ED- In Hollywood there are some people that wear many hats. This is true for our guest, Woody Bavota. Woody, thank you for letting us interview you for all our readers enjoyment. Tell us how you originally started in the field of Cinema.
WB- I was enamored with filmmaking from the time I was eight. Watching TV shows like The Man From Uncle, The Andy Griffith Show and Candid Camera initially sparked my interest as to how they were made. But, what really opened my eyes to the power of film was seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. By the time I was twelve I received my first super 8 camera.
As a young hippie in training, at fifteen, I went to a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert and the lighting just blew me away. Later that night at home I told my parents that I was going to be a lighting director. By the time that I was sixteen I received a $5000.00 loan from my parents to build a lighting board and purchase theatrical lighting. For the next two years I lit anyone that would have me. At eighteen I went to Photography School and at twenty-two I was touring the world.While touring as a lighting director, I lit many concerts that were simulcast to television and this is how I cut my teeth working with video production crews. After twenty-seven years it was time for a change and I decided to open a video production company. My first thought was work, so I contacted my musician friends and began producing, directing and shooting concert films.
ED- You have worked for over thirty years in the industry. Tell us about some of the earliest productions that you worked on.
WB- The earliest production that I was on was at fifteen in 1969, we humped gear for the local PA Company to Symphony Hall in Boston for The Holy Modal Rounders concert. The Rounders recently had their song, the Bird Song, in the film Easy Rider.
In 1972 I lit several New England shows for the New York Dolls; and as I remember one of the band members had clear plastic platform shoes with cockroaches in them. Also I’ve lit shows with RUN DMC, Ratt, Cinderella, Quiet Riot, Skid Row, LA Guns and more. My early world tours included, the Joe Perry Project, Bill Bruford’s bands, UK and Bruford, Allan Holdsworth and with Pierre Moerlen’s Gong .
ED- A lot of your earlier work involved lighting and behind-the-scenes work. Tell us about this aspect of your career.
WB- Well as you read, I was involved in stage lighting from the age of sixteen. Lighting is a heartbeat, a pulse and is a very pure way to express the emotion of the music visually. Color and the movement of light transform four skinny guys into rock gods. Color is an amazing subliminal tool, there is a reason why bar rooms are red and Doctors offices are green.
As a Production Manager I’ve worked on stages with Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Meat Loaf, The Spinners, and many more.
ED- Your work took you all over the United States and to many parts of the world. How exciting was this for you?
WB- This is the greatest perk to being in the entertainment field. During the 70’s and 80’s while working as a R&R lighting director, I not only traveled throughout the US, Canada, Europe and South America, but I also had the good fortune to live for a year or so in both France and in the UK. Germany was the best and most organized country to tour, France and Italy had the better restaurants, the South American people were wild and Canada was a lovely place.
The impromptu meeting of wonderful people was such a bonus as well. I was on tour running lights for drummer Bill Bruford’s band UK, and we were at a club in Toronto called the El Mocombo. A large man of color came in and sat next to me; he bought me a drink and asked me all about the band. During the band performance, he was also watching me, smiling and elbowing me as I hit the intricate time changes of the music. After the show, he asked me to do him a favor and tell the band that, Oscar Peterson, wanted to meet them.
I also remember getting into the airport at 1:00 AM in Caracas, Venezuela to meet up with the Joe Perry Project and I literally just came from my last gig on a tour with Iron Maiden. My hair was half way down my back; I was dressed in all camouflage and my shirt had the Iron Maiden logo with an illustration of “Eddie”. As I am passing through customs, the soldiers and police who were dressed in camouflage and carrying uzi machineguns asked me (tongue in cheek) if I was there to fight in the jungle, it still freaked me out and the cammies stayed packed for the remainder of the trip.
Every day was a new adventure.
ED- With ‘Gongzilla: Live in Concert and the East Village Studio’ you wore many hats for this production. Your produced, directed, and edited this event. Please give us an insight of this production and detail the immense amount of work that you took on to make it a success.
WB- Well yes this was one of my most advantageous productions and literally took two year of my life to accomplish. Firstly we followed the band Gongzillia into a NYC recording studio to capture the recording of their new CD and this was several months prior to the concert. Then when producing the concert in Boston, it was a bit of a nightmare because the band had dispersed back to their homes in England, France, Canada, NYC and South Carolina. But, we coordinated all and the show went on. Directing the five cameras for the concert was a blast; we were in a wonderful theatre with balconies and proper side wings off of the stage that I could place the camera operators. For the edit, I had over twenty hours of tape to go through to get to the final two and a half hour DVD and this alone took one year.
ED- You also produced and directed ‘Bill Bruford’s Earthworks: Footloose in NYC’. What was this about and tell us about the cast and crew members that you worked with?
WB- Bill Bruford is an old and dear friend; Bill is a drummer that began his career with the groups Yes and King Crimson. I have worked on and off with him since 1978, I began as his touring lighting director and completed six world tours with his bands, UK, and Bruford. In 2002 Bill contacted me to discuss a concert film with his new band Earthworks. I was thrilled to work with him in this new capacity as producer and director. We shot four concerts at the now defunct Bottom Line in NYC and combined these four shows into the one concert to complete the “Footloose in NYC” DVD.
