The team behind Texas’s dean of songwriters: Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield explore artistic collaboration in Without Getting Killed or Caught – Screens


Guy clark (Photo by Marshall Falwell)

When Tamara Saviano approached the task of adapting her biography Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark in a documentary, she already had all the details. She had previously worked closely with the dean of Texas songwriters until her death in 2016 to paint a sentimental and robust picture of the iconic musician who helped create the Americana musical genre. Now, fixing the barrel of transforming that manuscript into a screenplay, Saviano had to find a way to shrink a legacy into a 95-minute package. That goal came with the decision that the crux of the film would be built around the relationship between Guy Clark, his best friend and fellow musician Townes Van Zandt, and more specifically his wife, Susanna Clark.

Paul Whitfield, the film’s co-creator and husband of Saviano, initially disagreed with Saviano over the decision to rely so heavily on Susanna’s voice. Saviano persisted in insisting, however, that Susanna’s perspective was essential in telling Guy’s story.

“When people look at Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt and then Susanna, they always see her role as really minor,” said Saviano, “because Guy and Townes have always sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Susanna’s role is much more important than people ever gave him credit for … and I wanted to change that. “

“There’s no way anyone can make a movie on their own.”– Tamara Saviano

Without getting killed or caught It is the first time in 19 years of history that Saviano and Whitfield have worked together as partners on a long term project. “For six years, our marriage was largely about the movie,” Saviano said. Their individual strengths and weaknesses combined to create the documentary, just as Susanna and Guy did to create their music. For the couple, however, this is where they saw the similarities end. They consider their professional and personal relationships to be calm and easy-going, while Saviano described Guy and Susanna as chaotic.

An integral aspect of the documentary is that it tells the story of one man in a way that makes every minor character equal in importance in his rise. “The guy liked to collaborate,” said Saviano. “He once told me that the thing with collaboration is that someone can have the seed of an idea and if you have more than one person in the room, that idea becomes big work. “

This theme runs throughout the film, through Susanna’s narration (taken from audio diaries and private diary entries narrated by Sissy Spacek) and the talking heads of the people closest to Guy who have worked with him throughout. throughout his career. The documentary itself was influenced by the contributions of many people. “There’s no way that someone can make a movie on their own,” Saviano said, crediting cast and crew, interviewees and co-writer Bart Knaggs.

As for what they hope audiences will take away from the film, Whitfield said he wanted them encouraged to learn more about Guy by reading Saviano’s biography and listening to the singer’s discography. “His whole life is there in his songwriting,” he said.

Saviano said it was a friendship movie. She wanted to highlight the intimacy and the strength of the relationship between the three artists, and the crucial roles they each played in the life of the other.

“We could easily make another movie with just Guy,” Whitfield added, but Saviano was quick to cut it and laughed.

“We could, but we won’t.”

Without getting killed or caught screens at the AFS cinema from this weekend. Read our review here.

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