LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

A Documentary Love Letter To Nashville's Bluebird Cafe

COW Library : Film Festivals : Hillary Lewis : A Documentary Love Letter To Nashville's Bluebird Cafe
CreativeCOW presents A Documentary Love Letter To Nashville's Bluebird Cafe -- Film Festivals


Indianapolis, IN
CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Erika Wollam Nichols’ debut documentary, Bluebird, is the love story of the iconic Bluebird Cafe, tiny cafe where massive stars are born. Out of this 90 seat venue next to a dry cleaners in Nashville, TN comes a staggering amount of legendary country artists: Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Taylor Swift, Maren Morris and more.

Premiering at South by Southwest 2019 in Austin, TX, Bluebird reveals a raw, intimate side of these artists, before and after their fame, that you won’t see on any other stage. The film takes a heartfelt, deep-dive into the history since opening in 1982, the perseverance and passion of the Bluebird staff, and the magnitude of why auditions and performances at The Bluebird have launched so many iconic careers.





Even without knowing the cafe, you walk away with a nostalgia for this beloved venue and an unexpected appreciation for a music genre you don’t have to be familiar with.

Not only will you see live ‘In The Round’ performances of artists that were discovered at The Bluebird, but also see the songwriters take to the stage.

Creative COW’s Hillary Lewis sat down with Erika Wollam Nichols, the powerhouse behind the venue for the last 12 years after founder, Amy Kurland, retired. She talks on how she rose through the ranks from waitress to president and general manager, the obstacles she faced keeping The Bluebird Cafe alive amidst a dying breed of dive bars, and how she took on the massive project of producing a documentary with little to no experience in production or post.



Erika Wollam Nichols

Creative COW: Tell us about your personal journey from waitress and bartender at The Bluebird into running the entire day-to-day operations.

Nichols: I was a philosophy major at Belmont University. I loved music and had played guitar but never thought about the music business, but I worked at The Bluebird the whole time I was at Belmont.

After I graduated from Belmont in 1988, I went home to Massachusetts and got accepted to Vanderbilt for my PhD in philosophy. I kept deferring my admission while working in my studio there, and Amy Kurland, who founded The Bluebird, was my roommate and we were very good friends. She hooked me up with a big festival in Nashville that was looking for somebody to book the talent.

She was like "Well you’d be great!" But I didn’t know one thing about it. I didn’t know there was a musicians’ union. I didn’t know what back line was. I had no idea. But I faked it, and I did that job for five years.

It was a big festival, kind of like the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where there are stages all over downtown. It was a very low budget, $100,000 for 300 acts and everybody got paid musicians’ union scale, which I didn’t know anything about at the time either.

It introduced me to the entire Nashville community. Because we had dance schools and the theater and the symphony, and all of these pieces of the creative community. And I got to know everybody while also bartending at The Bluebird.

All of a sudden I deferred my admission to grad school [indefinitely] and realized ‘Well I guess I’m in this now.’

From there, I was doing the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival for five years and then I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and ended up as their Vice President of Marketing.

And then The Bluebird came along when Amy decided to retire. I thought, "Well I’ll just book the talent, do some of the brand development, this will be great." And then suddenly I was in charge of everything.

Eventually I wanted to make a film about The Bluebird. Because it hadn’t been done, the story hadn’t been told. I was so taken by the fact when I was first there, people like John Prine and Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt would all come in the back door and they were my heroes.

I thought to myself, “What is this place? What does it mean to people?” And I saw through the years what it does mean to people and how songwriters responded. How Amy created that kind of development for up and coming songwriters. And what a unique place The Bluebird was.

And so I started on that journey of putting it out there. We need to make a movie. What are we going to do?

We had a couple of people who’d come in, shot footage, put together some teasers, but nothing really stuck until I met up with Brian Loschiavo and Jeff Molyneaux. I had no idea how to make a movie, just like I had no idea how to book a festival. But I had the best partners in those guys.


Erika Wollam Nichols and Brian Loschiavo


How did you find your crew and what were you looking for? Was it important for them to have a passion for The Bluebird?

Brian, our producer and director, is a songwriter and his reaction right off the bat was to say ‘We’ll invest in this with you. We’re not going to come in as work-for-hire and you write us a check every week… we’re going to be in this together.’

And that’s what carried through the entire project. Everybody wanted to be there. They were all people that understood The Bluebird.

I’ve worked with a lot of crews. People want to film at The Bluebird all the time. But in order to film in there you have to have a particular sensitivity to how it flows. I’ve had crews come in and just bully their way through that room. And they’re like ‘Little lady, we know what we’re doing.’ [motions a pat on the head] Well, you don’t know what you’re doing in this room.

