It was a ten-year journey for me to bring Miles' story to the screen, and the reception to Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool has been a highlight of my 30 years making films. Since its premiere at Sundance last year, the film has grossed more than $1 million worldwide, with fans from all over the world being touched by his story. It was an honor to make this film, on one of my favorite musicians of all-time. I'm excited for all of you to be able to watch it on February 25th at 9pm ET on PBS. Ask me anything!

MILES DAVIS: Birth of the Cool trailer:

BOTC Prestige Records clip: Director’s statement:

American Masters Site:

Firelight Media Site:


Comments: 29 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

Nevenka654 karma

I live in Paris, this is the first I have heard about your film and am so excited to see it!! Can you tell me anything about the sessions related to recording Surrey with the Fringe On Top?

wgbh_boston2 karma

He did those to get rid of his contract at the time with Prestige. It was a two-day session - four albums came out of it. Somebody said it was one of the most amazing feats in jazz. Columbia was a much richer label and could offer him many more resources.

animaluver234 karma

Hello and thank you for doing this! As far as mapping out how to go about your research, how did you create a schedule or way to collect what you needed?

wgbh_boston5 karma

We had to put some parameters on what exactly we could say in the two-hour spot that we had. We knew we couldn't talk about every Miles album. That helped us put parameters on things.

Research involves a couple of things. There's content research. We tried to find every book that was out there. We read through all of those. We also had to do research in terms of photos, the music, video clips, etc. It's a combination of all of those things.

buckeyeonfire3 karma

What was your overall budget for the film and how could someone like me get the chance to work as an office production assistant on one of your films?

wgbh_boston2 karma

The budget is something I can't really talk about, but we're a company based in NYC and we do look for interns and staff often! Reach out to [email protected].

herself012 karma

Two questions: what’s your favorite thing about Miles Davis? And can you talk about Firelight and why you started it?

wgbh_boston4 karma

The beautiful breadth of Miles Davis' music. There's so much there. There's so many different styles. And they are all new and innovative. He's not copying anybody. 35-40 years of recordings that are all of the highest quality but they are all different from each other.

I was working for years as an independent producer. Firelight had a little more structure. I started it with my wife - Marcia Smith. It was to get more of a foundation for my work and more support as well.

ArtoriasTheAccursed2 karma

What kind of working relationship did Davis have with Bill Evans?

wgbh_boston1 karma

I'm not sure if you mean Gil or Bill. Bill was the pianist on much of "Kind of Blue," but Miles had a much longer lasting relationship with Gil Evans with whom he recorded a number of seminal albums.

rtokanel1 karma

What was the most surprising thing you learned about Miles Davis while researching for the film?

wgbh_boston1 karma

I think there was so much that was surprising - one thing was how important the women were in his life. And we know that he was in abusive relationships but it also became clear just how important each of them were to him not solely on romantic terms, but in the creation of his music. And that comes across in the film. 

fotli31461 karma

Really impressive.

I see you interviewed many people for this documentary, and they all seem very relaxed, at ease, and collaborative. What do you personally do in order to have a good interview? Do you warm up or prep the person in any way, days or moments in advance? Any tricks you want to share?

thank you

wgbh_boston2 karma

We try to have someone do a pre-interview of the subject - usually it's the co-producer of the film, and they write extensive notes. Especially putting into quotes anything the person says that's really great, and writes out Q's based on that. And then I interview people, talk a bit about myself and tell them a personal story to give them a bit of my myself, so it doesn’t feel like I'm just taking from them. Other than that, we just try to have a conversation, tell jokes, anything to have a relaxed feel. I think it's important to listen to what people say, stay in the moment, and not just focus on the next question. 

bobbyfame1 karma

Thank you for making this film, just watched the trailer, can't wait to see the whole thing.

What's your personal favourite period of Miles' career?

wgbh_boston2 karma

Thank you! When making the film I listened to Miles pretty exclusively for about two years, so I listened to a lot of different periods of Miles, but I really loved the first quintet and the second quintet. I have a new appreciation for "Elevator to the Gallows," which is also great. But I also listened to a lot of the electric Miles.