Reed Rickert has directed several documentary films related to music. We talked to him to find out more about his projects.
Walila: The Modern Sound of North African Sacred Music features music producer Daniel Masson. How did you connect with him?
I met Daniel a few years ago through my brother. At the time my brother was producing music in the San Francisco Bay Area and he had reached out to Daniel to have the final mix and mastering done of his latest album. After the album was complete Daniel made a trip to the Bay Area for a series of live performances and we got to meet. Since then Daniel and I have kept in touch with the idea that it would be great to do a project together some day.
At the time when we met I was working on my first feature documentary project on a different musical topic – the link between the traditional Mexican music style son jarocho and the music of Southern Spain and North Africa (The Third Root). While working on this film I lived in Morocco for about a year. So when the opportunity came along to do Walila, Daniel thought it would be a great opportunity to have me along with him in Morocco since it was a familiar culture to me.
How did the film evolve from concept to final product?
The French Institute of Fes contacted Daniel to create a electronic music album with traditional musicians of Fes, and they wanted him to later perform that album live at The Festival of Sacred Music in Fes. Daniel thought it would be a good project in which to do a documentary about the process. He knew that I spent a lot of time in Fes filming with musicians so he knew that I would feel at home filming there. At that time the Paris attacks had just happened and he wanted this project to be about more than just the process of making music, but a message of unity. I thought it was a great idea.
From the beginning I knew I wanted to hang the story off of the final performance, it was a good way to give the film structure, but figuring out the body of the film was more fluid. It wasn’t until I spent a few days with Daniel in France and later in Morocco that it took shape in my mind, where each song of the EP album would have a separate visual theme based off of the title of the song, and at the same time represent a different step of Daniel’s music making process and later the final performance.
You’re an independent film maker. How did you fund this project?
Over the years I’ve become pretty accustomed to being a one-man-band type of production. I like the intimacy, accessibility and agility that allows me on a shoot like this. Also, the technology now for production has reached a level which permits for pretty great quality without a big crew. For Walila, it was just me on the production, giving me the opportunity to spend more time with Daniel and his family, creating more of a bond of trust between all of us.
What camera and sound equipment did you use?
I used the Sony a7sII camera which is a great little camera for light production work and it is excellent in low light. With the metabones adapter I can use my Canon lenses, I have the 16-35mm f/2.8 L, 24-105mm f/4 L and a 50mm f/1.4 USm lens. I also brought along some macro adapters that gave my the nice close shots on all of the equipment and knobs that Daniel uses in his studio. For sound, I had a Rode Videomic Pro camera mic for all ambient sound and I used a wireless Sennheiser lav system for my interviews. Since most of the film audio would be Daniel’s music I didn’t want to complicate things too much with my audio.
Due to budgetary and time constraints I wasn’t able to accompany Daniel in March of 2016 when he did all of his recording of the musicians. This was a “no-budget” situation so between Daniel and I we made sure I could be there in May of 2016 for the final performance at the festival. With a trip to where Daniel lives in France, and another to Morocco, we filmed the whole story around the time of the live performance in Fes.
What editing equipment do you use?
Since I began using the Sony a7sII this year, I made the switch from Final Cut 7 to Adobe Premiere. Premiere gives me a streamlined workflow working with the video files that come out of the camera.
Are there specific countries or musical cultures that you’d like to explore in future films?
In general, I am fascinated by different cultural modes and music is a passion. So with that combination there is so much to experience. In South America there is a lot I’m drawn to and would like to explore.
What’s your next project?
Right now I am developing a few projects. I am working on a series concept centered around music. With Daniel, I hope to get him to Mexico very soon (where I currently reside) to perform, and where he would like to record musicians for his next album. Also, I am working on a feature documentary, Pacha Kuti, that is in the crowd-funding stage. It is a film that gives voice to the Machiguenga, one of various indigenous groups considered to be guardians of one of the most biodiverse regions of the world that is currently at great risk, the Manu area of Peru.