ED- Another production was ‘Aftermath: The Station Fire Five Years Later’. Please tell us the story behind this project.
WB- This was a very emotional production for me. As many people know the Warwick, RI nightclub called The Station burnt down, killing over one hundred people and left hundreds burnt. ‘Aftermath: The Station Fire Five Years Later’ was a VH1 television special to raise awareness and funds for the tragedy. This day was much more than a production day.
My job for the day was as an HD camera operator, I was to put wireless mic’s on the various celebrities performing that evening and accompany them during the day as they spoke with the media, other celebrities, and families of the fire victims and burn victims who were lucky enough to get out of that horrible inferno.
The first guy I met up with was Dee Snider, I had an advantage in breaking the ice with him for I recently was a camera operator on a film with his radio show partner actress Debbie Rochon. You probably know Dee as a larger than life character, but I got to see a glimpse of a caring, tireless and giving man.
We began our journey weaving through back halls and various offices that were set up for the day and as Dee meet up with people he would outpour just a friendly warm feeling to all. But his real agenda was to see what everyone needed and help them accomplish these needs. Whether it was an interview to set up with another celebrity or moving boxes of t-shirts Dee was right there to help. Who would have known that Dee Snider is such a warm and caring individual to be so deeply involved in other people’s tragedy?
Dee contacted was country star John Rich whom he was at the time on a reality TV show with called Gone Country. Dee asked John if he would be able to commit his time for a performance at the 2008 Station Night Club Concert, well what I learned from various people and my own observation during the day is that John Rich is a man to be admired. First off John said yes and then reached out to his friend’s country artists Dierks Bentley and Gretchen Wilson to perform as well.
At about 6:00 PM John, Dierks and Gretchen arrived at the venue from Green Airport where they had just flown in on John’s private jet. I was introduced to John and his road manager backstage and when I told them of my video agenda for the TV special they were all about it. John said of course anything I can do to help and his road managers response was you have complete access to us for as long as we are here.
The three country stars went from interview to interview telling of the horrific tragedy and urged all to open their hearts and pockets to the Station Family Fund. John did his homework and spoke of the hundred killed, the few hundred burned and then he got silent for a moment, his voice cracked and he spoke of the sixty children who lost one or both parents in the Station fire. Gretchen spoke of both bar tending and getting her musical start in bars like the Station, they were all genuinely concerned for the victim’s families.
The most compelling piece of video that I captured was an amazing interaction between John, Dierks, Gretchen and Joe a man who was in the Station fire and sustained burns on most of his body. They asked questions of him, listened deeply to him, joked with him and most importantly held him.
I found out later that evening from a woman who is on the board of directors of the Station Family Fund that John Rich gave the largest single donation that they ever received. I also was told by Dee that when John was on the way he phoned from his plane to ask him how ticket sales were going and when he found out they were slow John purchased fifteen hundred tickets.
John Rich and Dee Snider are very different indeed to the eye but they are kindred spirits in life. They both are genuine stand up people who should be applauded for there caring and giving to others, I was truly touched.
ED-You were lately found behind the camera for the production of ‘Beg’. Tell our readers about this venue.
WB- Beg was my first venture into the horror genre and it was too much fun. Early in the film I lit all of the scenes as well, and loved creating the horror atmosphere with actors Debbie Rochon, PJ Soles and Tony Moran. The director Kevin McDonald allowed me the freedom with the camera to complete some pretty wild shots. The film is now complete and should be released soon, keep an eye out…lol
ED- Woody what other projects and film genres are you looking to work with and where do you see your career going in the next five years.
WB- I am now working quite diligently on two films that I wrote, Behelian and Power of Purpose. Power of Purpose is a melodrama with and underlying theme of suicide prevention. My inspiration for writing the screenplay was when my step-sons best friend committed suicide, at the age of twenty-one. I felt that I just had to do something. While writing POP, I met with Doctors, Suicide Counselors and Psychologists to insure that what I put down on paper would indeed help. The journey has taken me to many places emotionally, I hear from people all of the time now and they tell me about there experiences with loved ones and friend who have committed suicide. It seems as though everyone has been touched in some way. I am now signed with Los Angeles producer Carrol Mendelson and we are in meetings to fund POP.
Behelian is a deep, dark film that is currently in production and stars Duke Valenti. It was not quite intended as a horror film but, Behelian will keep any horror fan on the edge of their seats.
After watching the news one night, I was so upset about bad politicians, back room dealings, war for profit and human persecution that I began the screenplay for Behelian. As I was writing, the theme, Evil vs. Evil, came to mind and I began naming the characters after demons. My next thought was, how to have countries invade countries on a budget, motorcycle clubs of course was the exact symbolism that I needed.
Now indeed, I truly do see our world run ramped with egos, lies and deceit. But there is still good, very much prevalent in our global society, mostly in individuals, just striving for a good life for all. This good element was added to ultimately leave the audience with a personal choice. David verses Goliath, if you will.
ED- Woody, we want to thank you for spending this time with us and we wish you luck in all that you do. Please promise that you will keep in touch with The Eerie Digest so that we can update all our readers on all your future projects.
WB- Joe….You are the best! I wish you well with your varied and wonderful career. And I would like to thank your readers and ask them to watch for Behelian.