Director Matthew Buzzell doesnt just want you to know
who Jimmy Scott is. He wants you to know Jimmy Scott. Watch
his documentary, Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew, and
you will know. Roxanne Bogucka spoke to Buzzell after a SXSW
screening of his movie.
RB: Matthew Buzzell, director of Jimmy Scott:
If You Only Knew. Your editors been telling me that
youve been wanting to make this film for years. How
long and howd you get the idea?
MB: Well, I started off as a big fan of Jimmys.
Jimmys music is, we all have music that we find in our
lives that is special to us, that speaks to us and can actually
start to paint your life, and thats Jimmys music
for me. Jimmys music just really moved me. So actually
about 10 years ago I did a radio interview with him on his
birthday for a local broadcast in Athens, Georgia. I played
some of his records. I tracked him down. We did a phone conversation.
And he said, "Well hey baby, next time youre in
the New York area"he was living in Newark at the
timehe said, "lets get together." And
I said, "well when are you performing next?" And
he said, "Ill be at the Tavern on the Green in
two weeks." And so I went and after the show I found
him and Ithe Tavern on the Green is kind of this cavernous
placeand I found him. I saw him there. I started walking
towards him, and he obviously, I dont know how he know
who I was, but he just grabbed my arm, he said [whispers]
"hey baby, how are you?" And he just made me feel
like Id known him forever and we were friends for years.
And so I wanted to make a documentary about him, but there
was a documentary that was already being made for the Bravo
channel. A 45-minute documentary, nice little film. But when
I decided that I wanted to make a film on him, I wanted to
make something that was a little more... I dont know,
a little larger. That really went a little deeper into his
family. And so that we could really get to know his family
and some of the themes that are important to him.
RB: How was your film financed?
MB: It was financed with a lot of love and a lot of
heart. And we were very fortunate to have some seed money,
came from an old college roommate of mine, Diedrich Bader,
who is one of the stars of "The Drew Carey Show."
As well as Terry Mulroy, one of the creators of "The
Drew Carey Show." He got interested in it when he found
out that Jimmy was from Cleveland. And Terrys from Cleveland,
so theres a Cleveland connection:
RB: And Cleveland rocks, as we all know.
RB: You mentioned earlier that you had done a five-minute
short on Jimmy Scott? And did that help you, was that something
that you were able to take to sell the idea of your feature?
MB: Well, exactly. It was really more of the spark
that said, "this is a movie that we have to make."
This is a movie that we have to make, because Jimmy was so
enigmatic. The film that we made was a little five-minute
short called Jimmy Scott, Alone Together. And it was
Jimmy alone, hanging out in his hotel in Los Angeles while
he was on the road, just talking about down time. About solitude.
And about spirituality. And he spoke so eloquently and so
poetically that Id showed it to people and they were,
I was like, "I want to do a feature on Jimmy." And
they were like, "Lets go. Lets do it."
So it wasnt easy getting the picture together. And we
still have some hurdles. We have to find a way to get the
movie out there and distributed, but its like I said
tonight (at the Q&A after the screening): Jimmy brings
people together. People get turned on and they get connected
by and through Jimmy. And I believe that thats whats
going to happen with this film.
RB: So youve had short films at SXSW before
and this is your first feature
RB: You seem very passionate, a very passionate fan
and very passionate about the world rediscovering Jimmy Scott.
Were your other films on topics about which you were equally
MB: I did a documentary last year with Jacob Bricca,
our editor, that we co-directed with a young lady, another
director, Elizabeth Massey. All of us AFI graduates.
American Film Institute. And it was called What A Girl
Wants. Its about the impact of media culture on
the self-esteem of teenage girls. And thats a film that
were very, very passionate about. Its being distributed
by the Media Education Foundation, the MEF. Its going
out to universities and schools. Jacob, what is the Media
Educations website? Do you know?
MB: m-e-f-dot-org. But its, portions of it were
actually just shown on "The Oprah Winfrey Show"
a couple weeks ago, so...
MB: Thats a film that were all very passionate
about. Because the topic in many ways boils down to the sexualization
of youth. Which is... kids need to be kids. They need to have
a chance to be kids. Theyre being bombarded with too
RB: Okay. Whats your next project?
MB: You know, Ive got two scripts. Ive
got one that Ive written a book adaptation of a novel
by Pascal Bruckner, whos a French novelist. Its
a very big, Terry Gilliam-esque kind of social black
comedy. But this is not for me to direct. There nobody in
the world thats going to let me direct this, but my
producer and I, who are working on that, were taking
it around, hoping thatll get made. Thatd be something
for me as a writer. I have another script that Im writing
for another producer. But the next thing most likely will
be another documentary. I have a fantasy of doing one on James
Brown. Im from Augusta, Georgia. And I feel that
James Browns public image right now is probably at its
lowest. And I would like to see if I could help that situation,
because most people dont know there was a time when
James Brown was very humble. And hes done a lot of good
things in his life, and Id like to show some of those
good things and to explore some of those good things. And
to explore his music in a different way. A lot of people dont
know that James Brown is a good piano player and keyboard
player, and that in his spare time he likes to sit around
and play Frank Sinatra, on his piano and sing. And
Id like to see if I could do something like that. I
havent talked to James Brown. I dont know if this
is going to happen, but I have some friends who are in James
Browns band. And so Im going to, hopefully, through
them, try to meet with him and show him this Jimmy Scott film.
He and Jimmy knew each other. They both were on King Records
briefly, for a short period of time. And so Im hoping
that will happen. If not, Ive got another idea for another
documentary about the impact of Godzilla on Japanese pop culture
and to explore the history of giant monster movies. But I
dont know. Its just a pipe dream. I dont
know. I may not ever be able to make anything again. This
business is that difficult sometimes, you know? Its
hard. You know this movie was made with some seed money and
a lot of heart and soul, but I hope next time I make a film,
that itll be a little easier. I dont know. Its
hard to say. I dont know what Im going to do next.
Ive got to go back to LA and find a day job now. And
pay my bills. My bills are way overdue.
RB: Well I hope they wont keep you away from
filmmaking for too long. Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew,
a wonderful documentary by Matthew Buzzell and crew.