A Miles Davis Fever Dream: DP Roberto Schaefer on Miles Ahead

Like many aspiring filmmakers, cinematographer Roberto Schaefer spent his youth fermenting his imagination by creating his own backyard epics. But unlike your typical kid – who concentrates on, depending on the era, recreating Harryhausen or Spielberg or maybe just blowing up G.I. Joes with M-80s on camera – Schaefer crafted abstract, experimental 8mm films.

“I did do a couple of stop-motion things, but I was always more into art than movies growing up,” Schaefer said. “I liked going to the movies, but I wasn’t thinking about making movies like the ones I saw at the theater. I was thinking about film as art for art’s sake.”

Source: Filmmaker Magazine

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What Would Miles Davis Do? Robert Glasper Has an Idea

When Miles Davis died 25 years ago, he left behind a peerless body of work, a complicated legend and a formidable archival trove. Given his compulsion for reinvention — the spark behind his famous boast that he’d “changed music five or six times” — his death at 65 also opened the door to endless rounds of conjecture. What other directions might Davis, the volatile and enigmatic trumpeter, have explored? Who would he be collaborating with today?

Source: The New York Times

Kind of Clichéd: How the Miles Davis Movie Could Have Been Better

When I heard that “Miles Ahead,” the bio-pic about Miles Davis starring and directed by Don Cheadle, would be set in the late nineteen-seventies, when Davis had stopped performing in public—and would be centered on the story of Davis’s friendship with a white journalist—I was excited, because I knew of such a real-life story, and it’s a good one.

The journalist Eric Nisenson (who died in 2003) was befriended by Davis in that period and wrote about the story of their friendship in his biography of Davis, “ ’Round About Midnight.” It’s the story of an earnest lover of jazz who spent lots of time in the combination apartment and music studio of the bassist Walter Booker. One night, Davis came to Booker’s place, met Nisenson, and, to the journalist’s surprise, became a pal. The resulting portrait of Davis by Nisenson was an unsparingly intimate, complex, and oddly whimsical view of the artist in retreat.

Source: The New Yorker

Review: ‘Miles Ahead,’ an Impressionistic Take on Miles Davis

There’s a hopped-up scene in “Miles Ahead,” controlled yet frenzied, when you get why Don Cheadle decided to go for broke.

He’s playing Miles Davis (he also directed) and the time is the late 1970s — although it’s also the 1960s. Time and space tend to blur in this movie and while the setting is a ’70s boxing match, a couple of figures from Miles’s past — his wife, his younger self — soon swing in to shake things up. She’s running scared and the 1970s Miles is running amok, but the younger Miles, well, there he is, too, playing it cool in the ring. Music is fighting, at least for this pugilist.

Source: The New York Times

Don Cheadle on Becoming Miles Davis

Don Cheadle was not looking to play Miles Davis. He had done biopics before, starring as Sammy Davis Jr. in “The Rat Pack” (1998), which earned him a Golden Globe, and as the hotelier and accidental humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

Mr. Cheadle had played the street hoops star Earl Manigault, a.k.a. the Goat, in “Rebound” and the radio D.J. Petey Greene in “Talk to Me”.

Source: The New York Times

Don Cheadle on Becoming Miles Davis

This weekend Mr. Cheadle arrives in “Miles Ahead,” a decidedly nonbiopic-like film about the towering jazz trumpeter and composer. Far from the typical linear film narrative, in which a great jazz voice is inevitably brought down, often for good, by drink or drugs (think “Bird,” “’Round Midnight,” “Let’s Get Lost” or “Lady Sings the Blues”), “Miles Ahead” focuses on a period in the late 1970s when Davis wasn’t performing at all. “I loved the incongruity,” Mr. Cheadle said. “The Miles ‘play what’s not there’ idea of it.”

Since its premiere at the New York Film Festival in October, the movie has earned praise for its unconventional portrait of the influential musician. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called it “an adventurous, music-saturated depiction of one of the genre’s undisputed greats,” while A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that “anyone who wants to get a jump on possible Oscar nominees for 2017” should see the film.

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Watch: First Full Trailer for ‘Miles Ahead’ Biopic

“If you gunna tell a story… come with some attitude, man!” Sony Pictures Classics has unveiled the first official trailer for Don Cheadle’s new film Miles Ahead, which already played the New York Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival so far. Don Cheadle stars as legendary jazz musician Miles Davis, with a cast including Keith Stanfield, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi and Ewan McGregor. Reviews for the film say that Cheadle “buries himself in the character. His version of Davis is a creature of paranoia and understated frustration…” Continue reading “Watch: First Full Trailer for ‘Miles Ahead’ Biopic”

‘Miles Ahead’ Reviews Roll In Following NYFF Debut

You can look back over the years of this Miles Davis website and find plenty of blog posts about my desire to see a cradle-to-grave blueprint for the story of Miles Davis. With the talented Don Cheadle in the director’s chair, and in the starring role, this Hollywood-ized style of movie-making was not to be. To be honest, I was just happy something was going to make it to the big screen. I just felt that a traditional bio-pic might allow for a broader story, which might help appeal to a wider audience.

