Among the 44 documentary films screening at the Napa Valley Film Festival next week are several films that delve deeply into art and music.
In “Sound City,” Dave Grohl explores the legendary Los Angeles recording studio where bands like Fleetwood Mac and Nirvana recorded. In “Good Ol' Freda,” Ryan White tells the story of a shy teen-ager, Freda Kelly, who served as The Beatles' secretary for a decade.
Then there's the story of another rock star, a 340-ton boulder that made a $20 million, 22-city tour from Riverside to Los Angeles on its way to fame as an environmental sculpture outside of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In “Levitated Mass: The Story of Michael Heizer's Monolithic Sculpture,” Doug Pray provides a riveting account of how that chunk of granite was hauled 105 miles by a truck the length of a football field.
“This is the story of this rock, as we start in the desert,” Pray said. “It's hundreds of millions of years old and was blown out of a mountain in a quarry.”
A graduate of UCLA's film school, Pray has made seven feature-length documentaries, mostly about mavericks and subcultures. His first film, “Hype!,” delved into the Seattle grunge music scene. “Scratch,” made in 2001, celebrated hip-hop DJs.
In “Levitated Mass,” Pray worked closely with an experimental rock band, Akron Family, for the film's rhythmic and hypnotic soundtrack. He chose mostly instrumental tracks that evoked a range of moods.
“Their signature sound can be really gritty and raw, but they are capable of more moody work that all feels handmade,” he said. “The band members were huge fans of Michael Heizer, which is an anomaly.”
When making a film, Pray always works on the soundtrack first, then edits the visuals to fit with the music.
“It helps me see the movie if I know the sound of it,” he said. “It helps me to get a thread and a mood and a scene.”