Interview with It's So Easy and Other Lies director Christopher Duddy
Documentaries offer up some of the best stories brought to life on film. Despite the vast amounts of great information in most of these films they tend to follow a pretty generic format. Filmmaker Christopher Duddy has teamed up with Guns N’ Roses bass player Duff McKagan to bring his bestselling book to life in a way like no other. I had the chance to sit down with Duddy to discuss what went into bringing this unique concert/documentary film to life like only they could.
Bobby: How did you get involved with directing the documentary It’s So Easy and Other Lies?
Christopher: Duff and I were neighbors and we met walking our kids to school at the end of our street. We became friends and we had a lot in common and were friends for a few years watching football games and just talking about our families. When his book came out he asked if I wanted to read it and like most of us I really only knew Duff’s story from Guns n’ Roses forward. So when I read the book it really touched a chord with me and I realized what an inspirational story his life is and as a filmmaker you look for stories like this to tell. After reading it I approached him and told him his story should be a movie, but he was reluctant at first. He didn’t really want to do it because he thought it would be self-indulgent. When the book came out in paperback as a New York Times best seller he finally thought maybe people are really into it and thought maybe a documentary. So we decided that the documentary had to be something different and out of the box and not just the basic talking head documentary.
Bobby: One of the things that is really great about this film is that it is almost more of a documentary / concert film.
Christopher: Yeah in the time we were trying to figure out something different for it he told me that he was doing the press junket for the paperback so to come with him and start filming and talking. With documentaries you don’t really have a script you just kind of find it like an investigation. So I started following him around during his press junket doing morning shows, signings, radio shows, interviews and all that stuff. I wasn’t really sure how we were going to do it, I just jumped in and we were going to figure it out. When Guns n’ Roses got inducted into the Hall of Fame Duff called and asked if I would come with him and we will shoot some stuff, but come a day early because he was doing a book reading at the House of Blues. I asked what that was, what reading was he talking about and he just said just come and bring the camera because the guys are coming to rehearse after for the Hall of Fame show. I went thinking more about the stuff after the show to shoot, but he started doing this show in a packed house and sat on a stool reading chapters out of his book with his band scoring his spoken word. It really blew me away and then I started watching the audience connect with what he was talking about. When we got back to LA I told him that is the thing that is going to make this movie different. Let’s design a book reading show specifically for the movie and it will be the device that propels the storytelling. So we put together the show with a bigger arrangement and when you hear these iconic Guns n’ Roses and Velvet Revolver songs arranged in that way it is just really powerful. His spoken word is emotional, dramatic, sometimes funny and sometimes not, but overall just a really cool way to propel the story forward in an unorthodox way for a documentary.
Bobby: The format works perfectly because you get sucked into the story and then the music sucks you in as well taking you on a different kind of journey. When you are putting a film like this together how are hard is it to separate all of that out so that you still get all the info in there without bogging it down and still making sure to get across the impact of his story?
Christopher: As far as the show went Duff picked the songs and which parts of the book he wanted to read on stage. I just followed suit from that and it kind of made it easier for me. Documentaries can be hard and a take a long time to make. I had two things on this that made it sort of an easier journey was that we had the book as a template and Duff wanted to keep it close to that and then we had the book reading show. With those two things already in place I was able to just go investigate those parts of the stories. I had learned a lot reading the book, but then learned even more on the journey with talking to people and finding out stuff with that whole pre-Guns n’ Roses in Seattle with the Punk scene and how involved Duff was at a really early age. It always inspires me to hear about people like that at an early age know exactly what they want to do with their life.
Bobby: With researching that there is such a big well of information and history how hard was it to sift through the people and aspects that would be the best for telling this story?
Christopher: That is a difficult part because you shoot a lot of stuff and then you have to edit it down to the run time of a film. With all of the footage I have I could have easily made a 3 or 4 hour movie out of it. There is more than a handful of interviews that didn’t make the cut just because it didn’t’ fit in the final stages of it. It’s hard because I have to be fiscally responsible with the budget we were working with, creative responsible to Duff and then you have to deal with the scheduling and delivering the product. There is a lot of moving parts and this movie was really difficult to make because there were so many things happening. I mean Duff was in like 3 bands and it took us 4 years to make this movie from the time he said let’s do it until now. There were just a lot of things that held us up and documentaries are just not like making a narrative which is mostly what I have worked on in my career with a schedule and script they are just not like that at all. At the end of the day it is about the story and storytelling staying true to what you are trying to convey. I remember telling him before we looked at the first cut that I just wanted to make him happy and if he is that I had done my job right.
Bobby: Without trying to stir the pot, I know they are getting back together now, but with all the history of the bands issues were there ever any attempts to try and get Axel Rose involved with the film?
Christopher: As a filmmaker I wanted all of that in the movie and we had some great archive footage of when they were young, but halfway through the making of the film is when they started talking about the possible reunion tour. Duff was kind of the diplomat that was going to sort of make it happen to getting Slash and Axel back on good terms. Unfortunately for me with that happening during making the movie we wanted to be really sensitive to that because Duff didn’t want to convolute what was going on with that and what was going on with the movie. We did reach out to Axel gently and I know he is a fairly volatile character so I had to be sensitive to what it meant to have the information.
Bobby: That makes total sense and I think you have crafted a great film that stands out as more than just an average documentary that fans will want to watch more than once.
Christopher: I really appreciate that. As a filmmaker you try to make something that is going to resonate with people. We really wanted to make something uplifting and inspiration with this and I think this book reading show along with the music is something special. I think the way the music is done here with the live show is so unique and different taking these iconic songs and performing in this way is something that is special and memorable.
Bobby: Agreed. Once again I think this is a great film and the way it is crafted as a documentary and his story is something new and I think you have a really special film here that will resonate well with fans.
Christopher: Thank you so much.
Check out It’s So Easy and Other Lies on VOD now.