Lights, Camera: Access!
Brothers Jon (S87) and Peter (S95) Shapiro saw a very big dream come true last spring, when the documentary they produced opened on movie screens eight stories high.
In their hourlong IMAX film, All Access: Front Row. Backstage. Live!, the brothers offer a behind-the-scenes look at a mega rock concert. The camera follows the stars, including 13 Grammy winners, at their concerts. It documents backstage chaos, rehearsals, candid conversations and, most important, the musical performances. Some of pop's biggest stars Carlos Santana, Rob Thomas, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, B.B. King, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Moby, the Dave Matthews Band, Macy Gray and Kid Rock appear. The brothers chose all of them because they are important stars today and are likely to have staying power.
"We had combinations of artists performing together that were exclusive to the film," Jon says. "We put legends and contemporaries together as strange bedfellows, set up the cameras and let them rip. Then we watched the magic evolve."
Jon has been a Hollywood-based producer since he graduated with a radio/television/film degree in 1987. He has worked on such movies as Bull Durham and Tequila Sunrise and started his own company, Ideal Entertainment, five years ago.
At Northwestern Jon combined his love of film with producing and recording music, starting the Northwestern Niteskool Project, an on-campus organization that produces music videos. It's still in existence.
"It's really gratifying that the outlet I needed to create for myself, something that was totally self-serving, has given hundreds of students that opportunity year after year," he says.
Peter Shapiro graduated from Northwestern's r/tv/f program in 1995, moved to New York City and has owned Wetlands Preserve, a rock 'n' roll club, for the past five years. "Basically we host young bands and help them develop early in their careers," he says.
Peter spent his college career extremely interested in film as well, and as a student took road trips with friends to direct documentaries.
Having similar interests and backgrounds, the brothers always hoped to someday work together creatively. With All Access, which is playing in IMAX venues around the world, the Shapiros had their chance. They were determined to produce the film in their favorite format, IMAX. "The film negative is 10 times the size of a traditional motion picture, which is incredible," Peter says. "And the sound system just blows you away."
Peter dealt with the more creative elements, such as music direction and pairing up performers, while Jon was more involved in the business and conception side of the project. But the overall production process was run jointly, even though the two were on opposite sides of the country.
Currently the two are working on another IMAX release that will take audiences on the ultimate road trip through the United States. The feature will include interesting places and people interwoven with performances of indigenous music.
"It's great to work with your brother, because it's someone you can really trust and work with," Peter says. "We bring different elements and skills to the table, and we really combine them well."
Emily Ramshaw (J03)