But that doesn’t mean I am not on board with what Cheadle has delivered.

I have not seen the film, so all I can do is check the reviews that are trickling in following the premiere of “Miles Ahead” this past weekend in New York at the New York Film Festival.

Looking over seven or eight reviews online it seems the film is getting mostly (very) positive comments from the critics.

Still, my favorite comment so far is from Matt Patches in his Esquire.com review:

Miles Ahead is the rare biopic in need of Hollywood’s “cradle to grave” blueprints. By scrapping Davis’ origin story—picking up his first trumpet, finding his sound, abandoning the culture around him—the film simply insists upon importance. The music never speaks for itself.

I am very excited to see a film about Miles Davis make it to the big screen. It might not be what I had in mind as I put together in my mind the pieces of a biopic about the jazz legend. But kudos to Cheadle and his team for staying true to the vision they designed for the film. Nothing is perfect and not everyone is going to get on board with the ‘caper’ element built into the story, but it still looks very enjoyable.

Look, I still think a 4-part miniseries on PBS would do the trick by covering the trumpeter’s life and times from start to finish. But I am so pleased to see the final piece of a puzzle I started writing about way back in 2007 finally come together.

‘Miles Ahead’ Lands At Sony Classics

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired worldwide rights to Miles Ahead, the Miles Davis biopic starring Don Cheadle who makes his directorial debut on the movie. The pic tells the story of a few lost days in the life of the trumpet icon as he bursts out of his silent period, conspires with a Rolling Stone writer (Ewan McGregor) to steal back his music, and relives the years he had with his great love Frances Taylor.

The film is premiering October 11 as the closing-night selection at the New York Film Festival. SPC did not offer up a release date yet though it it certain to get a prime awards-season slot.

Via Deadline

* I have been covering the story of the Miles Davis Movie since 2008, so this is news that is long-overdue – and rather exciting. One step closer to the big screen.

MilesDavis.com Gets A Much-Needed, Long Overdue Redesign

The official website for Miles Davis finally gets a long-overdue redesign that delivers the proper online platform to help bolster the digital aspirations of the Miles Davis Brand, all the while presenting the fans a nice portal to learn about the jazz icon.

The new website still lacks a ‘voice’ behind the content to link together the news, the community, and the opinion that surrounds the jazz legend. But the new MilesDavis.com is a massive leap forward for the digital side of the Miles Davis brand, especially for the fans.

MilesDavis.com might lack a few of the subtle design and content features of a Sinatra.com, for example, but as far as corporate official websites go, the newly redesigned MilesDavis.com is a huge improvement to what Sony/Legacy had previously offered since taking over the digital operations from the Miles Davsi Estate many years back.

From a purely aesthetic angle, the new website is a major league upgrade from the design mess that preceded it. It’s much easier to navigate, much more focused on how readers connect with the various content. The decision to move to the WordPress platform was a wise one, and the theme they chose to publish with is solid.

We especially like the visual display of the Miles Davis discography broken up into the jazz legend’s most notable musical eras. We have presented this type of feature for a long time, but only via links.

It’s nice to see a version 2 appear on the new MilesDavis.com.

The news/blog is what you’d expect from a corporate source, but the information is current and provides good info for fans.

They even (finally) incorporated news about the upcoming Miles Davis Movie, which I have razzed them about for years.

The new website does not feature anything resembling a hub for ‘fans’ to interact via photos, comments, etc. That takes a little more management in the day-to-day operation, but the reality is that MilesDavis.com should be the #1 portal for fans everywhere. Too be fair, they do have a robust social media presence on Twitter and FB, which does solve some of the ‘community’ issues.

We have (lightly) bashed the official website for a long time; forever a glaring, weak link in the Business of Miles Davis. But now we applaud loudly the big changes made to the website.

The store features some nice apparel and music, and the new Biography – written by Grammy-Award Winning author Ashley Kahn – is superb. They should consider a visual timeline featuring the music and notable moments from Davis’ life.

Linking up with Worn Free for their Miles Davis apparel is a nice addition for people looking for cool t-shirts, hoodies, etc…

In the past I have written that the website just wasn’t good enough, not when associated with an iconic, worldwide brand such as Miles Davis.

So I’m here to say congrats to all involved with putting together a new Miles Davis official website fans can be proud of.

There’s still lots of room for further development of content and interactive features for the fans, but the new design and functionality gets an A.

New York Film Fest Announces Don Cheadle’s ‘Miles Ahead’ as Closer

It’s official. The New York Film Festival has announced the film that will be playing as the Closing Night Feature at this year’s 53rd festival, beginning this fall. The film is Don Cheadle’s directorial debut, Miles Ahead, in which Cheadle plays legendary musician Miles Davis. We posted a first look photo last year, and have been waiting for an update ever since. The opening night film was selected as Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, and the rest of the line-up will be revealed closer to the opening on September 25th.

