Most people don't bat an eyelash when they hear the name Scott Walker. David Bowie, Radiohead and Blur, however, will ring a bell with just about anyone. What most Americans don't know is that these big names are just a few of the many artists influenced by Walker. And that even though Walker was born in Ohio, it took a move to England and a gig as lead singer in the Brit band The Walker Brothers to make him famous. For those who do know and love his music, like filmmaker Stephen Kijak, Walker's name is synonymous with genius. So Kijak did what any die-hard fan would do--made a documentary about him.
Kijak, who had been collecting every Scott Walker record on import heard the gods singing when he discovered that Scott, in his early sixties, was about to record a new record "The Drift" (2006/4 AD Records). "It just seemed like the absolute right time to do the documentary," says Kijak over the phone from his new hometown of Los Angeles (he transplanted from New York a year ago). "It had always been in the back of my head. Scott's music always seemed to me to lend itself to be turned into cinema in some way and a lightbulb went off when I heard he was going to make a new album. To hear he was making a new record ten years after his last record, I figured this is probably the last chance. If no one else is going to do it, I'm going to try."
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man takes you inside the unknown world of the profoundly enigmatic Scott Walker and reveals his powerful influence upon all the artists who have discovered him. The film combines footage of Walker's recording sessions with interviews with famous musicians like Brian Eno, Sting, Johnny Marr and David Bowie (who is the documentary's executive producer) and a lengthy interview with the reclusive Walker himself.
"Bowie calls the guy his hero, "says Kijak. "Scott's influence is all over his career and Bowie admits it. That is why we got him involved. He's probably the biggest fan you can get your hands on."
Despite both the star power involved with the film and the genuine passion behind the project, however, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, which took 5 years to make, was a grueling process. Part of the difficulty was that nobody knew who Walker was, making it hard to find investors for the entirely privately funded film. Further, the logistics involved in making of a documentary film which lacks a pre-conceived narrative, required clearing many legal rights and pinning down rock stars to interview times provided additional obstacles.
"The process was harrowing," concedes Kijak. "It was a constant struggle.The main interview with Scott was the absolute last thing we shot, so it was terrifying," concedes Kijak. "We knew that if we didn't get his interview, this would all fall apart. It turned out to be good that we got it at the end, because we knew exactly what we needed of him and re-cut around that interview.The whole process was murder. It was such a hard movie to make. There was that point of, 'Oh crap! We have a bunch of people in the documentary saying, 'Isn't Scott Walker great!?' We were thinking, 'There's no film here!' But, then you start finding the narrative and it eventually reveals itself to you."
Having run the festival circuit since 2006, the film will be playing at Los Angeles' NuArt Theatre starting Friday for one week. Unfortunately, when Kijak had initially completed the film in 2005, he didn't present the film at American film festivals because he had secured a small distribution deal for America. Unfortunately, the first distribution deal fell through--although eventually Oscilloscope Pictures (Beastie Boys Adam Yauch's company) did pick up the film. Kijak says so many people in Los Angeles have been begging him to show it that he is both ecstatic and excited.
"It's incredibly gratifying," says Kijak. "We haven't made a dime on it, but it's been so worth it. We're really just so proud of this film. I just wanted to do Scott justice and I think the results speak for themselves. I'm really grateful for everyone who worked on it. It felt like it needed to be done, especially for America to re-discover him. He's one of our own. He's an American musician who really never got the recognition he deserves."