Musician and filmmaker Stacey K Black graciously took the time to answer questions about her new documentary film Send My Mail to Nashville, the film making process, inspiration, and the power of following your dreams.
Check out the Stacey’s Website for more info.
Q: What are some things that really surprised you in the process of your research for Send My Mail To Nashville?
A: The first thing that struck me about Nashville, was how much talent there is in every square inch of the city. I mean, you hear about it, but until you experience it for yourself, you really can’t imagine. All that talent, in one concentrated area, makes for a very inspiring place to be.
Q: How did you go about deciding which musicians would be featured in the documentary and what is the most challenging part of capturing each performer’s essence on film?
A: When I fist visited Nashville back in the Winter of 2009, I stayed for two months, and made friends with a group of people through open mic nights, and writers rounds. All different styles, genres, ages, but the thing they all had in common, was they touched me in some way. Either their songs, their personalities, their stories. I didn’t know I would come back in two years to start making a documentary about them. That idea came to me through my friend/boss/mentor, Michael M. Robin, who I have worked for, on many of the television shows his company produces, for the past 10 years. I told him I couldn’t stop thinking about that group of people in Nashville, and I wanted to do something filmic with them. He suggested I buy a couple of cameras and go shoot a documentary. So I did.
The hard part was sticking to just that one group of people. Every time I walked out the door, I tripped over another musician/songwriter I wanted to include in the movie. I ended up adding a few, but hey, there are over 55,000 songwriters living in Nashville.
Here is a small list of some of the musicians I have shot footage of for possible inclusion in the movie: Trevor Finlay, Jennifer Friend, Peggy Hustad, Steven Wylie, Kevin So, Joe First, Lydia Smith, Jack Frisby, Shashi Light, Don Hillaker, Cowboy Slim, Rock Marcello, Craig Waller, Bob Bishop, Chuck and Anna Elliott, Sara Bolton, Rocky Lodestar, C.R. Grey, Mac Elliott, Les Gorman, Sarah Clanton Schaffer, Barbara Cloyd, Donnie Winters, Sam Cooper, Steve Goodie, Joel Shewmake, Nolan Neal, Larysa Hamilton, Greg Theil, Kevin Simonelic, and there may be more!
Q: If you could go back to the beginning of this project and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Find the money to hire a small crew. Doing this mostly alone has made it easier for me to shoot in venues, and in people’s homes without being too intrusive, but it has also led to many time-consuming human errors on my part. I think the next time, I will hire a camera operator, a sound recorder, and an editor. At the very least.
Q: What did you learn about yourself as a musician and director while shooting footage for the Send My Mail To Nashville documentary?
A: I think, when I first visited Nashville, I fancied myself a songwriter. I really wasn’t. I was a songwriter ENTHUSIAST. But since I now go back and forth quite a bit, not only to shoot footage for the doc, but also to play out at open mics and to co-write, I find that my songs are getting better and better each time I return. I think Nashville can crush, or elevate you. Its your choice. I choose to learn and grow from all the people I meet, and the experiences I have there.
Q: How did the title Send My Mail To Nashville originate?
A: One of the people I met back in 2009, was Trevor Finlay. I didn’t know at that time, but he was going to end up being kind of my muse for this project. I knew he was a crazy amazing talent, so when Michael suggested I make this documentary, Trevor was one of the first people I contacted to be in it. I also did a little cyber-stalking and found one of his songs, called “Send My Mail To Nashville.” It was a no-brainer. I asked him if I could use the title for my movie, and luckily he said yes. Because I can not think of any other name that would be right for this project. It was serendipity.
Q: What common myths/misconceptions do you think exist about Nashville’s music scene?
A: I think people associate Country music so strongly with Nashville, that they don’t realize that other genres are alive and thriving there. People may be surprised when they see my movie, and find out that only a small percent of the artists included, are Country artists. My movie is shot to be seen through my POV, and the musicians I am drawn to tend to be more Rock, Blues, Folk, Americana, Indie. I have a little Country sprinkled in there, but it’s not the main style.
Q: What is the theme of Send My Mail To Nashville and did you know what it would be before you started or did it evolve over time?
A: I didn’t really have a theme going in, but I had a feeling the movie would be about “reaching.” I am a “reacher,” and I am drawn to others like me. I have a favorite quote by the author Ayn Rand, “The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.” That’s the theme of Send My Mail To Nashville. Reach. Do. Go. Move. Reach, reach reach! Most of the subjects in my movie are up-and-comers. They’re still following their dreams, HARD. It’s amazing.
Q: Did you have an opinion of how the film would progress before you started? Were there any unexpected twists you didn’t expect?
A: Since this is my first feature length movie, and my first documentary, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew it would be time-consuming – and I’m now in my 19th month since the inception of the idea – I knew it would become the biggest part of my life for a while, but I have fallen madly in love with Nashville and ALL of the people involved in the movie. Once the movie is done, I won’t be done with Nashville. I plan to buy a place there and someday retire there. That was kind of surprising. Its also comforting. I know where and how I will spend my retirement. I’ll be that crazy old lady wearing baby doll dresses and combat boots, playing open mic nights around Nashville. Not too shabby!
Q: Which phase of filmmaking do you like best? Which do you find most challenging?
A: I love it all. And I think the most challenging bits are what I like best anyway. When I’m doing a professional project, where I have been hired to direct, I really love the prep process. It’s the most important thing to me. Collaborating with the Writer and DP, planning and designing and getting all your ducks in a row so that when you start shooting, it can all change. And it will. But with the right prep, you are ready for those changes. Its exhilarating. For this doc, the filming is also the best part, and the most challenging part. Because there is no script, I never know what I’m going to get. It’s a whole different animal and it makes me utilize a different skill set. Wait, no, the editing process is the most challenging. Because I’m not an editor by trade, so I’m learning as I go. Its tricky!
Q: Who are three musicians or filmmakers that have inspired/influenced you?
A: Three? How can I name just three? How about three of each off the top of my head. Musicians: Peter Frampton, Ani DiFranco, Tom Waits. Filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick, Cameron Crowe, Kevin Smith. There are so many more, but who has time to list them all?
Q: What does being brave mean to you?
A: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Its a book by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. And that to me is being brave. Acting in the face of fear. We’re always going to be afraid of doing something. The fear is going to be there regardless. So… why not go for it? ‘
Q: Where can my readers find you online?
A: www.staceykblack.com And you can check out the progress of the movie at https://www.facebook.com/SendMyMailToNashville?fref=ts