking now, and I want to do a film with Bullock. I want to make films with my close friends and collaborators, which is a priority from now on, to make films and community, and live from those core values.
You two have a movie coming up too. Glitter and Doom, your first experience composing for a feature film. what was that like? What do you think was the biggest learning curve when making music in this particular format? ^RAY: Actually, it's funny because they used songs that already existed and mashed them up. So, super creative. We didn't do that. All of them. We're working on a song for the end credits, an original song, which is a challenge because I've never written a song for a particular film, so it's been fun. We're not done yet, but we're almost there.
But yes, they mash things up and make them, and then the characters sing in the movie. This is the story of two men, Glitter and Doom. They were actually very young when they met, just like their love and struggle A look at their own lives and what they've been through in the community through the lens of our many songs and stuff. But it's a really fun mashup, so it's not just an Indigo Girls song. It's like their own brand new creation. It's a bit like Cirque du Soleil, Moulin Rouge, and The Rocky Horror Show all rolled into one.
SAILERS: We didn't pick the songs. They picked songs.
RAY: We read the script, and we really liked the script, so we said, 'Pick the song, we'll see.
Special thanks to our 2023 partners at Sundance, including display partner Saratoga Spring Water and supporting partners Marbl Toronto, EMFACE, Sommsation, Hendrick’s Gin, Stella Artois, mou and the all-electric vehicle Fisker Ocean.