Gilliam joins Arcade Fire


On August 5 2010, Terry Gilliam directed a live webcast of Arcade Fire’s concert in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Gilliam in fact disputes that he was the “director” of the show. As he discussed with Entertainment Weekly just before the webcast, “I keep reading that I’m directing this thing, but I’m not sure that’s what I’m doing. Their manager called my agent less than two weeks ago and said, ‘We’re doing this webcast and the band would love it if you got involved.'”

The filmmaker continued, “Tonight’s show will be the fourth that I’ve been with them. I’m a groupie, basically! If I see somebody doing something stupid I’ll probably mention that to them. But their show’s really good, and they’ve got really good video stuff already. So we’ll stick with what they’re doing and I can sit back and take credit for everything.”

The job came at an ideal time for Gilliam, due to a “hiccup” with the preparation for the production of his forthcoming Quixote pic. “I have to thank them for liberating me from weeks of depression,” he said.

Videos of the show are available at the Arcade Fire UpStaged YouTube Vevo site. Click on this link or on the image below to view the show.

A ten-minute black-and-white Behind-the-scenes film was created, featuring Gilliam and the band. It starts out as a free documentary, but becomes a mockumentary as the film is taken over by an absurd sketch featuring Dr Parnassus actor Andrew Garfield, appearing as Gilliam’s assistant. Click on the image below to see the Behind-the-scenes film.

A still from the Behind-the-Scenes 10 minute short film.
Click on the image or click here to watch the film at the special YouTube Vevo site

Gilliam hosted a Q&A with the band based on fan questions sourced through Twitter.
Click on the image for part 1, or click the following links for each of the four parts

Arcade Fire Q&A Part 1
Arcade Fire Q&A Part 2
Arcade Fire Q&A Part 3
Arcade Fire Q&A Part 4

A stop-motion puppet trailer for the Arcade Fire show was produced – and is also available at the YouTube site, a still from this is below. It features many Brothers Quay motifs, but was not in fact made by the Brothers Quay, but by a Montreal-based animator, presumably in homage to the London-based Quays. Note that the antlers sitting above the cupboard are moose antlers and not the deer antlers favoured by the Brothers Quay.

Watch the puppet show trailer by clicking on the image – or click here

Gilliam praises the band in the short Behind-the-scenes film,
yet is interrupted by his assistant (played by Andrew Garfield)

Further, here are three articles about the show: an initial AP release; a brief article by Entertainment Weekly; and a more substantial interview with MTV website.

July 26, Associated Press
NEW YORK – Terry Gilliam will direct the live webcast of Arcade Fire’s concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The Arcade Fire show kicks off “Unstaged,” a new online concert series being launched by American Express and streamed on YouTube. The Montreal-based band will live stream their Aug. 5 concert at 10 p.m. EDT, the second of two shows at MSG. Gilliam, whose films include “Brazil” and “12 Monkeys,” last released “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” in December.

The concert will stream on the Google Inc.-owned YouTube via Vevo, the music video site owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media Co. It’s the first in a planned series of five live streamed concerts, with John Legend and the Roots to follow. Others will be announced later.

Aug 4, Entertainment Weekly

The recent announcement that the Arcade Fire had recruited Terry Gilliam to direct tomorrow night’s concert webcast from Madison Square Garden prompted much head scratching at EW Towers. Just what was the maker of such films as Brazil and 12 Monkeys going to bring to the live broadcast format, creatively-speaking? It turns out, Gilliam was wondering exactly the same thing and, with only a day to go before showtime, the jovial auteur says he remains a tad confused about his role in proceedings.

“I’m trying to find out what this f-ing thing is,” admits the director and Monty Python comedy team member. “I keep reading that I’m directing this thing, but I’m not sure that’s what I’m doing. Their manager called my agent less than two weeks ago and said, ‘We’re doing this webcast and the band would love it if you got involved.’ [Tonight’s MSG show] will be the fourth that I’ve been with them. I’m a groupie, basically! If I see somebody doing something stupid I’ll probably mention that to them. But their show’s really good, and they’ve got really good video stuff already. So we’ll stick with what they’re doing and I can sit back and take credit for everything.”

One thing Gilliam con confirm is that he is a big fan of the Canadian outfit: “I do think they’re very special. I’ve felt that since Funeral.” That admiration is apparently reciprocated by band members, and married couple, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. “Win said something to the effect that the first movie they ever saw together was Brazil,” reveals the director. “It’s a good way of finding out if your date is going to be part of your future! When Brazil came out I remember some married couples practically splitting over it. One would like it and the other would just despise the film.” Gilliam says he is regarding the webcast gig as an extended “date” during which he and the band can get to know each other, with an eye on collaborating properly at a later point. “It’s really about seeing if there’s a future between them and me,” muses the director.

