The team had no shortage of material. Band frontman Shannon Hoon religiously filmed himself between 1990 to 1995, a five-year period that roughly encompasses Blind Melon’s formation and rise to the top of the charts as one of the decade’s leading alt-rock voices. Sadly, Hoon shot right up until Oct. 21, 1995, stopping filming a few hours before he died of a drug overdose.
Clinch, Gould and Hennessy sat and watched all 250 hours of footage. Slowly, they began to find a way to distill all that material into a compelling narrative that captures the highs, the lows of tapping into the zeitgeist.
“All I Can Say” is released by Oscilloscope Laboratories and is available on streaming platforms. The filmmakers spoke to Variety about how “All I Can Say” differs from standard music documentaries.
How critical was the footage that Hoon shot to making this movie?
Danny Clinch: In the beginning, we were working on a more traditional Blind Melon story. It just so happened I had a long relationship with Shannon’s partner, Lisa [Crouse], and the rest of the band. I knew the tapes existed because we saw Shannon shooting all the time, but we weren’t sure what we’re gonna get.
When it landed with us and Lisa gave us those tapes, it was an incredible treasure trove – 250 hours. And then, we discovered that he was a great storyteller. His filmmaking, in the beginning, was rough, but as he grew we found he had a lot of elements in there that allowed us to tell the story.
How did you take all that footage and boil it down to something digestible?
Taryn Gould: The key narrative decisions that gave us the ability to tell the story in this purely autobiographical way, was boldly deciding we were going to just use his footage.
William Basinski’s [avant-garde albums] “The Disintegration Loops” were a guiding influence on the film. These elegant musical pieces were borne out of Basinki’s attempt to digitize his own archive of analog music loops. When he tried, the tapes began deteriorating. He let it continue and recorded that process. What he captured was essentially music dying. That concept informed the edit and approach to “All I Can Say”.
In the edit, we ended up pairing the loops with moments of beauty and joy in Shannon’s life; present joy that was inexorably moving into the past. The loops helped shape a film that is largely made of disintegrating videotapes and portrays the disappearance of a man’s days. It was through my listening to the loops, a musical piece progressing towards loss, that the structural idea for the film really cemented itself.
From the very opening of the film, you know the date of Shannon’s death. The audience knows how much time Shannon had left. That shapes their appreciation of every passing time-stamped scene towards his approaching end.
How did the three of you join forces?
Clinch: I’m a photographer in the music business, as well as a filmmaker. On one of my early gigs, I met Blind Melon on the “MTV 120 minutes tour.” We became fast friends. I started to spend a lot of time on them and they were one of the first bands to let me go on the road with them. I traveled to Europe and I went to the recording studio with them. When the rug was pulled out from under us, it was devastating.
Fast forward many years, Colleen was working on a project with me and she said, “I know you’ve worked with Blind Melon and I’m a big fan and if you ever wanted to work on a project I’d be happy to help out.”
That’s when it kicked me. I hadn’t been ready but knowing I had someone to move it forward, that’s how it happened.
Gould: You have to decide long and hard before you sign on to work on a documentary because they take a long time.
I wasn’t initially a fan [of Blind Melon], but the tapes hooked me in. It wasn’t a story about a band, it was a very strange, comprehensive and autobiographical chronicle of someone’s life. I became a fan because Shannon music is a diary. I connected to him as a person. I became a fan, but it was helpful because I wasn’t particularly swayed by the music. I was looking for a more universal story.
What was that like for you as filmmakers having the audiotapes too?
Colleen Hennessy: Shannon gave us almost everything that we needed, which is why we were able to make that bold decision and solely use his footage. At a point, some narrative pieces were missing that we wished we had – explanations of songs.
But late in the edit, towards the end, his partner Lisa handed us the extra 20 or 30 hours of micro-cassette tapes which were mundane, answering machine messages about lawn care and dentist appointments. But there were also key interviews that he recorded of his voice talking to journalists. That truly was the final victory lap in putting it all together. Between the tapes and videos, Shannon is narrating what’s happening and he looks into the lens. This was something so special.
Gould: The film is like you’re inside Shannon’s video camera. The idea is that he’s the ultimate narrator. With the forwarding and rewinding, it’s almost like memory in general and there’s this idea where the camera is like consciousness.