A wonderful retrospective journey for the 50th Anniversary of The Summer of Love
The documentary film LIFE IS A MOVIE—the story of avant-garde filmmaker and photographer, Larry Moyer—had its world premiere May 19 at the Nice International Filmmaker Festival (Nice IFF) 2017. Held at the beginning of, and just up the Côtes d’Azur from, the Cannes Film Festival (which concludes May 28) Nice IFF is both a film festival and a networking venue for independent filmmakers. LIFE IS A MOVIE—nominated in the categories of Best Director of a Feature Documentary and Best Cinematography in a Documentary—was written, directed, shot and produced by Michael Nash. Executive Producer (Liberty Dock’s) Blaze Nash was in Nice to present and promote the film.
Michael Nash, speaking about his hopes for the film, had this to say:
If LIFE IS A MOVIE were to accomplish anything, I would hope that it would provide a human window into the power of living your life freely. I am humbled and honored to have captured this on film, before Larry moved on to his next journey in that big sky above.
He goes on to describe how, in classic documentary fashion, the film he had in mind when he started was not the film he eventually made. The best filmmakers are able to see and utilize the material they have at their disposal, rather than shoehorn the material to fit a preconceived idea.
When I started this film in 2010, my goal wasn’t to create a feature documentary, but rather capture an aging filmmaker’s voice, to create a narrative to unseen film footage he’d shot a half-century ago. A couple years later we talked about combining two of Larry’s unfinished narrative films (from the 60s) into a single documentary. Five years in, the focus slowly and unexpectedly became a retrospective journey into this amazing 92-year-old artist, filmmaker and photographer’s life. It became clear the real story was Larry Moyer’s journey.
It was through Blaze’s friendship with Larry that the idea of a documentary came about.
My other films have taken me to all corners of the planet, taking on global issues. [Michael wrote, directed and produced the acclaimed documentary film: Climate Refugees]. LIFE IS A MOVIE was a fiercely intimate production, shot mostly on Shel Silverstein’s houseboat and Larry’s weathered anchor-out. The story first came to me by way of my sister Blaze Nash, who has lived on a houseboat for a couple decades. Blaze would Executive Produce the film, organize production and most importantly make sure—on shoot days—that our star had his quota of In-N-Out burgers.
But first there were miles and miles of film footage to go through.
Most of the time it was Larry and myself just talking—archiving the footage as we viewed the reels—one by one—hand cranking an old [16 mm] Moviscop projector. A first for myself. As I look back on the filming, with each trip I took from LA to Sausalito, and the more time I spent with this avant-garde filmmaker, I found a clearer understanding of our own future. Which made no sense based on the fact that we were doing a film on Larry’s past. But that’s what Larry does, or should I say, Captain Moyer.
His words of wisdom—coming from one of the souls at the source of the beatnik and hippie movements—are a beacon, a lighthouse of truth that is needed today more than ever. In this world where opinions outrank truths and alternate facts create so much spin that we all feel we’re on a twirling circus ride, there is great knowledge to come from the words of Larry Moyer. I have never met a human being that lived so much in the now. The present was everything to Larry, which made digging into the past challenging at times. He once told me, ‘You have to be careful digging into the past; one can get mugged walking down memory lane.’ Followed by his intoxicating laugh.
In 1939, on his first day of his first job, Larry realized he was unemployable. For a kid who thought he was unemployable Larry certainly has accomplished a canvas full. He pulled dead bodies out of sunken ships in Pearl Harbor and spoke poetry to Mao Tse-tung in 1957 (while being one of the first western journalist/photographers invited into China). He was a bohemian who lived in Greenwich Village and made films about the beatnik scene. I recommend one of them: MOVING FINGER. Larry traveled the world with Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree) on assignment for Playboy Magazine. In 1967 the two headed to San Francisco to cover the Summer of Love. When it turned into the ‘winter of discontent’ they headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge, where Larry would do over 500 hits of acid—as he turned on, tuned in and dropped out—finding a world many have searched for and few have lived.
We’ll keep you posted as the documentary makes the festival rounds, and let you know when a local premiere is scheduled. Previous stories: Larry Moyer – Remembering the Raconteur and Larry Moyer: “My Life is a Movie”