I’m about 8 miles high somewhere over Kansas. It’s pitch black out the window. I'm flying out to LA to finish the final mix and the color correction of When You’re Strange. The entire film has to be completed and shipped to Sundance by Dec. 29.
A couple of clarifications: this is not the official site of the film. That is being set up by Rhino Entertainment and will include all the details about the film they feel legally obligated to reveal. As soon as it is up and running I'll post the address.
The artwork that exists on this site is not official either. It’s just me, messing around. I’m slightly more than 100% confident that the final artwork will look totally different.
The photo in the banner above is a freeze frame from the film. Its original source is a 35mm short feature that Jim Morrison wrote, starred in and financed called HWY. He had a tiny crew of friends from his days at UCLA film school. The team consisted of soundman Babe Hill, editor Frank Lisciandro and cinematographer Paul Ferrara. Most of the amazing footage that comprises When You’re Strange was also shot by Ferrara.
I did not know HWY was a separate entity when I began this film. Before the job was officially offered to me I was sent boxes of dvd’s with no labels except ones like "The Doors—Lab Roll 0045". Outtakes of HWY appeared at random throughout the dvd's, mixed in with many hours of footage of the band shot between 1966 and 1971. Most of the footage had no sound. Some had been recorded but the original 1/4" tapes had disappeared.
As a result, the first wave of film was utterly silent. Watching it was like entering another world; like falling sideways into a crystal sharp mirror of America; only one that was tilted backwards at a 40 year angle. The footage was stunning. There was nothing musty or nostalgic about it; it all seemed like it was shot three days ago. But the shots of Morrison wandering through the desert were mesmerizing.
From the beginning I was under tremendous pressure to come up with a Concept.
What's the Concept, man?! What's the Concept!!
After 3 weeks of sleepless nights an idea poked into my brain about how to use this footage of Morrison to connect the whole film. I won't reveal it here because its surprise is crucial to experiencing the film. Out of respect for Morrison's HWY only outtakes are used; no edited sequences. The shots are so personal and intense they give When You're Strange the feel of a dramatic feature. In fact, a few people who've seen the film can't believe it is Jim. At one screening some helpful genius asked, "So, who'd you get to double for Morrison?" This prompted several members of the team to panic and contemplate tacking on a disclaimer explaining the film used no actors or re-enactments. I'm happy to report that idea was quickly vetoed.
But I'll say it here one more time just so there ain't no confusion: every frame of the film is of Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore. Absolutely nothing is re-enacted.
The power of all this original footage sparked another idea; to keep the film entirely in its own time-frame. And here I reveal something that may thrill some fans and infuriate others: there are no contemporary interviews or talking heads in the film. The film tells the story of the band using only the real footage of The Doors.
For this offense I accept full responsibility. I felt there was more benefit in letting the images speak for themselves. It keeps that wild, 6-year moment completely fresh and alive so audiences can fall into the story and experience The Doors as if it were all just happening now.
But, don't get me wrong; the film is still a highly detailed historical document of The Doors. I had private conversations with each member of the band. One afternoon at Robby's house he told me his two sole addictions are the 2 G's; Golf and his Guitar. He played me a cut from his new solo album with a guitar line so incredible I asked for a copy right there. He politely refused. But he blew my mind when he called the next day saying he liked my suggestion to add some urban grit to a drum track.
I spoke to Jim's sister Anne and several members of her family. Anne invited Peter Jankowski and me to her home for dinner one night. After homemade strawberry shortcake she floored me by placing in my hands a rare copy of Jim's first self-published books of poems.
I met with Penny Courson, the impassioned mother of Jim's girlfriend Pam. Ownership of the Morrison estate passed into her hands upon her daughter's death and is now shared jointly with the Morrisons.
Jeff Jampol, The Doors manager, co-ordinated all of these meetings. Some of this water runs deep with tricky currents; it clearly revealed Jampol's extreme skill in navigation. He also provided some real insight into the band that helped form the film.
