Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley was shot, directed, and produced by first-time filmmakers (Nyla Bialek Adams & Laurie Trombley) who grabbed a camera and hit the road. The documentary is a grassroots, independent, out-of-pocket, not-for-profit endeavor made possible by the gracious support of all those involved. All profits incurred from the distribution of this film will go to charities associated with the Estate of Jeff Buckley – future details and links will be posted on this website.
We get asked a lot of questions about this film: How did you decide to make this film? How did you get permission to make this film? Why did it take you so long to make this film? Excellent questions. Let’s start at the beginning.
It all started in 1994 with a letter to Jeff Buckley.
Laurie, who was the music editor for her college newspaper, received a copy of Buckley’s first EP, Live at Sin-e. She was immediately smitten by Jeff’s voice and wrote to him, asking if he needed an intern. Jeff personally responded to her letter, and a few weeks later Laurie was managing Jeff’s fan relations at his management company, DE-EL Entertainment.
In 1998, about one year after Jeff’s death, Laurie met Nyla at A&E Television Networks where we both worked. The impetus for the film came one afternoon at A&E while we were playing hooky in the copy room. Several of our friends in the cable industry were moonlighting as filmmakers, and we thought it might be fun to make a short film of our own. The conversation turned to Jeff Buckley and since we’d both been so inspired by Jeff, we discussed the possibility of documenting the local cult-like fanaticism that was already growing around Buckley’s legacy in the East Village. After experiencing Jeff’s kindness and generosity, Laurie wanted to spread the word about Jeff and thank him for the opportunities he had given her. She felt a short film would be a beautiful way to pay tribute to Jeff in a creative way.
The process began when Laurie wrote another fateful letter – this one to Mary Guibert, Jeff Buckley’s mother, asking permission to make a documentary short about artists inspired by Jeff. Because of Laurie’s prior personal connection to Jeff, Mary agreed to meet with us briefly. (We later found out she intended to turn us down gently!)
The “brief meeting” in Mary’s Chelsea Hotel room led to an entire evening of conversation. Mary was intrigued by our idea to explore Jeff’s legacy of inspiration, rather than making a straightforward biography. She felt the grassroots production (no money, no corporate sponsor) was the kind of organic, underdog approach Jeff would’ve liked. By the end of the evening Mary gave us her blessing, encouraging us to look beyond the East Village and consider the rest of the world. She cheerfully warned us that while we were planning on making a documentary short – “the film might grow legs” and take us places we never anticipated. Prophetic words.
Our next step was to locate artists inspired by Jeff. Colombia Records generously allowed us to post an ad on Jeff Buckley’s official website asking “artists inspired by Jeff to contact Once & Future with a description of what they would submit to a tribute documentary. Specifically, tangible artistic expression – music, performance, art, and even writing.” We lost count of how many email responses we received, but from these emails we compiled a list of possible candidates. We asked select people from this list to send us their CDs, videotapes, slides, photographs, and writing; then we began pursuing those artists we thought would translate well to film.
At the same time, we began culling documentary material about Jeff Buckley himself. This was the hard part. With invaluable help from Jack Bookbinder and Gene Bowen of Fun Palace Entertainment (formerly of Jeff Buckley’s tour and management team, who continue to assist Mary Guibert in dealings for the Estate of Jeff Buckley), we contacted Jeff Buckley’s friends, researched old connections and hung out at Jeff’s old haunts, trying to find people who would talk to us. We were also looking for people who had video footage, audio recordings and photographs of Jeff in their private collections. This was not an easy task to say the least. We quickly discovered that Jeff’s friends and colleagues were fiercely protective of his memory. In fact, during filming, we learned two other Buckley documentaries had been abandoned due to lack of support from Jeff’s inner circle and the Estate of Jeff Buckley. It took time and patience, but perhaps because of the organic, less commercial nature of our film, people eventually opened up to us.
We began filming (on evenings and weekends as both of us had full-time jobs) toward the end of 1999, interviewing the fans we’d located through the official Jeff Buckley website, individuals who worked with Jeff as well as those who’d known him personally – all people who graciously opened their hearts to us on film.
As for the more technical part of production, we had little production experience and learned on the job as most first-time filmmakers do. We shot the first few interviews sponging technical advice from our filmmaker friends at A&E, and by our tenth interview we were old pros.
Then came the editing. This is an entire website unto itself – with over sixty hours of footage, no post-production budget, and armed only with a Macintosh & Adobe Premiere 5.0 (keep in mind this was year 2000) it was a triumphant, though arduous, process. With the guidance of friends and colleagues, we were able to focus our story and figure out how best to tell it (please see Special Thanks.)
Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll keep you apprised of all film festival screenings and DVD availability.