South by Southwest begins this weekend, and while a lot of bands will take a new record or plans about an upcoming record to the music and film festival in Austin, Texas, not every band will take a documentary.
Next week, after the Avett Brothers perform Sunday night at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium, the band will debut “May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers.”
Seth Avett, one of the lead singers of the folk-rock band, is still decompressing from the entire experience.
“It was insane,” Avett said. “It was like being in a reality TV show, but with something that was more of an artistic endeavor.”
The 36-year-old said the band was approached a few years ago by Hollywood producer Judd Apatow (“Freaks and Geeks,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Anchorman”) about having a director and film crew follow them around while they prepared their next record.
Apatow is a fan.
Avett, a North Carolina native, acknowledged that as the band has become more successful, people occasionally pitch them different opportunities.
Most of the time, they politely decline, but they were fans of Apatow’s work, too.
Avett said, “Obviously, we’re not looking to jump on everything, but when an idea comes from someone like Judd, someone dedicated to making great films …”
He said they took it seriously and agreed to let cameras into their lives.
So, for about two years, a film crew led by producer/director Michael Bonfiglio (“Oprah’s Master Class” series) dropped in and out of Seth and Scott Avett’s life, followed them to the studio where they worked on their latest record, “True Sadness,” and then followed them home.
The Avett Brothers are no stranger to having cameras pointed at them. They’ve done more videos and interviews than they can count.
“But we’ve never done anything like this,” Seth Avett said. “I’ve never had anyone inside my home, not while I’m giving my baby a bottle. Traditionally, Scott and I think of home as a bit of sanctuary.”
He had no idea how many hours of footage the crew shot, but figured they had hundreds and hundreds of hours to sift through.
“I cannot fathom the editing process for this thing,” he said. “The first edit came in at four hours long.”
The finished product is much shorter and Avett isn’t completely sure what to make of it.
“I’ve seen it once,” he said. “Judd and Mike brought it to Concord. Scott and I watched it in a theater with our wives.”
Parts of it were a little unnerving for him.
“I hadn’t seen how I emote,” Avett said. “I got to watch my own body language and think about that. It’s kind of a bizarre thing to witness in that realm.”
Sounding a little self-deprecating, the younger of the two brothers said he wasn’t sure how entertaining he was to watch on the big screen.
“But I feel it [the documentary] is an honest portrait. There’s no sensationalizing. It’s just a well-edited portrait of the year and a half it took to make the ‘True Sadness’ record.”
“May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers” will be shown at the South by Southwest Film Festival March 15.
Presumably, it will be released to a larger audience sometime after the festival.
Avett was interested in seeing how people react to the film, though didn’t seem to think there were plans for a sequel anytime soon.
“That would be up to Mike and his patience,” he joked.
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter and on Instagram at instagram.com/billiscap.