I read the entire transcript of the Miami trial where Jim was charged with felony for "exposing" himself. The testimony reads like a scene out of Kafka written by the Marx Bros.
Prosecutor Terrence McWilliams: "How far would you say your organ was behind Morrison?"
Ray Manzarek: "Oh, a comfortable distance."
I listened to every Doors album as if I'd never heard them before. I was 14 when their 1st record came out. I was on my way to a junior high school dance with a plastic shampoo bottle that I'd emptied and filled with scotch. I was sipping it when the original, long version of "Light My Fire" first snaked itself into my brain. Even now that song evokes the taste of warm scotch laced with soap.
I read every book and magazine article written about The Doors and found only in the rarest circumstances did any two people agree about anything. The most daunting challenge was trying to arrive at something personal and hopefully, truthful out of all this information. The last thing I wanted do was simply paraphrase everything that has been written or said about this hugely respected, hugely influential and hugely controversial band.
I began writing a narration to help connect the scenes. The first sentence was the hardest I've ever written. After a few days the words began to come a little easier. My editors Micky Blythe and Kevin Krasny were great, creative collaborators in finding and building the images into fluid sequences. But the process of discovering the film was a completely new experience.
Usually, when I write a screenplay, I'll sit alone for a few months pounding out a 1st draft. I'll show it to one or two people then start the 2nd draft; again working entirely alone. All the trial and error takes place between me and my keyboard. With When You're Strange all the trial and error took place in public. At least 5 people witnessed each attempt at fitting narration to image. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. When it didn't there was no place to hide. With Micky's and Kevin's encouragement I basically discovered the film by thinking out loud for almost a year.
And the more I learned about the band, the more the film kept evolving. When You're Strange is not just the story of Jim Morrison. It is the story of The Doors--all four of them. Ray Manzarek once said The Doors in concert were like 4 sides of a diamond with Jim at the forward point, Ray and Robby on either side and John forming the point in the rear. Each side was equal to and supporting the other.
I absolutely believe this is true.
And, oh yeah; did I mention that nothing in the film is a fokkin' re-enactment?
I’m Stephane from France, i write a critic of your movie for a nice french webzine, Critikat.com. Your film is very interesting for a fan like me. You show the life, the music, the group (not only Morrison), and not only the death like an other director…Nice too see that. Thanks for your movie.
Nice to hear from you. I did try to tell this story as authentically as I could, with regard to everyone–not just Jim. I know Jim’s relationship with Pam was complex. I know there is a whole film to be made just on the two of them.
But, I tried to capture something truthful about them. It is tricky because both of them have entered the realm of myth at this point. I’ve discovered some people prefer to wander that fantasy land.
I’m much more interested in them both as real human beings.
Again, the film’s main focus is on the band and their music so veering too far away from that into the day to day workings of Jim and Pam’s relationship would have thrown things off balance.
Quick question: there is some debate on the exact date Jim left LA to join Pam in Paris. Do you know anything about this?
I can try to get some more stills up with in a few weeks. I created the stills myself from the last finalized dvd output of the film. As soon as I get the newest version I’ll pull some more shots.
I had access the entire Doors film library. That is where these shots came from. But in my film you see the whole shot, not just these little pieces. Plus, the material is in its original 16 mm or 35 mm negative original. It looks amazing, like it is brand new.
I left a link to a video, skip to part 0:29, we can see Morrison looking at the mirror,then we see him doing his shamanic dance and later we see him surrounded by a crowd of people and cops, are we going to see more of this in your film?
Great to hear from you. I think for you, and for Doors fans around the world the film will offer a great visual doorway for experiencing the Doors again.
Yes, much of the footage is incredible. I have taken the best of it. I don’t know if there are any plans to release the rest of the material on dvd. Honestly, I don’t think it will happen. But I do think there are plans to release Feast of Friends and HWY ond dvd.
