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The COVID-19 pandemic lent an unexpected helping hand to the making of Todd Hayne’s documentary The Velvet Underground, which had its world premiere in Cannes on Wednesday night to rave reviews.
Making his first step into documentary features, the Carol director told a press conference on Thursday that he first began working on the film in 2018, conducting several interviews with those who were with the iconic New York rock band in the 1960s. But then — alongside his long-standing editor Affonso Goncalves — he turned his attention to the legal thriller Dark Waters, leaving the project with editor Adam Kurnitz (who also worked with Goncalves on Jim Jarmusch’s Stooges documentary Gimme Danger). Kurnitz also had more than 600 hours of archival footage taken from Lou Reed’s widow Laurie Anderson and the Museum of Modern Art.
“At the beginning of 2020, after Dark Waters had been released, Affonso and I were fully available to join Adam and spend all our time on it, and it was right in the early months of the COVID pandemic,” he said. “And it locked us into this extraordinary experience; it was a time when we could really hunker down.”
Haynes said that he was “quarantining” at home in Los Angeles with Goncalves and working constantly on the film, while Kurnitz was in New York. “But we spoke about 20 times a day, we’d send a cut, watch it, then talk on the phone,” he said.
Producer Julie Goldman, who was also at the press conference, alongside fellow producers Carolyn Hepburn, Christopher Clements and regular Haynes collaborator Christine Vachon, said it was “extraordinary” to have Haynes “in the trenches” working on the project. “It was one of the benefits of a terrible moment, that there was the ability for them to gather and spend those months on the film.”
The Hollywood Reporter was full of praise for The Velvet Underground, film critic David Rooney describing it as an “electrifyingly structured” doc, while Scott Feinberg said the film “instantly rockets to the forefront of the Oscar conversation.”
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