Big Time: Press Articles


Tom Waits "Big Time"

Big Time press kit (excerpts), published: September, 1988

Island Records Inc.
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Phone: 212-995-7800
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About the Production

Big Time, an Island Visual Arts presentation of a Vivid productions film starring Tom Waits, is more than just another concert film. In the hands of singer-songwriter-actor-raconteur-student of life Waits and director Chris Blum, Big Time is musicotheatrical experience played in dream time, or in Wait's words, "Un Operachi Romantico."

Big Time, filmed in November 1987 at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco and the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, crackles with the same vivacity and curve-ball humor that has animated Tom Waits' work throughout his 15-year career, Waits' uncommon streetcorner serenades and subway balladry, full of poignant and wildly funny observations about life on the sidetracks of America, have won passionate acclaim from international critics and fans, who have heard a unique lyrical voice an the 11 albums he has released so far.

Waits has enjoyed the greatest accolades of his career for the three startling original albums he has made for Island Records from which 20 of the 21 songs heard in "Big Time" are taken. Beginning with Sworfishtrombones (1983) and continuing through Rain Dogs (1985) and Franks Wild Years (1987), he funneled his own distinctive vision through a musical montage that incorporated a diverse catalogue of stylistic influences and utilized a spectacular array of unexpected instrumentation. One hears the echoes of avant-garde American composer Harry Partch, blues man Howlin' Wolf, Frank Sinatra, Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, Irish tenor John McGormack, Kurt Weill, wild man Louis Prima, Mexican norteno bands, and a martini tumbler of Vegas lounge singers.

Explaining the exotic flowering of his music, Waits says, "I was trying to get my music to be more like what goes on inside my head. For a long time I wrote in a very restricted world. I gave myself limited tools to work with. It got to a point where my life and what was really going on in my head what I was really hearing, was very different from what I was writing.

"You get to an impasse with your work and you have to do something about it," he continues. "You can't go forward and you can't go back, and sometimes you fell like you have to break all your vertebrae and then reset 'em. That's what I tried to do, a little bit at a time. It's a nose job."

"Franks Wild Years," the most breathtakingly radical and brilliantly melodic of Waits' Island recordings, began like as the score of a theatrical production of the same name. Inspired by a track on Swordfishtrombones and written by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan, the play was mounted by Chicago's noted Steppenwolf Theatre Company in the summer of 1986. Waits himself played the title role for its entire sold-out run.

On the eve of the release of the Franks Wild Years album, Waits was already making plans for a film that would incorporate footage captured on his 1987 tour, which ultimately proved to be a 3-month road stint that played to 12 US cities and many European capital, to packed houses and stunning reviews. According to Waits, it was his wife who provided much of the impetus for the feature.

"Kathleen was the only one who really pushed to have a film done, "Waits says, "I'd get home from the road, and I wouldn't have any pictures of the band or anything. We'd talk about it like something that didn't really happen. It was the first that we pursued pulling it together."

Chris Blum, Waits' friend and collaborator, was selected to direct the feature. Blum is a well-known creative director for television commercials; he has supervised the TV spots for Levi Strauss for 17 years, and during that time he helped develop the company's memorable campaign for 501 Jeans. His documentary on the training of athletes for the 1984 Olympics, "Dreams Of Gold," he ran as a three-part cable series. His work with Waits included spots for Franks Wild Years, a music video for the song "Blow Wind Blow" from the latter album, and a 12-minute interview piece prepared for European Television. Blum also served as the scenic designer for the Chicago stage production of Franks Wild Years.

Blum became involved with the production of Big Time early in the project's development. Like Blum, four of the five musicians in Waits' 1987 touring band were old associates, who had performed with the singer on his 1985 Rain Dogstour. Bassist Greg Cohen has played with Waits for the last nine years; he was the musical director on Steppenwolf's production of Franks Wild Years, Saxophonist Ralph Carney, who also appeared on Waits' last two albums, was formerly a member of two seminal Midwestern new wave bands - Cleveland's Tim Huey and Akron's The Waitresses - and has also recorded with the B-52's, in addition to leading his own New York based groups. Guitarist Marc Ribot (of the New York punk-jazz band the Lounge Lizards) and drummer Michael Blair (featured percussionist on the '85 tour) also played on Rain Dogs and the Franks Wild Years LP. The sole newcomer to the tour band was accordionist Willie Schwarz, a Chicago based musician.

