Director Joe Berlinger talks about how working with Metallica lead to making Crude
By Richard Whittaker,
4:01PM, Sat. Apr. 25, 2009
In case you missed our interview with documentarian Joe Berlinger, his latest politically-charged picture Crude screens tonight, April 25, at 6pm at the Regal Metropolitan as part of the Cine las Americas festival.
Berlinger was also the man behind the camera for Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. He and his long-time collaborator Bruce Sinofsky got to know Hetfield et al while making his justice-seeking documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills. That lead to him getting unprecedented access for his 2004 rock doc about the biggest metal band in the world.
Austin Chronicle: You started making Crude before the Chevron pollution case became an international scandal, and Some Kind of Monster before Metallica nearly imploded. Right place, right time?
Joe Berlinger: There's been a huge string of luck in my career. That's definitely something that's hard for me to explain. The first time I was sitting filming a therapy session for Metallica, that was right after my complete and utter failure on Blair Witch 2, where I got eviscerated by the press, I think a little too hard. I certainly took it hard.
AC: How tough was that?
JB: It wasn't that the movie was reviewed badly, it was that I was reviewed badly. I was gutted, personally, over this movie. It was hard to take. So I myself needed therapy, and I was sitting in this room watching James Hetfield starting the process of baring his soul, thinking to myself, 'I don't know why I'm here or how I got here, but even if this film goes nowhere, I''m also hitting 40. I'm also having a great professional and existential crisis, just like these guys. So I really need to hear this shit.' I just find myself in those situations. Is it all luck? I like to think of the old cliched definition of luck as opportunity meeting preparation.
AC: So how much preparation was it? Seems like the band was very comfortable with you.
JB: The reason we met Metallica is because, in Paradise Lost, Metallica lyrics are introduced into the trial, and we felt like we had to have their music in the movie, even though they have a reputation for never allowing that up to that point. They were hard to get a hold of, and a lot of people wouldn't have expected us to successfully navigate that. We ended up getting the music for free, we developed a friendship. When Jason (Newstead) quit the band and the therapist arrived on the scene, I'm not sure other film makers would have been able to handle the situation properly, to break down the door and get in.