'Metallica: Some Kind of Monster' Q&A

Bruce Sinofsky, director of the documentary, answers readers' questions.

August 06, 2004|By Baltimoresun.com Staff

When Metallica decided to record its first album of new material in five years ("St. Anger"), the band invited filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky to document the process. From 2001-2003, they were given unlimited access, capturing group therapy sessions and angry outbursts on film, resulting in an honest and intimate portrait of the band and its members.

Sinofsky and Berlinger also directed 1992's critically acclaimed "Brother's Keeper" and 1996's "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hills," which featured Metallica on its soundtrack.

Ross Jonak, Baltimore: Will a non-Metallica fan enjoy this movie?

Bruce Sinofsky: This film is for anyone who has ever been in a collaborative situation. This film could be about a law office. It's really a story about people that just happens to be set against the backdrop of rock and roll. You don't even have to like Metallica to love this film.

Kevin Ireton, Forest Hill: When you first began the filming project, in your opinion, did you see these guys on their way up or on their way out?

Sinofsky: When we started the film we thought the band might break up. They barely talked to each other and the tension was high. The therapy saved this band for sure.

Christina Lilly, Baltimore: Your initial intent was to film the band's making of their new album. You must have realized at some point that the making of the album was going in an unexpected direction. What was the band's initial reaction to having the cameras around during arguments, therapy sessions, etc? Was there some reluctance on their part at having the cameras around through the emotional aspects?

Sinofsky: The band was used to having cameras around and there was a respect and trust between us and them. Having said that, James was not really happy about much in those days. At times, it was a little uncomfortable for us as it was so personal. But that is what makes for a good film.

Melissa Falcon, Baltimore: Why did they decide to give you all access, even for the personal issues they were working through?

Sinofsky: Good question, we have asked that ourselves. I think there was a respect for our previous work -- "Brother's Keeper" and "Paradise Lost." We had also told them that we wanted to have complete access and it would make a better film. They didn't just put a toe in the water on that, they dove in head first.

Mike, Baltimore: What was your biggest surprise to find out about Metallica?

Sinofsky: Probably their intellect. They were much more articulate than I expected. They also were much more thoughtful and sensitive as well.

Cecilia, Baltimore: What was the most shocking moment you captured on film? Did that make it into the movie?

Sinofsky: The most shocking? When Lars verbally attacks James. It went on for three hours. He had stored up 20 years of anger and it all came out. It is in the film (not all three hours, though).

Brian, Baltimore: Do you feel like the band's maturity as an entity made the filming process easier or more difficult?

Sinofsky: A younger band probably would not have even allowed us in. Metallica was at a point in their lives where they are ready to open up. Their age was a plus for us, I believe.

Doug Hattala, Napa, Calif.: I wondered if you shot in available light -- so as not to inhibit the band members with glaring lights -- and what brand of camera and lenses you used.

Sinofsky: We pre-lit most of the rooms in which we shot and kept the lights on dimmers to control the look. We used a Sony DSR-500 with a wide-angle zoom lens for our "A" camera, and a Sony PD-150 for our "B" camera.

Rick Brown, Bel Air: When did you realize it was time to switch off the cameras during the most "intrusive" moments of filming, after a guitar pick was thrown at you or a guitar?

Sinofsky: Ha Ha Ha. We never shut the cameras off. If you don't get it, you don't have it. The band never asked us ever to leave or shut off the camera. Pretty brave of them, I would say.

Rob, Baltimore: What was it like watching the action fall apart? What kept you filming ... what made you decide there was going to be a film here when it looked like it was completely lost? And were you worried the band would eventually squash it because it is so personal and painful for some of them?

Sinofsky: If you have interesting things happening in front of you, you always keep the camera running. There was a time when we thought James was not going to allow the film to continue. Joe and I talked to him about it and showed him some scenes we had cut. He changed his mind -- phew. You always worry about editorial control, but Metallica gave us free reign and final cut. Their only direction was, "be truthful." It was pretty amazing.

Gabe, Silver Spring: Some critics who are not fans of the music undermine it because they seem to miss the point of the creative struggle and the legitimate passion of the band, treating it like slumming voyeurism. How do you respond to those who see the film as a "real life" "Spinal Tap?"

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