Before tour rehearsals began, Waits, Brennan, and Blum engaged in In-depth discussions about the stage set, which would have to be adaptable to filmic uses.

"The original stage set started out as a junkyard," Blum, explains. "We had an idea for these huge plexiglass signs, like the ones you see in L.A.'s Koreatown - back lit, primary colored." Eventually Waits and lighting designer Darryl Palagi simplified the concept to the light boxes seen in the film.

"We designed everything else around the light boxes - it's like having an elephant In the middle of the room. Each band member in the film was assigned one. Even though they're supplemented by other sources, we wanted to give the impression that they were the only light sources. Then we developed the red-and-black checked floor."

"The attempt was always to have things look non-art-directed," Blum concludes. "It took on a Count Basie-art-deco-Copacabana kind of look, in the end."

"The hitch about concert films is that they just are not live," says Blum. "I always use the analogy of standing next to a little babbling brook or a river or a creek, and then taking a picture of it and looking at it. It just is not the same. I had to take the show and put it in a dice box and throw it out. I had to get past the problem of that river - turbocharge it, some drive, some of the essence of the stage show."

Waits also realized the problem intrinsic to translating a live concert experience into a motion picture: "You want a concert film to have something other than just concert footage, but at the same time, it is that kind of animal. So Chris weaves in a subplot about a guy working in a theatre - the usher, the ticket taker, the fella in the booth - who falls asleep and dreams about show business." Blum says, "In his own slightly warped mind, he's hit the big time."

The thematic and pictorial elements that give Big Time its unique mood have as their inspiration the stage and album versions of Franks Wild Years. The plots of both works hinge on dreams of show business success conjured up by the lead character. "Innocent When You Dream," the signature song of the record and play (and the last number in the film) highlights the longing and pathos of small-town dreamers.

Big Time throws Tom Waits' skills as a mime, actor, storyteller, and verbal sleight-of-band artist into startling relief. In round-robin fashion, the viewer meets an ever-shifting rogue's gallery: the brimstone-spouting preacher beating the Devil "Down In the Hole;" the wisecracking guy who drives his piano like a truck through the film; the smarmy white-jacketed lounge entertainer taking a nightmarish journey "Straight to the Top;" the silk-robed theatrical jack-of-all trades whose reveries shape the action of the film; and a masterly singer who may or, in the context of the film's dreamy logic, may not be Tom Waits himself.

As Blum says, "With Tom, there is a combination of so many styles - there's vaudeville, burlesque, minstrel man, lounge performer, soulful balladeer, there's some mime, there is even some kabuki."

During post production, the film makers added a few starling audio effects. In the finished picture, the stamping of Waits' boots on the Warfield's wooden floors becomes a gunshot, the beating on a basement pipe becomes a metal ricochet. Blum notes that these bizarre embellishments are merely an embroidery on Tom Waits' out-of-the-ordinary approach to music: "Tom uses musical instrumentation as sound effects. He sometimes uses sound effects as music."

The extraordinary music from Big Time is now and Island records album, produced by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan and engineered by Biff Dawes, who helped create some of the unique recording techniques heard on Swordfishtrombones and Franks Wild Years.

There are two previously unreleased songs: "Falling Down" and "Strange Weather." Waits is known for his diversity of interpretation of his own songs from night to night. Therefore, some alternative versions of songs in the film appear on the album. In addition, there are some songs on the album that do not appear in the film ("Falling Down" and "Red Shoes").

With imagination and energy, the creators of Big Time have shaped a vital and ethereal feature film of striking originality - one that richly fulfills Tom Waits' objective: "to take a show and give it some dream life."

About Tom Waits

Waits began his writing and performing career when he was still a Los Angeles teenager. Living in a car and eking out a paycheck as the doorman at a local night spot, he soon traded in life in the back seat for his long-standing and fabled residency at the Tropicana Hotel, the hospitably seedy Santa Monica Blvd. haven for itinerant musicians that was lamentably razed in 1987. At the Trop', Waits began crafting his pungent and melodic early work, which grafted the energetic word-jazz lyricism of Kerouac and Ken Nordine to bluesy musical hues that reflected the deep influence of jazz artists and popular songwriters of the pre-World War II era.

Waits' first album. "Closing Time," created a small stir on its release in 1973 with its elegantly shaped melodies and touching and resonant depiction of life beyond midnight in the barrooms and back alleys of the American underlife.

