Banjo Project Gets PBS Broadcast, Fall 2011
After almost a decade of research and filming, director Marc Fields is busy editing countless hours of footage into a final 82-minute film. What Mr. Fields originally called The Banjo Project will be unveiled as Give Me The Banjo and broadcast on PBS this fall. Readers might remember a prior piece written about Mr. Fields and The Banjo Project during his Kickstarter fundraising campaign back in January. The Kickstarter campaign was a huge success, almost doubling the $25,000 Fields was trying to raise to complete the film (the final tally was $46, 098.) At that time, only a few months ago, Fields did not know where he might distribute or broadcast the film. Prior discussions with broadcasters had not led to any commitments, which is one reason Fields turned to Kickstarter. The goal of the Kickstarter campaign was not simply to raise needed funds, but also to raise awareness and show support for his project, Fields told me back in January. His plan certainly worked, and perhaps much faster than he could have ever anticipated.
PBS is set to launch a new series this fall called “PBS Fall Arts Review”, which will consist of eight self-contained 90-minute feature films. Give Me The Banjo was one of the eight films chosen for the inaugural season. Email correspondence with Fields gives me the impression that this was a rapid development. The director is currently working hard to meet a September 1st delivery date. Fields told me that he is “deep into the painful process of deciding what to leave out from the narrative in order to meet an 82-minute running time.” In our last correspondence, he was working on a section featuring blues and jug-band great, Gus Cannon, and enthusiastically describing some footage he had just reviewed. It is this very enthusiasm that leads me to think Give Me the Banjo will be a huge hit on PBS and a film destined for the canon of roots-music film history.
For those not yet familiar with The Banjo Project‘s history, the film was conceived when Fields realized that the Banjo offered him the perfect vehicle to discuss his thoughts about American popular music history and the social issues embedded within it. Banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka is the film’s co-producer and musical director while actor, author, and musician Steve Martin is the film’s narrator. Some of the most revered and respected banjo players in the world are also in the film, including Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Pete Seeger, Taj Mahal, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and others. For a more detailed idea of the film’s vision, you can read my prior article, visit the Banjo Project website, or simply wait until this fall where Give Me the Banjo will make its much deserved national broadcast deput on PBS affiliates across the nation.
Dustin Ogdin is a freelance writer and journalist based in Nashville, TN. His work has been featured by MTV News, the Associated Press, and various other stops in the vast environs of the world wide web. His personal blog and home base is Ear•Tyme Music. Click below to read more and network with Dustin.