The Merry Pranksters present an editing nightmare

Sometimes treasures come with a curse attached.

For instance, While Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney was thrilled to get his hands on raw footage of a legendary 1960s road-trip, the find led to one very tedious production session.

pranksterbus.jpg

This 1934 International Harvester school bus, named “Further” became an international icon of the hippy movement after the Merry Pranksters drove it from California to New York and back in 1964. (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Ken Kesey and the Merry Band of Pranksters drove from California to New York and back in an old school bus, filming and audio-taping much of the experience.

As Euan Kerr reports, Gibney and co-director Alison Ellwood had to find a way to distill it all down into one documentary:

They had 50 priceless hours of film and 150 hours of audio tapes, captured by very good cameras and microphones. But that thing filmmakers do with the clapperboard at the beginning of a shot to synchronize images and sounds — well, the Pranksters felt that was unnecessary.

“They didn’t do the clap. Ever,” Gibney said.

“Once!” interjects Ellwood.

“Sorry, they did it once,” Gibney corrects himself. “And that was when they brought in a professional soundman for the day, who promptly quit when he saw how disorganized everything was.”

They went to great efforts to find places where the sound matched up with the images.

“We hired a lip-reader to come in and spent half a day and they gave up,” Ellwood said.

They found some synch points, including a wild sequence where Cassady drove the bus while high on speed. Listening to music on huge headphones Cassady raps into the on-board public address system, waving his arms and howling into the microphone, only occasionally looking at the road. Gibney admits it’s quite frightening.

You can find out more about the road trip, and the documentary, by clicking on the audio link:

Comments are closed.