The Heart Of Saturday Night (1974), the first of six albums produced by Bones Howe, found Waits' talents and voice both deepening; the nicotine-stained rasp that became the singer's expressive and unmistakable trademark was coming into its own. The 1975 two-record set Night Hawks at the Diner, recorded live at the record Plant in LA, remains the definite showcase for Waits' mesmeric talents as a live performer, as he delights his audience with his imitable blend of song, story-spinning, and street-level philosophizing.

Four more albums release by Elektra and Asylum charted Waits' burgeoning talents as the poet laureate of street life - Small Change (1976), Foreign Affairs (1977), Blue Valentine (1978), and Heartattack and Vine (1980). His albums and tours earned him the devotion of an international following, and his unmistakable style inspired many young artists.

In 1979, Waits' vivid presence came to the screen for the first time, when he landed a supporting role in Sylvester Stallone's Paradise Alley. Waits subsequently began a fruitful association with Oscar-winning director Francis Coppola; he appeared as an actor in The OutsidersRumblefish and The Cotton Club, and composed and sang the Academy Award-nominated score for Coppola's 1982 musical romance One From The Heart.

In 1983, Waits was signed to Island Records, which released Swordfishtrombones, the first of his triptych of lyrically surreal and musically exploratory breakthrough recordings. Rain Dogs and Franks Wild Years, which were universally viewed by critics as two of the most vital and electrifying records of the 80's, further established Waits as one of the era's most distinguished singer-songwriters.

The stage production of Franks Wild Years was co-written by Waits and Kathleen Brennan and directed by Gary Sinisefor Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1986.

Waits is increasingly in demand as a film actor. he received outstanding notices in 1986 for his performance in Jim Jarmusch's deadpan comedy Down By Law. In 1987, Hector Babenco cast him as the ill-fated hobo, Rudy, opposite Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in the screen version of William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel Ironweed. 1988 saw the release of famed photographer-director Robert Frank's Candy Mountain, in which Waits had a featured role.

Upon the completion of post-production work on Big Time, Waits left for Montana to play a starring role in director Robert Dornhelm's comedy Cold Feet. Waits says that the title of the new film by the director of Echo Park refers to anxiety over marriage, and also what happens to you after you're dead."

September, 1988


'Big Time,' A Look At The Rock Star Tom Waits

By Jon Parales
The New York Times Review/ Film; Late City Final Edition
Published: September 30, 1988

''Big Time'' squanders a rare opportunity: The chance (and budget) to film Tom Waits, one of rock's most aberrant and meticulous character actors, in a theatrical concert tailored to his eccentricities. ''Big Time'' squanders a rare opportunity: The chance (and budget) to film Tom Waits, one of rock's most aberrant and meticulous character actors, in a theatrical concert tailored to his eccentricities.

For more than a decade, Mr. Waits has been perfecting a gang of overlapping personas, a bunch of derelict philosopher-kings who rasp out romantic metaphors between wisecracks. They inhabit a seedy urban world of pawnshops and tattoos, of cigarette butts and polyester and triple-X movies; given voice by Mr. Waits's songs, they become heroes, or at least anti-heroes. In a tour last fall that played Broadway (and at the Warfield Theater in Los Angeles, where ''Big Time'' was filmed), Mr. Waits staged his recent songs as what he called ''un operachi romantico,'' with low-rent props and a band that could swagger through jazz or blues, wheeze out accordion waltzes or clank and oompah. That production, chopped up according to a dubious concept, is the basis of ''Big Time,'' which opens today at the Bleecker Street Cinema.

The concept seems to be that one incarnation of Mr. Waits, snoring while a Spanish television station blares in his apartment, is dreaming of himself both onstage and as a combination ticket-taker, usher and freelance watch salesman. (All of them wear four or five watches at once.) Instead of filming the concert straightforwardly, which might give Mr. Waits a chance to establish his stage characters and make connections from song to song, Chris Blum shreds the concert with shtick by Mr. Waits's usher persona, television-static effects and ticking watches. The songs are scattered, interrupted by speech and abruptly clipped, derailing any simple enjoyment.

When the songs are allowed to proceed, the camera zeroes in on Mr. Waits's face for relentless, claustrophobia-inducing close-ups; the band, which was onstage, is virtually invisible for the film's first half-hour. The camera captures Mr. Waits's grimaces and odd postures in minute, sweaty detail as he growls and rasps and croons; piano teachers will be shocked by his double-jointed hand positions at the keyboard, with fingers bent upwards. It's clear that he works hard and that even if his characters are weirdos, he knows exactly what he wants to do.

