Ex-mayor’s ‘Hello’ captures creative process of guitarist Lee Ranaldo
MFF: Friday, May 5, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 6, 7:45 p.m.
Clairidge Theater, 486 Bloomfield Ave.
By LINDA MOSS
Former Township Mayor Jerry Fried is pleased to return to his roots as a filmmaker and to have a work he co-produced and edited, a documentary on legendary guitarist Lee Ranaldo, premiere close to home at the Montclair Film Festival.
Fried and Fred Riedel produced “HELLO HELLO HELLO : LEE RANALDO: ELECTRIC TRIM,” which chronicles the creative process behind the musician’s new album.
“I’m just as proud as can be and happy that a film that I made with Fred, a film that we made together, is showing at the Clairidge Cinema, which is like a three-minute walk from my house,” Fried said. “I’m just really happy.”
Fried and his wife, Karen Nielsen-Fried, knew Ranaldo long before his rise to fame as a member of the experimental indie rock group Sonic Youth. They were all students at the State University of New York-Binghamton in the mid-1970s, studying painting together at that time, according to Fried.
“And Lee went on to become a rock ’n’ roll star,” Fried said.
“HELLO HELLO HELLO,” which took director Riedel about a year to shoot, depicts how electric guitar master Ranaldo worked with record producer Raul Fernandez, who is from Barcelona, Spain, and novelist Jonathan Lethem as well as other collaborators to make the album “Electric Trim,” which hasn’t been released yet.
The camera acts as a “fly on the wall” as Ranaldo and Fernandez passionately and painstakingly experiment and try different approaches to the music, working with other musicians and laboring over a mixing board. Ranaldo and Lethem also team up to write lyrics for the album, another process on view in “HELLO HELLO HELLO.”
Fried said that he’s pleased that the “festival appreciated the way the film shows collaboration, and particularly artistic collaborations, in a very unique way.”
“It was just kind of a magical collaboration where the three of them kind of put their egos aside and just were all-in on it, this work of art,” Fried said.
Riedel also knew Fried and Ranaldo from SUNY-Binghamton, and Riedel and the guitarist over the years remained in close contact as friends. Riedel approached Fried about the film, and the editing process took about a year. Fried said he was also involved in shooting some of the scenes, traveling to Maine to interview Lethem, for example.
“It was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had in my life,” Fried said. “He’s a brilliant guy.”
In addition to his stint as Montclair mayor from 2008 to 2012, Fried spent 30 years in communications and advertising, in part editing commercials. He said he is glad to be back to filmmaking and editing following his forays into local government and on Madison Avenue.
Riedel captured Ranaldo and Fernandez working on the album in a studio in Hoboken, Echo Canyon West, that Sonic Youth has used over the years, according to Fried. Riedel wanted the studio footage to be nitty-gritty and have a “black-and-white look,” Fried said. Those sections are in contrast to colorful animated wave forms — similar to what one would see on Pro Tools digital-audio software, which is used for sound production and recording — that have been incorporated into the film, Fried said.
“We really wanted to focus on the sort of gritty realism of the creative process and contrast that with … animated sections where there are almost sound paintings, which are based on the way music-editing programs look, ” Fried said.
Ranaldo is slated to attend the Saturday night screening of “HELLO HELLO HELLO” and perform several songs from his new album, according to Fried.