Echo in the Canyon adds surprise Whistler screening 

Music documentary plays in Whistler Olympic Plaza with performance by Jakob Dylan, Q&A to follow

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Jakob Dylan and Tom Petty from a scene of Echo in the Canyon.
  • Photo submitted
  • Jakob Dylan and Tom Petty from a scene of Echo in the Canyon.

Jakob Dylan had never conducted an interview before Echo in the Canyon.

As a long-time musician and frontman of The Wallflowers, he had been on the receiving end of journalists’ questions for decades, but it wasn’t until he partnered with friend and music producer Andrew Slater to make the documentary that he found himself in conversation with everyone from Brian Wilson to Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and the late Tom Petty.

Turns out, he was a natural.

“His DNA dictates a lot,” says Slater, director, producer and writer of the film.

As you might have guessed from his surname, Jakob Dylan is the son of Bob Dylan and, as a result, even before he became a musician himself, he spent plenty of time around music’s biggest names.

But the new documentary sees Dylan digging deep into a single topic: the boggling array of music that came out of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon from 1965 to 1967.

“What I noticed was when I had Jakob do the first interview—the schedule worked out that it was Eric Clapton—Eric was telling Jakob things I had never heard because it was two songwriters sitting there,” Slater says. “Capturing that gives the film intimacy people often don’t get when someone is just being interviewed by a talking head or a journalist. People are more guarded than if it’s someone they personally trust.”

Slater also has a deep relationship with the music industry. He started out as a music journalist and later worked as a music manager before becoming a record executive and producer.

He became inspired to add documentarian to his resume after he and Dylan—a long-time friend—watched the 1969 Jacques Demy film Model Shop.

“The way it was shot made me think about the music I loved and what drew me to L.A.,” Slater says. “I went back to look at the songs I loved from that period. Jakob and I decided we would make a record of those songs. That led us to the stories behind the songs and the people behind them and we thought, ‘Maybe this is a larger thing.’”

“It coincided with the 50th anniversary of The Byrds’ first album [Mr. Tambourine Man] which is the spark that ignites everyone’s interest in coming to L.A.”

Slater brought the idea to several filmmakers, but they all said they didn’t think it would make it to theatres. “Someone said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’” he recalls. “I said, ‘I’m not a director.’”

Eventually, though, he warmed to the idea.

Since its release in May, the film has grossed over $3 million and is projected to be one of the top five documentaries of 2019 in North America—though those metrics are beside the point, Slater says.

“I just wanted to make something that was more of a reflection of that time—the sense of community and kindness and sharing—and bring some of those ideas into today and maybe people would go to the theatre and be inspired,” he says.

The final product is multi-layered: it features Dylan and a slew of contemporary musicians in concert performing songs from the Laurel Canyon era. Those scenes lead into intimate living room chats with Dylan, Regina Spektor, Beck, and Cat Power about the lasting impact of those songs intercut with in-depth accounts from the musicians who experienced it firsthand.

“I wanted it to be something that was more like a tracing paper of a historical document,” Slater says. “I wanted it to be multi-layered. In the film you’ll be in the studio recording a song and in the middle of the song you go to the show. Then the author of the song is listening to it … The film is more a poem than it is a linear narrative.”

The documentary has screened at film festivals and in theatres in major North American cities, but on some special occasions, Slater and Dylan have done Q&A sessions with Dylan performing afterwards.

That will be the case in Whistler when the film makes a surprise stop at Whistler Olympic Plaza for a free screening on Thursday, Aug. 8.

“Whistler is legendary and it’s beautiful and we’ve never been there,” Slater says. “So we’re super excited to come up there and show the film and experience it together. I think we lead with our hearts more than our heads. It seemed like that’s what was drawing us to Whistler.”

Catch the free screening of Echo in the Canyon, followed by a Q&A and performance by Jakob Dylan on Thursday, Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

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