Yet only one sequence, late in the film, captures the production's cockeyed humor and humanity: Mr. Waits stands in a bathtub with a glowing plastic curtain, singing ''Innocent When You Dream'' while bubbles rise around him. For the rest, even Mr. Waits's considerable cult following is likely to find ''Big Time'' frustrating and off-putting. By reducing a stage show to endless, clinical close-ups, ''Big Time'' turns Mr. Waits's performance into a freak show.

''Big Time'' is rated PG (''Parental Guidance Suggested''). It contains a few profanities. Splintered Personality BIG TIME, directed by Chris Blum; director of photography, Daniel Hainey; edited by Glenn Scantlebury; stage show concept by Kathleen Brennan and Tom Waits; produced by Luc Roeg; released by Island Visual Arts. At the Bleecker Street Cinema, at La Guardia Place. Running time: 87 minutes. This film is rated PG. WITH: Tom Waits, Michael Blair, Ralph Carney, Greg Cohen, Marc Ribot and Willie Schwarz.


New Life For Waits Movie

Theatrical revival, DVD release for "Big Time"
By Denise Sullivan. Rolling Stone magazine, published: May 23, 2001

"People are so horny for this film I can't believe it!" says Chris Blum, director of the Tom Waits concert movie Big Time. At the time of its release in 1988, the film slipped through distribution cracks, making it a rare classic, but this week it enjoys an exclusive revival engagement at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California (Blum will be there tomorrow night for a Q&A session to accompany the opening night); the film will eventually see DVD release. "I guess one of the main ingredients of mystique is scarcity; because it's so scarce, it's getting a lot of torque," says Blum of the attention the film's receiving this week, thirteen years after its initial release.

Due to circumstances beyond the filmmaker's control, Big Time went directly into the limbo-zone, which made it nearly impossible to see in theaters or on video. "I don't remember the particulars, probably because it was just unpleasant stuff," he says of the distribution foul-ups. But six months ago, he discovered the film's one and only print in an overheated attic in his nineteenth century studio situated in Healdsburg, California and decided it was time to do something with it -- like store it in a climate-controlled vault. The idea to make an event of the unearthing of the movie and to celebrate the artistry of Sonoma County residents Blum and Waits came from the director of the neighboring county's Rafael Film Center in Marin, the organization to which Blum turned to store the film for safekeeping.

Blum collaborated on the feature with his pal Waits when the musician approached him to put together a film of his album triptych, Rain Dogs, Swordfishtrombones and Frank's Wild Years. With Frank as its protagonist, the Big Time story showcases Waits in three guises: as live performer with his band (including guitarist Mark Ribot, percussionist Michael Blair and horn player Ralph Carney) and as Frank, the crusty nightclub crooner who doubles as the "all purpose schlep" who works in an old vaudeville theater and dreams of making it big time in showbiz.

"All three of those albums had to do with this Frank guy, the guy who drove a nail into his wife's forehead in the beginning of the film. I thought there was a need to weave some narrative into the experience," explains Blum. "In [Frank's] dream he's a superstar but in reality he was in a big box of a building by himself," he says of the story line he devised to tie Waits' trilogy of song together.

Unlike a lot of music movies where the crowd is an integral part of the experience, the decision to exclude audience footage within Big Time was a very conscious one for Blum and Waits. "The character was fantasizing the performance in his head, so there was no audience," he says, though the live sequences were shot in front of crowds at San Francisco's Warfield and Los Angeles' Wiltern Theaters.

"There was a major discipline that took place. Believe it or not, we had six cameras in the Warfield, and Tom could not be aware of one of them. So they were in unbelievably weird places." The props in the movie -- the junk store esthetic and bright Lucite boxes that decorate the live stage -- were things that Waits actually took on the road with him that year.

After a staging of Frank's Wild Years and the making of Big Time, Waits took a dive from the recording and touring treadmill, busying himself with composing music for visual projects, chiefly for the Jim Jarmusch movie A Night on Earth and the Robert Wilson play The Black Rider; he slipped in only two original studio albums, Bone Machine and Mule Variations, in the thirteen years since the release of the film.

Blum continued to work with music videos, directing clips for Billy Joel ("We Didn't Start the Fire") and U2 ("Until the End of the World") among others, but has never felt the desire to direct another feature length piece, music or otherwise. "I guess I have a shorter attention span," he says, though he's looking forward to compiling material for the DVD version. "The pieces Tom did with Jim Jarmusch, some shorts I did with Tom, could end up on it."

