Weinstein and Bar-Lev hit the red carpet on Oct. 29 at the Directors Guild of America Theater. Their movie offers a behind the scenes peek at 12-12-12, a benefit concert organized after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York and the tri-state area. The historic Madison Square Garden music fest featured performances from the likes of Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.
The concert raised over $50 million for the Robin Hood Foundation, which alleviates poverty in New York City. Producer Weinstein, who also backed a Sept. 11 benefit concert, said one of the more unconventional fundraising efforts involved Kristen Stewart and a Middle Eastern sheikh. He spent $500,000 to talk to her for 30 minutes.
“So I call Kristen Stewart and I said, ‘This is the craziest thing I’ve ever asked anybody, but will you sit with the sheikh and I promise, (my wife Georgina Chapman) will be next to you,’” Weinstein said. “And she said, ‘What is it worth to the people from Sandy relief?’ And I said, ‘half a million dollars in cash.’ … I don’t know if we reported it to the IRS. Who gives a s**t?”
Other awkward encounters came when director Bar-Lev kept running into someone who gave him the “stink eye.” He eventually learned that man was McCartney’s manager Scott Rodger and they were making their own film about the concert.
“It percolates, the tension builds until finally, the day of the concert, I get a call from one of my field producers who says ‘Freakin’ Paul McCartney’s people just stole Adam Sandler from us in the elevator.’ … I run over to this Scott Rodger guy and we both start yelling at each other and pointing at each other.”
After a brief heart-to-heart, they joined forces. McCartney is one of the film’s exec producers.
“We had this moment where we said, ‘What are we doing? This is a concert for relief of a terrible hurricane,’” he said. “We say, ‘We never should have started off on two films’ and one of us said, ‘Is it too late?’ And we kind of looked at each other and we literally hugged and said let’s make one film.”
The doc, like the concert itself, was rushed. Bar-Lev began shooting six days before the event and the footage took eight months to cut.
“It was great to watch the performers watching one another,” he said. “That’s really an exciting thing to see — somebody fantastically talented who’s used to being the center of attention, in the wings by the side of the stage or in their dressing rooms watching people who they admire.”
According to Bar-Lev, the film will belie the misconception that New Yorkers are self-centered.
“I think the concert reflected the spirit of New York,” he said. “I’ve felt as a New Yorker that New York is the best place on earth to be when there’s a disaster. It has an unfair reputation as a place where people don’t care for one another, are only looking out for themselves and a place you want to be terrified if something goes wrong. In fact, as 9/11 and recent blackouts and this storm have shown, New Yorkers don’t need to be told to do what’s right. And the concert was a shining example of that.”