Frank Marshall has some of the most impressive bona fides in the film industry. Starting out as a volunteer-of-all-trades, including an extra, on Peter Bogdanovich’s debut, TARGETS, he has gone on to a stellar career as a producer, with and without wife Kathleen Kennedy, he put Indiana Jones on the big screen, as well as Jason Bourne, not to mention sending Michael J. Fox BACK TO THE FUTURE in a DeLorean. His dream, though, was to make feature-length documentaries, a dream I asked him about when we spoke by Zoom on March 14, 2022, just before its SXSW premiere. The interview topic was his latest documentary, JAZZ FEST: A NEW ORLEANS STORY that in its 90 or so minutes tells the history of not just the half-century of the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, but also of the power of music in good times and most especially in bad.
We started out, though, with the surprise hit of the very first Jazz Fest, the Gospel Tent, and went on to talk about the supremely ecumenical take on which music is presented that rules the festival. Hint, fame takes second place to talent. That led to his paean to Quint Davis, the festival’s director, and my paean to how Marshall skillfully encapsulated the enormous story he had to tell into a feature length documentary, and his description of his process.
We finished up with Marshall explaining his love of making documentaries; why life is to be enjoyed; his the importance of seeing a film on the big screen; the festival’s return in 2022; and why Aaron Neville has the last word, or, rather, song.
Marshall produced and co-directed JAZZ: A NEW ORLEANS STORY with Ryan Suffern, and his previous work would take several pages to summarize. In addition to the ci-mentioned films, Marshall produced GOONIES, POLTERGEIST, and was instrumental in bringing Orson Welles’ final film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, to audiences that had waited decades to see it.