By Gregory Crofton
Not often are you lucky enough to see John Prine at a film festival, but that happened at the sold-out “Live from New York!” at the Nashville Film Festival.
Prine, a singer-songwriter known for hits like “Sam Stone” (1971), came out to watch a documentary that celebrates the cultural importance of “Saturday Night Live.” Sounds boring but it wasn’t. It’s funny, quick-paced and determined to point out why SNL has been popular and relevant for so long. It packs a lot into 90 minutes, including a poignant segment on 9/11 and how the show helped bring New York City back to life after the terror attack.
Lorne Michaels, executive producer and guiding light of the show, makes a few brief appearances in the film.
Director Bao Nguygen, on hand for a Q & A after the screening, said that as a Vietnamese-American, U.S. television, and Saturday Night Live in particular, is a phenomenon he wanted to examine because it had a major influence on his life.
Big stars participated in the film, including Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and many more. Michaels, the executive producer for most of the show’s 40-year run (he left for five years to do other things), recently watched the film and “thought it was great,” Nguygen said.
The movie came together fast, taking just 10 months, so it could ready for the show’s celebration of its milestone anniversary this year. Sarah Cowperthwaite, producer of “Live from New York!” also attended the Q & A. She said there’s enough material leftover to “make another 10 movies” and that many of the entertainers and actors who appear agreed to readily because the filmmakers approached the SNL story from a different angle. “We didn’t want to know all about the drug stuff,” Cowperthwaite said. “Everyone thanked us for asking questions they don’t usually get to talk about.”