Of course, Gilliam is infamous for the disasters that tend to befall his movies: “Me? What?” he deadpans when the subject is raised. But the director says that fans attending tomorrow night’s show at MSG need not worry about the possibility of an earthquake, or some freakish indoor monsoon, ruining their evening’s entertainment. “That’s why I’m staying as far away from this as possible,” he chuckles. “I’m literally hands-off. The Curse of Gilliam will not apply tomorrow night!”

August 5,

Terry Gilliam Talks ‘Liberating’ Arcade Fire Webcast

Terry Gilliam had been gearing up this summer for pre-production on “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” – a famously troubled film the director first started shooting a decade ago only to see it collapse – when what Gilliam calls a financial “hiccup” again interrupted work. That’s when he got a call from the Arcade Fire, asking if he’d like to join the band on tour and direct a webcast of their concert at Madison Square Garden.

“I have to thank them for liberating me from weeks of depression,” Gilliam laughed.

And so since late last week, Gilliam has been riding on the band’s tour bus, checking out shows in support of their new album, The Suburbs, and figuring out exactly how he’s going to capture their epic sound for computer screens. The effort is part of American Express’ “Unstaged,” a series of concerts by artists like Alicia Keys and John Legend streamed over the Web.

As he readies plans to film the Arcade show on Thursday (August 5), Gilliam gave MTV News a call to chat about his existential connection with the band, the difference between making movies and making music and why he’s hoping not to inflict “too much Terry Gilliam” on the webcast.

It was surprising, in a very good way, to hear about an Arcade Fire/ Terry Gilliam collaboration. How’d the whole thing come together?
Less than two weeks ago, I got contacted by their manager asking if I’d be interested. There just happened to be a little gap in my life, and it’s something I’ve never done, and I’ve been a fan of the band since Funeral. I thought, “Why not? Just leap off the edge of the cliff and see what happens.”

Did they know that you were a fan or something?
I don’t know. It turned out that they like my stuff, and maybe the band and I will develop a relationship, so this really has become a meeting as opposed to anything else. I hate the fact that this word “directing” is being slammed all over the place. I’m not directing. I’m just hanging out with them. I’m just a really old groupie.

So if you wouldn’t call it directing, what are you doing in preparation and then on the day of the show? Will you be in the control room calling for cameras?
I’m still working it out, which is what is so wonderful. I’ve been with the band since Montreal on Friday night. I’ve seen three shows already. I’m just trying to work out what we’re doing. The reason I’m so relaxed about it is that the show is so good that I don’t have to do anything. You just point some cameras at it and it’ll be great. The cameras and the team that does that are already in place. All I’m trying to do is make sure what they capture is true to what the band is doing. The band has got guys mixing their own cameras up on the screen and pulling in material that they’ve already assembled. When I saw that, I realized, “I don’t have anything to do!” which is good, because they’ve got great stuff, and anything I might do is just unnecessary and may end up being too much Terry Gilliam.

There can never be too much Terry Gilliam!
Oh, I’ve read the reviews. Come on!

So what have your conversations been like with Win Butler and the band as you hang out and get closer to the live stream?
It’s all about knowing who they are and how they see things. They come from the suburbs and I come from the suburbs. The music resonated as much with me as it does with contemporary suburban kids or kids trying to get out of the suburbs. There are those that stay behind in this kind of Middle Earth that is neither country nor city, neither good nor bad, but a place that if you’re creative, you just need to get away from. You want to get where it’s painful.

So are you just going to be kicking back having a beer on show night?
I’m in the middle of it! I don’t know what will happen! They said, “Just come along and we’ll see what happens.” In many ways, if we get on well, there’s something in the future that can be more thought-out. When Win and I first talked on the phone, I said, “Win, when I make a movie, I’m a couple years in preparation so that when I get to shooting, it’s so much a part of my being that I’m not even thinking about it. It’s not like we’re playing music and I’m at the piano and you come in with a guitar and we make a song.” The whole thing is very relaxed and we’ll see what else it leads to if I don’t make too many mistakes.

Are you guys thinking about a more in-depth documentary?
Those conversations are floating around with other people and I’m staying out of them and seeing where this leads. It’s exploratory for us and for the band.

Have you gone back and looked at some classic concert documentaries?
Nope! I don’t watch concerts very often. I’ve been in a couple. I was in the “Concert for George.” [Monty] Python was a big part of that. That was such a great night. The atmosphere was astonishing. When you see the DVD, it’s fine for people that weren’t there, but it was not what we experienced. That’s the problem with DVDs and webcasts – it’s just a fraction of the experience of being in the room. It’s always difficult to capture that. That’s why theater is theater. It’s that moment and no other moment.

You sound so chilled out! I think it’s great that you’re just going with the flow on this whole thing.
Terry Gilliam: It’s been so much fun. We’ve had a documentary camera running around following me when I’m talking to the band. I have no idea what that will end up being. When I work on a film, everything is so controlled. So the idea of someone with a camera, wiggling it around at us when we’re talking, I’m hoping it might be liberating. Because I don’t care!

More to explore

Films in depth

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
The Zero Theorem
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
The Brothers Grimm
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
12 Monkeys
The Fisher King
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Time Bandits