People all over the world might be familiar with the late Frank Zappa‘s more renowned novelty songs like Valley Girl and Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow, though how many people are aware of Zappa’s forays into orchestral music, or the fact that he started out as a young filmmaker even before working in his first recording studio?
The new documentary Zappa, directed by Alex Winter, took five years to get made but gave the filmmaker full access to Frank Zappa’s archives for video footage and music, much of which has never been seen or heard previously. Below the Line spoke to Winter last week about making the film, and he told us how he pitched himself to Zappa’s late widow, Gail Zappa, to make the movie.
“Mike Nichols, who ended up cutting the film, we made a very short mood reel, because I had a very specific idea for what I wanted the way in to be and and how to tell the story,” Winter told us.
“We showed her that and then I just sat and talked to her for a long time about about what I thought that film was, what I thought Frank was and what I thought I had not seen about him. To me, this is a film about an artist who lived at a very specific period in American history and was very engaged with those times. It was a way in that she would have either responded to or not; I was ready to accept either.”
One of the Zappa’s artistic endeavors covered in Winter’s film is his ventures into filmmaking by directing 200 Motels in 1971 and then making the 1979 concert film, Baby Snakes, which included stop-motion animation from award-winning animator Bruce Bickford.
In an exclusive clip you can watch below, you can learn more about Zappa’s work with Bickford, and we’ll have more with Winter next week. Zappa will be available as a one-night-only theatrical event on November 23 (tonight!), and then available everywhere (including your very own home) starting Friday, November 27.