She was the lady that swung the band, and never got enough credit for it. We’re excited to see how far the Mary Lou Williams documentary from producer Carol Bash has come. Now almost complete the team needs your support making it to the finish line as they work on fleshing out Mary Lou’s story in the edit room.
We caught up with producer Carol Bash who gave us some great and insightful answers about her project.
Why should the world be captured by the work of Mary Lou Williams?
I think people will really like Mary Lou Williams’ music because it kept changing with the times. Her work wasn’t locked into a particular decade. Her big band music from the 1930s was stylish and innovative for those jitterbuggers of the day. And her funk, rock and blues inspired compositions of the 1970s were hip for that generation. But I think all of her music is classic and stands the test of time, which is what great jazz music does. The other interesting thing about her that is less well known was that she was a pretty good visual artist. We animate some of her artwork in the film.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about Mary Lou while making the film?
Wow! Just one thing? Hmmm. I think the most interesting thing about Mary Lou Williams was how she saw herself. She did not define herself as a female musician or an African American female musician. She just saw herself for what she truly was—a great musician…period. Now of course she knew she was a black woman and living that experience informed her music. But
she didn’t let her identity, or rather other people’s perceptions of her identity, get in her way or hold her back. She vied for whatever opportunities were available and even created some opportunities to play the music she heard inside her. And I think in several occasions, society wasn’t ready to hear her.
What do you hope the audience takes away from engaging with the film?
I think the takeaway from this film is to not let anyone stop you from doing the thing you were born to do. We follow this incredible artist through the trials and tribulations she encountered just to get her music out in front of audiences and have it be recognized. But even though she faces challenges along the way, she never totally gives up. And so, in the end, I think this documentary is a journey of perseverance and inspiration. The other thing I hope to do is to bring new audiences to Mary Lou Williams and the jazz art form. Go out and buy or download some Mary Lou Williams music! It’s a great way to get through the day.
Where do you envision the film going?
We actually have two versions of the film. And I do want to take a minute to thank the NBPC for your support. Our other funders include the NEA, Ford Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Firelight Media Next Step Fund, Duke University, NEH, and LEF Foundation—it does take a village. And our major funder was ITVS. So, because of NBPC and ITVS’ funding, the broadcast version will premier on PBS in 2015. We are currently constructing our official website, so updates about the film are done via our facebook and twitter pages. For the feature length version, we will present that to film festivals and public screenings. But most importantly is that we want to develop a dynamic community engagement campaign bring the film to young adults, particularly young women of color and music students through colleges, arts organizations and churches.
And of course any other interesting tidbits you want to share about your process making the project.
This film took eleven years to make. So, I am more than excited to be at this point. But it could not be done without so many people giving their time, talent and patience to get this film where it is. So, we are almost there—but we still need a little more money to pay for our final completion costs, which is why we have launched out indiegogo campaign. I guess you could say that making a film is like creating a music composition. Instead of notes on a page, you have images on screen. In the end, however, you just want to get it out there for the people to enjoy.
Click here to contribute to the campaign and help spread the word