Alison Ellwood Interview: ‘Laurel Canyon’
When you’re watching “Laurel Canyon,” it’s easy to become overwhelmed with how many influential musical acts came out of that area and it’s something that filmmaker Alison Ellwood was able to discover in a very natural manner. “It’s amazing how these artists were connected to one another and that was one of the things that we discovered very organically in the process of making the films, that we would find these connections that were so wonderful,” she tells us in our recent webchat (watch the video above). But even with all the musical acts that are shown in the film, there were still a few that Ellwood wasn’t able to include. “I would have loved to have included Carole King and James Taylor, who were both part of that scene, at least for a while.”
Epix documentary “Laurel Canyon” explores the titular neighborhood in Los Angeles and examines the impressive musical acts that came out of that area in the late ’60s and early 70s. Among the musicians and groups that are shown during their time in the Canyon are The Byrds, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Love, The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Prior to working as a director, Ellwood was an editor for many documentaries. She also scored an Emmy nomination in 2000 in the Best Non-Fiction Program (Reality) for the docuseries, “American High.”
The project was something that Ellwood had originally wanted to do 20 years ago. “I wanted to make a film about The Doors and when I started researching them, I realized they’d lived in the Canyon and there were so many other artists up there and I thought this would be such a fun story to tell,” she explains. But with the music that she wanted to use being owned by so many different people at the time, it ended up making the project virtually impossible to do at the time.
Over the course of making the documentary, Ellwood discovered several surprising facts about the musicians in that scene, including that Peter Tork of The Monkees was a nudist. She also got a kick out of the story of Alice Cooper being told to go over to Frank Zappa’s place to audition at 7:00 but Cooper arrived at 7:00 am instead of 7:00 pm which caught Zappa off-guard. But her favorite story may be about the how the band, Love, tried to wiggle out of their contract using another band. “That was really interesting how Love desperately wanted to get out of their contract, so they pushed The Doors on Elektra and ended up stabbing themselves in the foot.” Elektra did sign The Doors but would still keep Love on their label.