September 13, 2023
Our friend Nick Mead, the filmmaker behind the great 2019 documentary Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am? (which remains available to stream at Amazon and at Apple TV,) recently informed us that his newest project, A Thousand Guitars, will premiere this Saturday night in London at The Muse Art Gallery, as part of the 2023 Portobello Film Festival. A Thousand Guitars, Nick tells us, is unlike anything he's done before. "Not quite sure if it's a film," he says, "more a forever tour of inspirational guitar players, talking it up." Indeed, Mead has spent years collecting conversations with various famous musicians, discussing their most beloved instruments. Among those he's interviewed to date - both the living and some now dearly departed - are Glen Campbell, Jose Feliciano, Peter Frampton, Arlo Guthrie, Dhani Harrison, Susanna Hoffs, Lemmy Kilmister, Nils Lofgren, Jeff Lynne, Jesse Malin, Les Paul, Joe Perry, Vicki Peterson, Pete Seeger, Slash, Harry Dean Stanton, Chris Stein, Hubert Sumlin, Richard Thompson, Brian Wilson, and Bill Wyman.
"Not sure if it will ever be completed," Nick muses, "more added to by the month." Part of the reason for that, he admits, is how much during the filmmaking process he sometimes has found greater pleasure in "the journey, not necessarily the destination. For example, I couldn't find any manager for Pete Seeger but heard that Pete lived in Beacon, New York. So I went there and got his address from a mailman. Pete wasn't in, but his dog was roaming around, and I got his number off his dog's collar. The 'cost' of an interview with him was my assistance in laying a concrete floor with him for his sloop club on the Hudson, where he had a sloop called Woody Guthrie and took kids out on it and taught them socialism."
Mead finds A Thousand Guitars very difficult to place into any of the more typical categories of documentary films. "Maybe it's an ongoing living temple to musical inspiration," he's observed, "more of an alive thing rather than a film that is finished. It's perpetually a work in progress and is an ever-evolving thing, as people continue to want to step up and share their inspiration, motivation, dedication and desperation. As I said, I'm not sure if it's a film or an historical document."
Nick quickly and humbly adds, however, "The response from the Portobello Film Festival seems to indicate it might be a film." Indeed, not only will A Thousand Guitars close the Festival's Saturday night screening of international films, but it also will be eligible to compete for a Golden Trellick award at the Festival's Grand Awards Ceremony on the following evening. Congratulations and best of luck to both Nick and A Thousand Guitars' executive producer, our own Letters To You website consultant, Brian Samelson!
Readers who will be in the London area this weekend can attend both the Portobello Film Festival screening of A Thousand Guitars and the Festival's Grand Awards Ceremony free of charge. Click here and here for further details.