Don Cheadle stated: “I am happy that the selection committee saw fit to invite us to the dance. It’s very gratifying that all the hard work that went into the making of this film, from every person on the team, has brought us here.”

Via First Showing

Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer Talks ‘Miles Ahead’ Project

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Roberto Schaefer, ASC, AIC, checked in from New Orleans, where he is finishing up a project with the working title of Geostorm. He has three more weeks in New Orleans, then a week in Hong Kong, and then he will head to New York to digitally time the independent film Miles Ahead, a crowd-funded Miles Davis project directed and co-written by Don Cheadle, who also plays the famous performer. After that, he plans to return to Los Angeles.

Roberto says Miles Ahead, which was shot in Cincinnati, Ohio, was a tough but terrific experience. About two-thirds of the picture was shot with Arri Alexas. A few scenes in tight spaces, like car interiors, were done with a Canon C500. “We also had a chance to shoot some Super 16 for the scenes that take place in the Fifties and Sixties,” he says. “It was very low budget and very ambitious. We were trying to do some really cool things, and I hope we succeeded. Don and [co-star] Ewan McGregor and all the people there were great to work with. It was good to do some stretching.

Miles Ahead is not a standard biopic, but it incorporates some strange episodes drawn from real life. “It’s kind of like a fever dream,” says Roberto. “We weren’t going for a classic jazz-photography look. We just went for whatever we thought would look cool. It’s kind of a period feel, but not painfully so. It was a fun experiment.”

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Photo: Brian Douglas

Worn Free Launches New Miles Davis T-Shirt Line

Los Angeles based apparel company Worn Free, known for its vintage original tees, have announced the launch of their new Miles Davis t-shirt line. The shirts and sweatshirts come in eight different unique designs celebrating the late jazz trumpeter’s legacy.

Miles Davis was a force in the jazz world and his contributions to music are still felt today. He is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. His career spanned over five decades and saw him perform with the likes of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane as well as now legendary artists including pianists Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, saxophonist Kenny Garrett and guitarist John Scofield, just to name a few.

Worn Free’s Steven Coe said, “As a huge fan of Miles Davis personally this is one of the rewarding projects that I have created for Worn Free. Miles’s family have truly been a joy to work with and have given me a lot of creative freedom and encouragement throughout this process.” Coe continued, “Miles is such an inspiration that the hardest thing has been narrowing down the designs, we have some great shirts in this first offering and many more exciting surprises to come.”

Miles Davis is noted for his fearless and restless leaps in music. His 1959 album Kind of Blue is the best-selling jazz album of all time and introduced modal improvisation and just over ten years later in 1970 Miles created jazz and rock fusion with his epic effort Bitches Brew. In his later years, he infused hip-hop into his music working with Easy Mo Bee on his posthumous 1992 album Doo Bop.

Miles Davis passed away back on Sept. 28, 1991 and his music is as relevant today as it was when it was breaking down musical barriers in the ’50s and ’60s. His likeness is featured on a U.S. Postage stamp, which has sold more than 23 million copies to date. Over the summer, he was also honored with a New York city Street re-naming of West 77th Street to “Miles Davis Way,” to honor his former place of residency. He is the only jazz artist to ever be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The Miles Davis t-shirt line is priced at $35 – $50 and is available exclusively here. Shirts include some classic Davis quotes including “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there” and “Don’t fear mistakes, there are none.”

Miles Beyond the Biopic: Don Cheadle Riffs on a Jazz Legend

Don Cheadle has managed to accomplish something no one has been able to pull off in two decades: serve up a bigscreen tale of jazz great Miles Davis.

“Miles Ahead,” in which the versatile actor portrays the legendary trumpeter, marks the directorial debut of Cheadle, who co-wrote the script. The independently financed production, made for $8.5 million, wrapped a monthlong shoot in Cincinnati in mid-August, capping a lengthy gestation period for a project that began eight years ago with Davis’ posthumous induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The picture, which has yet to score a U.S. distributor, is among a number of film endeavors centering on iconic black musicians — all of them divisive figures who were considered ahead of their time, with none of the films so far connecting with a wide audience.

Most recently, “Jimi: All Is by My Side,” starring Andre Benjamin aka Outkast’s Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix, bowed quietly Sept. 26, and has grossed less than $300,000 to date. “Get On Up,” the $30 million James Brown biopic, received a similarly chilly reception, despite major studio support Universal, grossing little more than its budget since its Aug. 1 debut. Alex Gibney’s low-earning documentary “Finding Fela!” about Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, opened in limited release in early August.

via Miles Beyond the Biopic: Don Cheadle Riffs on a Jazz Legend | Variety.

The Photo: Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

don-cheadle_612x655 The first image of Don Cheadle as Miles Davis appears via EW.

In an EW exclusive of the actor in character, Cheadle gave fans a first look at his interpretation of the icon during in the period leading up to his 1969 jazz-rock fusion recording In a Silent Way. “It’s surreal,” says the 49-year-old House of Lies actor, who in the photograph totes a trumpet and sports Davis’ trademark jheri-curled mullet.

Click to read the full interview….