"I think this film could have been viewed a hundred years ago and looked quite normal, and I think maybe it can be a hundred years from now and look quite normal," Blum says. "Believe it or not, it's very classic. There's nothing in there that couldn't have happened in St. Louis in 1928 or something. Tom's technique hasn't changed that much in the last twenty-five years. If you saw him on the stage of [Los Angeles'] the Troubadour in 1971, he looked and acted pretty much like that. I guess that makes it traditional."


Frank Talk

The Raven screens the Tom Waits classic 'Big Time'
By Greg Cahill
Published: July 7-13, 2004, the North Bay Bohemian

"Life is picking up a girl with bad teeth," singer-songwriter Tom Waits told Time magazine in 1978, while describing his philosophy, "or getting to know one of those wild-eyed rummies down on Sixth Avenue."

The fringe-dwelling characters that populate Waits' world are a colorful bunch indeed: the one-eyed dwarf shooting craps on a fog-bound waterfront or the haggard hooker in a Minnesota jail who fakes a tale about her trombone-playing sugar daddy--marginal figures one and all, spinning out in a dream world haunted by personal demons.

"These are people trapped in what a patient Christian might call the tunnel toward salvation," Anthony York wrote in a recent article about Waits.

How drawn to these characters is Waits? In the 1980s, this eccentric bohemian and West County resident released a trilogy of albums--Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985) and Frank's Wild Years (1987)--that compose a brooding Beat opera centered around a broken-hearted sailor (Frank) adrift in a sea of despair, a veteran who experiences a psychotic episode and torches his house before fleeing into the night.

The richly textured material from these albums--which marked a highpoint in Waits' storytelling and a departure from his earlier bluesy piano-bar style in favor of a nightmarish cabaret of bagpipes, accordions and percussive objects--served as the basis for Healdsburg-based director Chris Blum's classic 1988 performance film Big Time.

That rarely screened film, which is not available on DVD, screens Friday, July 9, at the Raven Film Center in Healdsburg.

It's one of the most enthralling music films ever made. That's due, in part, to Waits' dark humor, his riveting portrayal as a sardonic carnival-barker-type (replete with police bullhorn and work light, the kind you hang from the hood of your '58 Pontiac while changing the plugs, and which Waits uses to illuminate his sneering expressions) and a crack band that features the famed former Lounge Lizard Marc Ribot on guitar.

But the real star is Frank and the strange songs that tell his story.

In his piece, York unearthed several past articles in which the usually reclusive Waits talks about the evolution of his music during that period and especially how liberating he found the transformation.

"Anybody who plays the piano would thrill at seeing and hearing one thrown off a 12-story building, watching it hit the sidewalk and being there to hear that thump," Waits told Playboy magazine. "It's like school; you want to watch it burn."

Freed from the confines of the standard jazz trio, York adds, Waits continued to experiment. He found music in "dragging a chair across the floor or hitting the side of a locker real hard with a two-by-four, a freedom bell, a brake drum with a major imperfection, a police bullhorn."

He also honed the art of evocative storytelling, a development that began when Waits stopped romanticizing the life of a drunk. "I tried to resolve a few things as far as this cocktail-lounge, maudlin, crying-in-your-beer image that I have," he said in a Rolling Stone interview. "There ain't nothin' funny about a drunk. You know, I was really starting to believe that there was something amusing and wonderfully American about a drunk. I ended up telling myself to cut that shit out."

In the Frank trilogy, which finds the protagonist transformed over time, Waits has created a modern American version of the Odyssey, one that has invited speculation among fans and inspired countless college dissertations.

But Waits has a much less complicated way to explain his songwriting approach, as in this quote excavated by York. "The best songs come out of the ground, just like a potato," he once said in a conversation with Roberto Benigni, which was published in Interview magazine. "You plan and plan, and then you wait for the potato."

'Big Time' screens Friday, July 9, at the Raven Film Center, 115 North St., Healdsburg. 9pm. $6. 707.433.6335.


Rare Tom Waits "Big Time" Screening (Chris Blum Interview)

The Press Democrat. John Beck. April 16, 2008

It's been decades, but Chris Blum still remembers getting a random call around 11 o'clock one night back in the '80s. "Tom says, 'Hey, Chris Blackwell's over here and we're talking about doing a film. Come on over and let's talk about it.'"

