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'20 Feet From Stardom' team backstage at the 2014 Spirit Awards

 "20 Feet From Stardom" director/producer Morgan Neville, singer Darlene Love, singer Tata Vega, singer Judith Hill, singer Claudia Lennear and producer Caitrin Rogers at the 2014 Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.
"20 Feet From Stardom" director/producer Morgan Neville, singer Darlene Love, singer Tata Vega, singer Judith Hill, singer Claudia Lennear and producer Caitrin Rogers at the 2014 Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.

The 29th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards took place on March 1, 2014, at the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. Here is what these Spirit Award winners said backstage in the Spirit Awards press room.


Best Documentary

What was the hardest thing about making “20 Feet From Stardom”?

Morgan Neville (director/producer): The hardest thing about putting this film together was, hands down, cutting stuff out, because it was all so interesting. Everybody I met, I wanted to make a documentary about. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t making a 12-hour documentary. I wasn’t writing a book. I was trying to make a feature film.

Every moment of it, I just loved falling into this world. And what I realized early on when I started meeting these ladies was that they were a family, and they invited me into their family with open arms. And I know I’m going to be in their family for the rest of our lives, so I love it.

Can you talk about your editors for this movie and how they helped you make those editing decisions?

Neville: Yeah, they did. Doug [Blush], Kevin [Klauber] and Jason [Zeldes]. They’re here today. They won the ACE Award for best editing, and they deserved it, because they did an incredible job. But I was just talking to Claudia [Lennear]: “It might have been my vision, but it was your story.” And I thank them for their stories.

To the singers, what was it like to have your story told in this documentary?

Darlene Love (co-star): When we started doing this, my story is a long and great story to me, but when I saw it on screen, I got very emotional. Our director captured us talking, and he put the whole thing together. I always say he dug really deep, and then he found things in us, and then he put it on screen. It’s amazing.

Judith Hill (co-star): I feel deeply honored to be a part of this. What strikes me about this whole thing is that it’s so much bigger than all of us. Our story is symbolic for everyone who’s had a dream and struggled. It’s been so powerful to see how everyone is connected, whether you’re a singer or what ever you do, that dream and that whole Cinderella story, it’s awesome.

Judith Hill was a contestant on “The Voice” in 2013, the same year that “20 Feet From Stardom” was released. Do you think that exposure helped the movie?

Neville: It was one of these weird things was we finished the film, and then Judith went on “The Voice,” not really knowing what was going to happen to our film. So it was just a weird set of circumstances. It turned out to be great, because a lot of people understood just how good she was and how good backup singers are.

And my personal take, whether or not Judith agrees, she didn’t make it ‘til the end [“The Voice” finals] because people said (and I saw this over and over and over), “She’s a professional. She’s a backup singer. She shouldn’t be on a show like this. She has it made.”

And the whole time we filmed this film, Judith was living at her parents’ house, in her childhood bedroom, trying to raise money so she could do record showcases and pay for her band. And I think people assume so much about backup singers, that they’re on stage next to a rock star; therefore, they live a rock star’s life. And that could not be further from the truth. I’m just happy we’re the antidote to that “quick fix” thing we have in our society: If you’re on stage, you’re a star.

How surprised were you that you were selected for “20 Feet From Stardom”?

Hill: Shocked.

Claudia Lennear (co-star): It was a complete surprise for me. You know, sometimes Hollywood is very fickle. We all know that. You can be huge one day and not-so-huge the next day.

But when I was called to be a part of this project (and I’m sure the other ladies as well), immediately for me it was, “Yes! Yes!” Because no one seemed to have the courage to deal with this topic.

We did form the fabric of pop-music culture. It’s so wonderful that finally, things are put into perspective. It was a very positive experience. And I’m sure for all of us.

For more info: Spirit Awards website


Spirit Award interviews

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