07/17/2007 11:25 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mods And Rockers Festival: Pennebaker on "Pop"


Pioneering documentary maker D.A. Pennebaker is being saluted in-person with a three-day retrospective at the Mods & Rockers Film Festival in L.A. - including screenings of "Monterey Pop" (his film of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival), his two Dylan documentaries (the festival presents the West Coast Theatrical Premiere of "Bob Dylan '65 Revisited") - and two films very close to his heart - "Only The Strong Survive" and his film of Otis Redding live at Monterey. This is the first of a series of special blogs for Huffington Post in which Pennebaker looks back at those films...

One of the reasons why the Monterey Pop movie holds up after 40 years is because they were all pretty interesting performers I think. They were the beginning of a new wave of sorts. And everybody likes to see how the wave began. I'm not really an authority on musical stasis. I knew at the time that music was changing ... that it wasn't what I'd grown up with. I thought that jazz -- the music that I really enjoyed -- was important. And most popular music seemed to me to be light entertainment. Suddenly, in the 60s, under the hands of Bob Dylan and a few other people it switched and became some kind of life force.

In Monterey Pop there weren't a lot of interviews, or interviews from backstage. I'm not a big one for most interviews, although if people want to talk to me that's fine. I think of these things as theater, as plays, and no good self-respecting playwright would reduce his play to interviews.

I shot Monterey Pop at the beginning of fast color film stock. The "72-42" stock had just come out. I had shot a little bit the year before in 1966 with Dylan on Eat The Document. And up until then there was no fast color film. They had just brought it out. The problem with the way we were filming was that we'd fill up a magazine and shoot it all! Then you'd fill it up again. So you never knew what you were going to be into. So whatever it was you wanted to process ALL the film at the same speed. And it is amazing how well it held up and how beautiful the color was.

I like watching my movies on the big screen. Everybody does, not so much because of the size ... that's convenient, like the moon. How big is the moon? But it's having a theater full of people which is always terrific. It's different every time. And a large part of the audience were born after the movie was shot. We had a couple in attendance at a screening recently that had met at the Monterey festival in '67, later got married, and are still together after 40 years.

The question and answer sessions are always interesting. We had one recently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for Jimi Hendrix at Monterey. And, none of the Q&A sessions are duds because people who have bothered to come to these films usually know something different about them than I do. So, it's kind of interesting to have them get up and tell you something they have seen or thought, that you hadn't noticed.

Generally, seeing a film with a large audience is quite different from sitting in front of an editing machine and watching it. When you're watching it by yourself you're just complimenting yourself on how smart you are!

There was something else I learned at the Monterey festival. It was the first time I worked with a large crew of people. I learned that you just let them go. You just have to trust them. Don't tell them what to do ...

I remember being concerned at the time that the film wouldn't really work well in theaters because most theaters in those days weren't set up for stereo. At least the ones we were probably going in ... A lot of them were aging porno houses!

I think the most exciting showings of Monterey Pop were in the beginning. Like, the premiere at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.

The Fine Art had primitive "car stereo" -- just left and right. But that screening was funny because the manager's son had taken home the speaker on the left-hand side. So there was only a right-hand speaker and it was driving me nuts! I was worried, but no one seemed to mind ...


• GREGORY WEINKAUF - Picking Up Every Stitch...
• D.A. PENNEBAKER - Inside Pennebaker's Soul
Memo To Al Gore

• BRAD SCHREIBER - Monterey Pop Goes Pow!
• MICHELLE PHILLIPS - California Dreaming Becoming a Reality • JERRY MILLER - Grapeful for Monterey
• HARVEY KUBERNIK - UP In Monterey...
• GREGORY WEINKAUF - Skidoo Does Hollywood...
• STANLEY DORFMAN - Zeppelin Takes Flight
• BRAD SCHREIBER - Tripping Back to 1960s London...
• D.A. PENNEBAKER - Pennebaker on "Pop"
• MARTIN LEWIS - ROCK Like An Egyptian!
• DAVID HABER - Really With The Beatles
• PAUL WILLIAMS - Nilsson Is My Cup Of Tea
• BRAD SCHREIBER - Festival Opens & Explains "What's Happening!"
• MARTIN LEWIS - First Night Report!
STEPHEN BISHOP - The Beatles Were My True Parents
ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM - Mocking The Rockers
BRUCE SPIZER -The Beatles Were Coming!
MARTIN LEWIS - Movies For Nothing And Kicks For Free..