The "Tom" would be Tom Waits, who was living on the edge of Koreatown in Los Angeles at the time. And Chris Blackwell of course would be the founder of Island Records, who launched Bob Marley to worldwide fame and gave Waits a place to resurrect his career with the avant tryptich of "Swordfishtrombones," "Frank's Wild Years" and "Rain Dogs."

"We spent about two or three hours and worked it out in Tom's kitchen and I walked out of there and Chris Blackwell did just about everything he said he would do," Blum remembers. "It wasn't just a pipe dream."

The result was "Big Time" - one of the most surreal concert films ever made. As the director, Blum interwove live footage - from six-camera shoots at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles and The Warfield in San Francisco - with a series of dream sequences revolving around Frank, a troubled soul on the run who has finally settled down as the caretaker of an old theater.

He goes to sleep one night backstage and, in his dreams, takes the stage as star performer.

Anything goes: Flaming umbrellas....

Except, there's no audience. Upon awaking, he's the janitor again.

When it came out in 1988, "Big Time" went into wide distribution all over northern Europe, Japan and Australia. Film festivals beckoned, from Munich to Rio.

But in America, you had to dig to know it existed. The worldwide premiere was at Healdsburg's Raven Theater, which Blum co-owned at the time. A few theaters in L.A. screened it. On occasion: a one-in-a-million midnight movie spectacle.

Not long after the film was made, the British company that produced it was bought by another company, who was later bought by another company. Today it's rumored to be wasting away in an MGM vault.

A cult classic, it's become the test of any well-stocked video store: Do you have "Big Time"? VHS copies sell on eBay for upwards of $200. Just a few weeks ago, Blum and Waits talked about finally releasing a DVD, toying with the idea of donating all the profits to charity, but there are no plans as of yet. Fortunately, Blum had the foresight to pay for his own personal print that he stores at The Rafael Film Center. "I take it out every few years," he says. "Get the dust off and run it through a projector before it's too late."

Thursday night is one of those rare occasions as the Rafael Film Center hosts a 35mm screening of what Rolling Stone once called "the best concert film of its time."

Make sure you get there on time and don't miss the opening shorts program - a collection of highly produced Dada-like promo videos that Island bankrolled when Waits tired of press interviews. One short, shot in San Francisco's Chinatown, is an interview in the back of a limo with Waits accompanied by a chihuahua ("We wanted to have a monkey with him," Blum says, "But somehow we couldn't pull that off.").

These days, Blum leads a "low-profile, under-the-radar" existence in Healdsburg. The multi-talented visual artist, who created experimental animated Levi's ads in the '70s, wrote and directed Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and created the highly successful Petaluma Poultry ad campaign, is unveiling a new exhibition of sculptures, assemblage and dioramas May 2 in Healdsburg.

Here are a few excerpts from our "Big Time" interview:

On his favorite moment in the film:
"I still really like him going to sleep and pounding on the pillow and the pillow explodes and feathers fly in the air and then I cut to him on the stage and feathers fly down on top of him and he takes of his hat and catches a few pillow feathers in his hat."

On working with Waits:
"He's an absolute gem. He gets it. He thinks visually and he knows what the camera will or won't do."

On the promise of a bigger budget (which got cut midway through the shoot):
"I would've pursued the storyline a little bit more. A little more transition material, which would have enabled me to really capture Frank's Wild Years. But when you're working like that, you can't look back."

On the tricky moments:
"All that footage is really live footage, there's no let's do another take. We were on the edge there."

On the "Big Time" color palette:
"The film is predominately red and black. I don't know if you know this or not, but Tom is color blind. The only colors he really can see are red and yellow. And so a lot of the visuals that revolve around Tom's work are red or yellow."
Q: Did you guys talk about that when you were filming the movie?
A: No, I didn't find out that Tom was color blind until years later.

On the cutting edge technology at the time:
It's the first ever electronically edited film. We edited on a Montage machine down in San Francisco at One Pass. It made it much easier to sift through more than 30 hours of footage. The editor was Glen Scantlebury, whose last film was "Transformers."

On the film's timelessness:
There's not one motor vehicle, virtually no architecture or telling wardrobe. The film looks like it could've been made six months ago. There are no coordinates in there. Nothing to let you know it's old. It could've been made 20 years ago or 40 years ago or four months ago. I know I did that purposely. I didn't want to lock this thing into any given time or era. I wanted it to be timeless because Tom's work really is timeless. Just about anything he does could've been done in 1920 or in 2012.