Tell all your friends and the fans in Pakistan that the film will not disappoint them.
First of all i would like to thank you for making this movie , i am extremely excited about it and i am sure it is a dream come true for all doors fans around the world . I just wanted to ask you , i read somewhere that you saw almost 2oo hours of footage ,do you think more rare footage could be released on the dvds , As the movie itslef only covers 90 minutes . Any ways i would like to thank you once again on behalf of all the doors fans here in pakistan .
Thanks for the tip. I fixed it. One little button I did not click. Now you will see the bigger images.
is there a way you can make them bigger??
No, not the whole concert because I don’t think that was ever filmed in its entirety. But I do have the footage of Morrison being arresteed on stage, which I know is on YouTube, but it looks incredible in the film as it is restored and color-corrected.
Thank you for your kind words. I think there is a very good chance the film will show in theaters in San Francisco. I’ll do my best to come and bring the Doors with me.
Well I just wanted to say that you’re a very nice person and that I hope we can see the film in theaters or on DVD soon, also I hope you and the three doors can come visit us in San Francisco soon!
Thanks for writing. I’m proud of the way the fim attempts to treat each member of the band equally. Morrison was certainly the most extreme but Ray, Robby and John were his perfect counterparts.
I really do believe it was the talents of the 4 of them togther that made the Doors what they were.
And all four were indeed, uniquely gifted.
The film tries to actually explain how each of their different talents affected the Doors sound.
Rest assured; you will see the film.
I think there is a lot of footage from HWY and the Kern river that no one has seen. And they have not seen it the way it looks in the film; rich, beautiful and interwoven into the story of the band.
I am so hoping I will get the opportunity to see the film. It’s refreshing that it’s a film about The Doors, and not just a Morrison biopic. The Oliver Stone film didn’t seem to give much care or thought in portraying the entire band. Thank you for giving us fans of music and film a portal into the world of the Doors, a band of the visual and sonic realms fused together.
thanks for replying back.
just wanted to say that you can see Jim’s own film HWY on youtube, also the part where jim is swimming in the river is also on youtube but there are videos where you can see for only 2 to 3 seconds rare footage, I hope we get to see all the footage that was taken on live shows,backstage, and more.
thanks for writing.
The main footage that has not been seen before is from Jim Morrison’s own film called HWY (Highway). I use outtakes from it and we see Jim Morrison in a beautiful and strange way.
Your comment came in while I was up there on the ice. By now you can see that the reaction was pretty intense. Check out the next blog, Round One. That will explain a little why some of the info on the film was slow in getting out.
The premiere was open to all. It was at a smaller theater a little outside of town. Very little press was there. Most were at the premiere of the new Aston Kuchner movie which premiered at the same time.
I’m still trying to find out when the official site is going to be up. It may be already. Try all combinations of whenyourestrangethemovie.com and see if anything comes up.
I didn’t realize the truth of what I’d said about Jim until you just pointed it out.
We all forget he was only 27 when he moved on. Subtract 5 and he was only 22 when the Doors blew open.
It was his boyish innocence that made a real impression on me in looking at all this footage. He was like a 12 year old; an eternal juvenile delinquent.
Now, that’s something i can personally relate to.
Thanks for the support.
Let’s see what happens with this thing.
Great to hear from you. Sorry it took a while to respond. Been a little jammed up here.
Your doc sounds very cool! I will check out the info and come by if I can.
It is the weirdest thing about the rare footage. Since no one has seen it before, and it looks so incredible, people still aren’t believing it is Jim Morrison. And it is!! Some jerk walked out of a screening in Sundance because he was furious we’d used a “re-enactment.”
I chased after him, yellin, “It’s real! It’s real!”
Who could ever have imagined that something real would cause me so many problems.
I wish you the best with your film.
Listen, man, thanks very much for this very useful and specific info. I knew HWY was shot over a brief period of time but did not know that about the other footage.
