Brian Grazer on 'Made In America' Doc: 'Jay-Z Putting His Finger on a Place and Time'
From backstage at the Jay-Z curated Budweiser Made In America festival Sunday (Sept. 2) in Philadelphia, Imagine Entertainment's Brian Grazer told Billboard.Biz tantalizing details planning for the much buzzed about fest doc, which he is co-producing with his IE partner Ron Howard directing.
"In addition to the narrative of the festival that we think is there, we hope to punctuate it with archival footage so that we see how this built to become the concert that it is," explained Grazer, who had his own camera crew in tow. "Probably, with archival footage, [we'll] go to early parts of Jay's life and early parts of other artists' in this concert's life to show how and why they would actually blend and how and why they might not have blended 20 years ago."
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Grazer and the whole doc team, which includes co-producers Jay-Z, Translation CEO Steve Stoute, and music film vets @radical.media, in partnership with Anheuser-Busch, will have plenty of onstage moments capturing the four-stage Sept. 1-2 Benjamin Franklin Parkway fest's blend to choose from - and then some.
Made's many musical highlights included Jay-Z sitting in with Sunday headliners Pearl Jam for a live mashup of his "99 Problems" with the band's "W.M.A.," and a diverse bill that slotted hip-hop (Saturday headliner Jay-Z with cameos from Kanye West and more, Drake, Run-D.M.C), rock (PJ, Passion Pit, X) blues (Gary Clark Jr.), EDM (Skrillex, Calvin Harris) R&B (D'Angelo, Jill Scott) and latin pop (Prince Royce) alongside each other. "To have the fathers of hip hop here is amazing, Run-D.M.C. This is a big deal for Run and the group but even for Jay. He's honored that they are debuting again for his fest. He's proud," @radical.media chairman and CEO Jon Kamen told Billboard on site on Sunday.
But the backstage stories, the personal stories of the fans, workers, and city of Philadelphia, and even that of the filmmakers (Grazer's film crew was filming him) over the course of the days leading up to and including the festival are equally a focus of the eight-film-crew production, both Grazer and Kamen confirmed. "It's a huge deal for the city," said @radical.media president of media and entertainment Justin Wilkes on site Sunday, "We've spent time with the mayor he's one of the characters that we follow."
"Tyler the Creator from Odd Future had Santigold's great dane jump up on him," @radical.media's Wilkes added by way of explaining the sense of camaraderie that developed over the fest's two days as all of the acts found themselves put into an "artists villa" all together behind the scenes." Kamen and Wilkes further divulged that cameras have captured everything from Rev Run in his home kitchen cooking eggs for his kids before leaving for the festival to watching a hopeful Kanye West fan get his "dream for the week" come true as 'Ye pointed him out in the front row during Jay-Z's set.
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"You'll see it in theaters as a film," Grazer says. "And hopefully what I think we're going to get out of this is enough combustion that lives inside of this movie that it will have theatrical release that will transcend film festivals. That's my feeling. With Jimmy Iovine, we made 8 Mile, so we're hoping it has piece of that in a way. It speaks to questions that people are asking today about all music art forms and how they can coexist."
"In order to make a movie, you have to create tension," says Grazer. "So by following all these different people, whether it's the people pickup the garbage or caterers or hair and make up, it will find away to break away and find a point of view that will raise the stakes of the idea of the movie itself."
Both Grazer and Kamen have a history of working with Jay-Z. "We did 'Fade to Black' together," Kamen says. "In eight years a lot has changed, so it's a bit of a reunion for all of us. Jay was reminiscing about it as well."
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"I knew Jay-Z before from American Gangster, a movie that I produced." says Grazer. "I thought he was an icon, somebody who was brilliant, who knew what hip-hop is about. I get a call from Jay-Z where he says I want to do an album for American Gangster. And I said, well we've already shot the film, …and we have the soundtrack. He said, doesn't matter, I'll do twelve tracks for you in two weeks. And I thought ok, how do I lose on that." Making a document of this festival, Grazer says, is a chance to catch Jay-Z "putting his finger on a place and time."