Spotlight: Rock Prophecies

  • 1. Introduce yourself and your film
    My name is John Chester I made the film Rock Prophecies. It’s the story of legendary rock’n roll photographer Robert Knight.

    2. How did you become interested in filmmaking?
    I was obsessed with cameras. I drew them all over my school books in 3rd grade. Then I began building mini film sets and studios out of Legos. At 14 my dad bought me a film production text book and my uncle Sandy bought me a video camera after that it was over. I seemed to have a natural eye for framing and then I would just spend the rest of my life learning how to actually tell stories.

    3. Tell us about your inspiration and vision for the film.
    We had originally wanted to tell the story of Roberts iconic rock photography and the stories behind them. The moments he witnessed as a quiet observer from the rowdy pits and back stage. We were struck by how often Robert Knight not only witnessed but photographed rock history in the making. He was there the first night Led Zeppelin played in LA, the last concert of Jimi Hendix’s in the US and the final performance of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I mean he walked Stevie to the helicopter, I was like who is this guy, Forest Gump?

    The problem was that idea wasn’t enough of a backbone for a film. It felt dry. What we noticed was Robert totally invented his career by simply showing up and shooting who he thought would become a legend. Then we noticed this obsession to find the next great guitar player had never gone away, he was still on this quest. So why not follow Robert for a year and see who he finds?

    Aside from that we loved how Robert Knights obsession to seek out these gifted players paralleled the obsessive nature of the legendary guitar players. I believe if we pay attention to these things early in life we can more easily build a meaningful existence. Most of us run around ignoring it… then we just get sad.

    4. What were some of the biggest challenges in making and completing the film?
    I’ll come it this from a story perspective. It was not easy for those around us to be patient with where the story was going. Many times we had no idea but knew one of several things could happen. My method made people very nervous. I go down every dark ally I can find till I know what the story wants to be. Best example of this is when I asked Robert if we could follow along on a visit with his Mom who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He didn’t see how his Mom and her sickness had anything to do with him as a rock photographer. Actually I agreed with him, but the problem was that his Mom’s illness was actually the biggest thing in his life. So as a storyteller I had to explore it. We had no idea how well it would end up wrapping into the film. I don’t want to give anything away but who would have thought that a guitar legend from his past would in some way be able to help his mom? That’s the magic of documentary story telling. Fortunately in the end Robert understood and was actually quite happy that we captured his mom in the way that we did.

    5. If this is your 1st film, what will you take away from the experience that you can apply to the next? If this is not your 1st film, what do you recall from your 1st film that you’ve applied to each one following?
    The film I made before this one was called Lost in Woonsocket. It taught me to follow the story no matter where it goes. Give it time. It’s always a wise idea to go into a film with a plan and to know sorta where you see the pay off being. But so often in docs we really have no idea. You just need to be someone your subjects can trust and be ready to jump down dark holes with them. The way things ended in Lost in Woonocket taught me just how crazy this kind of story telling can be. I applied this sorta zen philosophy and it really helped us go deeper in Rock Prophecies. It allowed the audience to connect with Robert in ways they would have never expected. And when this happens, what happens to your main character suddenly matters more to the viewer.

    6. What’s next?
    Lots in the works. We’ll let life sort that out. In the meantime we just started a tour of a film I made a few years back. It’s so crazy to think films you made years ago can be reborn. The film is called Lost in Woonsocket and its on 3 month cross country tour Sept 1st 2010 through November 2010. This film changed my life and now we’re watching it inspire others. I feel so blessed to have captured this story.

    7. In the spirit of independent cinema and Gravitas Ventures, what is your favorite indie film?
    I can’t say just one. I like the films of Errol Morris and Werner Herzog they are so beautifully constructed. But outside of that most recently for me was Restrepo the opposite of beautiful but real.

    October 4th, 2010 | Joe Wilka |

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