I’ll check out your site asap.
Just know that I was trying to tell the most comprehensive story of the Doors using as much live footage as possible. Some large periods of their career had very little live coverage. So, some of the footage may be a little off date for what is being discussed but every effort was made to keep it as accurate as possible.
I may have some traveling to do with When You’re Strange but I’m sure I’ll have a chance to see it.
great to hear from you. Sorry about the delay. Been a little crazy since I got back.
I really enjoyed talking with you too. John is great to do these interviews with. A few times I had to shake myself to really realize I was sitting with a member of the The Doors talking about this film.
The same thing happened with Robby and Ray.
What a trip it has been. Let me know when the interview goes up. I’ll post a link to it.
and now to go off topic…i just saw ‘Delirious’ the other day (which i thought was awesome) and it brought back memories of ‘The Real Blonde’ – which i’m not sure you’ll remember me from but i played “Sheila” 😉
i’m very proud to say that a film, ‘The Death of Alice Blue’ that i produced (my 1st feature!) was invited to screen at the MOMA – if you are still living in NY and around in March….well, it would be an honour to have you at a screening (program takes place the 18-23 but don’t have specific time/date of screenings yet.
The Feast of Friends footage covers time on the road/concerts between mid-April and September 1st, 1968.
I put together a simple list of those, as I was going to try to clear some of the questionable dates with Paul soon, which you can find here: http://radioismoaning.com/fof.php
The question marks are all dates where we know of footage being shot in that city, but not necessarily at that particular concert.
The main page’s Tour History section has a chronology of 65-72 shows with links to photos, memorabilia, etc. in a less stripped-down form.
If you need any help identifying any of the photos/films, drop us a line.
Ah, yes; the critics. Full force indeed.
All I can say is, strange. Very strange.
The river told me
Want you to hold me, ooo
On and on it goes
Breath under water ’till the end
Free fall flow, river flow
On and on it goes
Breath under water ’till the end
Yes, the river knows
good return advice. thanks also for the card. it was included in my sundance package when I checked in.
Massively exhausted. Great response to the film. Great interaction with the band members who are all doing press with me.
“Must sleep now.” Homer Simpson
How cool to run into you! One of the highlights of the day.
What a wonderful–and wonderfully helpful note to get.
From this and the article you wrote on Jim it is clear you had a real connection with him. He seemed open and completely trusting with you. I can actually hear him saying those words.
I will remember them.
As I just wrote to Elaine, I got in a few hours ago. I’d love to try and keep a running commentary on events here but frankly it’s like going into warfare for the next 3 days and I ain’t gonna be able to swing it.
But, tomorrow night is huge. It is the first time the film will screen in front of a real audience. It is the world premiere of the film. My attention will be split rather madly between watching the film and watching the audience. I just finished mixing and color–correcting only 2 weeks ago and I still haven’t seen the whole film in its completed state.
And of course, the audience. Their reaction will be key in determining the future life of the film. And of course the press. And of course any interest from US distributors and of course if you dwell on any of this shit for more than 2 seconds you go insane.
I will try to watch the film with my editors and producers and appreciate all the months of heart, sweat and tears that went into it.
More to come.
Just got in to Sundance a few hours ago. Saw your comment and wanted to thank you once again for your great generosity of heart. The task of keeping my sense of humor over the next few days will be crucial–and exhausting.
More on why later.
Yes, a blog on the panel could be informative. My only fear is that it turns into a 3 hour Whine Session. I’ll be the Anti-Whiner.
Yes, it was pretty amazing meeting and talking to Ray, John and Robby; as well as the members of Morrison’s family. I frankly never would have imagined something like this happening when I was 14 and listening to The End.
There are many stories I could share. I will go into more detail later but one little bit of info I found fascinating is that Jim’s two favorite singers were first, Elvis, and then later Frank Sinatra.
I thought HWY was very good. It is not entirely my style of filmmaking but I really respect the way Jim and his friends just went out and made a film exactly the way they wanted.