It would really irk me. This is my place and if I’m asking you to do it this way, it’s because it’s the right way to handle this room. And so Jeff and Brian absolutely got that right from the first moment.





Do you believe any of those attitudes came because you’re a woman?

I wouldn’t say no. I would never say no to that because it happens for all of us, for all women to be taken seriously. Maybe we’re more aware of it, but I do feel like they’re patting me on the head like ‘You don’t really know what us guys know about running a film crew.’

Most crews are men behind the camera, so it was very significant to work with Brian and Jeff who never said that. They had an understanding right off the bat of ‘let’s figure out the best way to shoot this.’

Jeff has crawled under tables to get the right angle. Because you really have to physically feel the place and take the audience into consideration. Their experience is really important. And capturing their experience on film was really important, to be able to show what it feels like to be in that tiny room and how it can capture you physically.


Was it a challenge finding the right storyline with all the live performances you filmed specifically for the documentary and mixing that with past archival performances?

It was definitely an evolution of the project. So, Brian had created a very loose story line and pieces of it just fell away. I mean we did all of these shoots and then came back to the fact that they were too peripheral. It wasn’t telling the story of this place.

And so we talked a lot about what’s the story we’re telling. And Brian would revise scene structures, or we’d just talk about where this scene really belonged and so it was a real education for me into how you create a story flow when it’s episodic.


It seemed like each performance is its own story. It was interesting to see how you tackled that while telling the history of The Bluebird and adding in all these performances that were filmed specifically for this documentary.

Yeah and some that weren’t. You’ll see that we did a show in partnership with CMA. And it was songs that were either nominated or received a CMA Song of the Year award, or Songwriter of the Year. But Steven Lee Olsen’s performance of "Blue Ain’t Your Color" wasn’t something we intended to put in.

The Warren Brothers did a song called "Without a Song" that I loved and thought this song has to be in the movie. So, we filmed their show. It was great and yet when it all came together it wasn’t the song that made it into the film, it was "Highway Don’t Care". Because it worked more with the narrative.

There are songs that are quintessentially Bluebird songs. "Sixteenth Avenue" that opens the show, sung by the songwriters. "The Dance", of course, because Garth Brooks first heard "The Dance" at The Bluebird Cafe.

"The Gambler", Don Schlitz’s song, Don plays once a month too, he’s one of the founders of the Songwriters In The Round format and very significant to The Bluebird’s development. So, those songs had to be in there.




Besides striking the right tone with the storyline, what was the biggest challenge in the making of this film?

Brian and I really wanted an original song for the movie. We wanted an Oscar-material, original song, from a voice in the Nashville community. We wanted it to be very specifically directed to the film.

I asked Luke Laird and Barry Dean to do it. They were so involved and had so much history, and they write together a lot. So, it’s like these guys came up through The Bluebird and their experience made them the perfect guys to write our original song.

But I refused to show them the film beforehand. I didn’t want them to direct their song towards the movie, I wanted to have their experience in song and what it felt like for them, what they saw The Bluebird as, and the way they wanted to talk about it. So we didn’t get the song until after we did our first rough cut.

So that was an interesting challenge. We went back and forth a lot on where this song would live now. We thought, ‘How do you interject something really significant and powerful into what you’ve already got in your brain as a rough cut?’ So we really juggled things around and found the spot for it, which is in and around the auditionees. And it works great. It’s perfect.





Bluebird will be screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival - Tuesday, April 30 at 5:45pm PT (Triangle Theater 8) and Thursday, May 2 at 12pm PT (THE LOT Theater 2), details here.



Related Articles / Tutorials:
Film Festivals
Making the Documentary ‘Ernie & Joe’

Making the Documentary ‘Ernie & Joe’

Creative COW’s Hillary Lewis sits down with Jenifer McShane at SXSW to talk about her latest documentary feature following two unique police officers who approach the mental health crisis in San Antonio, TX in a new, inspiring way.

Feature, People / Interview
Hillary Lewis
Recent Articles / Tutorials:
Business & Career Building
Go Creative Show: Build Your Filmmaking Career With YouTube

Go Creative Show: Build Your Filmmaking Career With YouTube

Discover how to advance your filmmaking and photography career on YouTube and Instagram in our interview with YouTuber and podcaster Tyler Stalman. Tyler and Go Creative Show host, Ben Consoli, discuss what it takes to stand out on YouTube, Tyler’s experience going from a stock photographer to freelance cinematographer, why it’s helpful to have a wide skillset of services, and much more!