Yes, only 2 days. I’m not nervous about the film. I’ve seen it enough times to know that all the work that went into it really holds up. In fact, I’m really excited to see it with a real audience.
Good snag on the poster. Thanks very much for the words of encouragement. The film screens Saturday night (Mormon time). My goal is to enjoy the experience.
Well spoken; eloquent as usual. As the times get stranger, so things get stranger too. I’m grateful for even a glimmer of truth these days–though not so grateful that I can’t be fokkin’ pissed off at the size of the morsel.
I’m gone for a week.
Who knows where my heart and soul will be when I return?
Val was under consdideration for a while. I have great respect for him. The feeling was there was too much of a connection to the Oliver Stone film.
I am so excited about the Doc only 2 days and counting !!Are you nervous 🙂 ???I want to tell you Thank You and Best of luck to you and all of the guys who helped making this film!!And thanks for finding the time to answer all our questions here!Well i have a little question ,when is the new website about When You’re Strange coming up ?
Your commitment to art (yours and the world’s) is highly admirable. Between you’n me, it’s the only thing that keeps me going.
I will keep your words in mind as I venture out into Mormontonia in three days.
“Enjoy the ride.”
I’ve taken the ride 6 times. It isn’t always a warm jelly donut but if I didn’t find a way to take some pleasure in it what a fool I’d be.
Thanks so much for your kind words. Listen, if people with your moving enthusiasm respond to the film (I think you will) and spread the word, there is no telling what can happen.
My best to you.
Great to hear from you. Glad you got a chance to see the finished product after all this time. I have a feeling I’ll be out in the near future as there still needs to be a color-correct pass made to generate the actual film print.
I’ll let you know. Thanks for all your help on the film.
And thanks for the good wishes for Sundance. I’m excited about the film and I hope we get a response that will help get the film into theaters.
Eddie Vedder was considered. I like him very much. The narration is kind of unusual though and I think requires the emotion and intention of a real actor. A good actor. Not just a name actor. The most important thing is that you believe what the narrator is saying–and you believe he believes what he is saying.
I’ve heard great things about Let The Right One In. It has been on my list to see.
Great to hear from you. I appreciate your comments on the film’s intentions.
Of course, I will never forget San Sebastian. I would like very much to show the film there as I have had wonderful experiences there with “Delirious.” Also, there is nothing to compare with Spanish hospitality. I’m serious.
I think we will need to see what happens in Berlin to determine what festivals the film goes to next. But, I feel strongly Doors fans around the world will discover something in the film.
So if you can, don’t forget San Sebastián Festival (where you got some awards with the great “Delirious” in 2006). It could be a nice launchpad for the film in Spain, because of the notoriety of this festival in our lands.
(I am impressed with you answering one by one each comment… sure you are so busy, that’s so very kind)
Good to hear from you again. By all means you should mention the film to whatever Swedish distributors you know. Tell them the film is going to the Berlin Film Festival and February and that is where we hope to make the majority of our European sales.
I think the best distributor for this film is someone who is smart and recognizes the power that Doors fans have all around the world.
A theatrical release on a big screen in Stockholm would do very well for them. And of course for you.
Many thanks for the assistance.
Happy New Year,
It is my sincere hope the film will be released in France. It plays like a narrative feature and would be great on the big screen and I know audiences would dig it. So, let’s see what happens in Berlin.
I can’t give too much away here because I really feel the film will be best experienced completely fresh.
Thanks for writing. I think a theatrical release in Europe is very likely. We go to Berlin in February and we shall see what the interest is from European distributors.
I know the Doors had a great, exciting tour through northern Europe, including the Netherlands, and I think the dutch fans will really enjoy it.
True story about the shampoo bottle. Thank god my old man doesn’t use the internet. It was his scotch.
My hopes are high for a theatrical release in Europe, hopefully not in the too distant future.