Ben Consoli
Blackmagic Design Fusion
Building A Simple, Powerful Keyer in Blackmagic Design Fusion

Building A Simple, Powerful Keyer in Blackmagic Design Fusion

Discover the basics of creating a powerful Color Difference Keyer in Blackmagic Design Fusion using some very simple tools. Longtime VFX artist, editor, software developer, and business owner Simon Ubsdell shows how, once you understand the basic principles, there are countless ways to apply them to a wide variety of shots you’re working on. It’s also just plain interesting to understand what’s going on when you key.


Simon Ubsdell
Adobe After Effects
After Effects Advanced Content-Aware Fill With Photoshop

After Effects Advanced Content-Aware Fill With Photoshop

In part three of his series on Adobe After Effects Content Aware Fill, filmmaker and After Effects artist Cody Pyper takes his deepest dive yet! Following requests from viewers in the series so far, Cody takes a closer look at how Adobe Photoshop can help you remove unwanted objects from your video footage in After Effects.


Cody Pyper
Blackmagic Design Fusion
Blackmagic Design Fusion: World Coordinates for 3D Compositing

Blackmagic Design Fusion: World Coordinates for 3D Compositing

Join longtime VFX artist, editor, software developer, and business owner Simon Ubsdell for a look at the useful things you can do in Blackmagic Design Fusion with world coordinates data using the Volume Mask tool. It offers very handy way of applying 2D processing to 3D scenes generated either within Fusion or rendered from your favourite 3D application.


Simon Ubsdell
DaVinci Resolve
DaVinci Resolve Optical Flow

DaVinci Resolve Optical Flow

Join filmmaker and After Effects artist Cody Pyper for a closer look at DaVinci Resolve's Optical Flow to create exceptionally smooth slow motion, even on footage shot at normal frame rates. Cody covers the basics of how to use the effect, and shows some practical applications of Optical Flow for a variety of editorial troubleshooting.


Cody Pyper
Adobe After Effects
Best Results with After Effects Content-Aware Fill: Reference Frames

Best Results with After Effects Content-Aware Fill: Reference Frames

Join filmmaker and After Effects artist Cody Pyper for a deep dive into how to get the absolute best results using the Content-Aware Fill tool in After Effects. Locked-down shots with simple backgrounds are one thing, but Cody shows the details of how to get fantastic results with complicated backgrounds and a moving camera using reference frames.


Cody Pyper
Apple Motion
Apple Motion 5: Stylized Liquid Title Tutorial

Apple Motion 5: Stylized Liquid Title Tutorial

Tapping into one of the year's hottest design trends, as well as Apple Motion 5's most sophisticated creative tools, longtime VFX artist, editor, software developer, and business owner Simon Ubsdell has done it again: putting together a tutorial that's fast, fun, eye-opening, and immediately practical. Taking advantage of Motion's Clouds generators to create both foreground elements and masks, and the quick combination of three filters from the Stylize category, you're going to be amazed by speed and elegance of this effect when applied to a title graphic: fresh, clean, and ready for easy customizing.


Simon Ubsdell
Apple Final Cut Pro X
Apple Motion 5: Awesome Glass Title Effect for FCPX

Apple Motion 5: Awesome Glass Title Effect for FCPX

"Create this frosted glass title effect for use in FCP X and amaze your friends," says longtime VFX artist, editor, software developer, and business owner Simon Ubsdell. "Nothing hugely fancy but a set of standard tricks you should find useful." Along the way, you'll work with clones, grouping, blurs, masking, levels, rigs, the Cellular generator, Glass Distortion, and the Extrude filter, along the typical plethora of Apple Motion workflow tweaks to provide maximum finesse with minimal effort. From there, you'll see how to add the title effect to FCPX, where you can customize and reuse to your heart's content.


Simon Ubsdell
Apple Final Cut Pro X
Apple FCPX Bullet Lists Animated & Timed With A Single Title

Apple FCPX Bullet Lists Animated & Timed With A Single Title

Quit stacking up layers in the timeline in Apple FCPX to create your bullet lists! They're kludgy, tough to layout, tough to make changes, and just plain unnecessary. There's a better way, and Bret Williams from BretFX is here to show you how to use the custom title to animate and time your bullet lists in FCPX, using hold frames to time your bullet points to audio. You can create, animate, and design your bullet points all within a single title on the timeline, making spacing, styling, and animation a breeze. Universally change or edit the font, spacing, position, and more!


Bret Williams
MORE
© 2020 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]