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INTERVIEWS

  • Cannes World Film Festival - Remember the Future

AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL D'OR, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER & WRITER OF "MR. NELSON ON THE NORTH SIDE"


Grand Winner 2022: Best Documentary Feature





INTERVIEW



Thank you for having us Daniel D'Or. What was your process in deciding to make this film?


I was approached by first time producers who asked for my help in making a film about Prince. My first question was: “Do you have rights to his music and is the Estate on board?” After all, how do you make a documentary about Picasso without showing his paintings? They assured me they did arrange a deal for the rights. I believed them based on their associations within the music industry; they also were individuals very close to Prince and had already raised some of the money. Of course I got excited, because access to Prince’s library of music would be groundbreaking for an independent film. So I did my thing, got a distribution deal and raised all the money. Unfortunately, I was misled as they never really had any rights, nor would the Estate and their consultant license the music to us — at any cost.


I grew up listening to Prince, but I wasn’t a super fan. Sure, I liked his music but I didn’t connect to his uniqueness like so many others did. But when I first started my research for this film, I discovered something unexpected. It was this intense connection between Prince and his fans. It wasn’t like an Elvis or Michael Jackson kind of attraction, it was different, much, much deeper. The connection was profound. His sincere messaging of love and unity for all, black, white, gay, straight, old, young, had been life-changing and affirming for so many individuals. And if you’re a fan of his, you know what I’m talking about.


Some said that Prince gave them personal strength, guidance and a sense of self-worth. Others said he had literally saved their lives! WHAT! Now I was really curious as to who this guy really is… and the deeper I explored, the more I realized I was discovering something that did not compare with any fandom I had understood before.


Sure his fans knew everything about him, his incomparable talent, the many instruments he mastered, the brilliant music he produced and they could recite every lyric he wrote. But the stories kept coming, from all ages and even from the many famous name artists themselves who shared that he was their deep life and musical inspiration.


I felt compelled to make a film that defined this perspective. What and who were his inspirations? What drove and nurtured Prince to become this musical genius superstar? And by way of his extraordinary influence, who in turn did he inspire in becoming the best they could be?


In fact, after three years spent deep within Prince’s world, I am a profoundly changed person. Not like a cult follower, but in strange way Prince became a mentor. I always questioned, “How would Prince want me to handle a certain situation relative to his story?” The answers were clearly my perspectives, but I can tell you that this influence subconsciously changed me; I now look at my friends, family and life differently. I’m a much better person for having been on this wild journey.


This film is a celebration that I want to share with his “fams” around the world and to those that never really knew this true musical genius of our time… Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson.





How did you choose the panel of participants?


This was the hardest part of the journey. My team and I flew to Minneapolis during a huge snow storm that shut down the airport and city streets only an hour after landing. The first group of individuals I wanted to focus on were these select super fans that Prince invited to Paisley Park for intimate performances. They would be invited sometimes only hours before the concert he decided to put on that evening.


Sometimes there were only a handful of people there. This group of “super fans” were blessed having these invites. Some of them had experienced hundreds of those shows, and their insight into Prince is beyond what just about anyone’s that he came into contact with. He trusted them completely. He called them “fams”, as I mentioned earlier. Rules were no cell phones, no pictures, no drugs and no alcohol. One of them described his intention was for this select small audience to “enjoy and live in the moment”. He could not stop creating or performing, so these private concerts worked out perfectly for him and these super fans. That was the first selection of interviews.


Their love for Prince had them protecting their experiences from the outside world. They came to trust us and these incredible stories emerged. The community opened up to us and then, one magical door opened with a man named Harry “Spike” Moss. He is a civil rights activist, loved by his community and was a mentor to Prince in his early years. Spike paved the way into a big part of Prince’s life that very few knew about.





Was there a measure of "Purple Magic" involved in the making, are there some particular anecdotes that you would kindly share with the audience, regarding what is often referred to as "synchronicities?"


Then off to Hollywood to interview the stars. Disappointingly, they all turned us down. The Prince Estate was still in probate court and it scared anyone that wanted to talk about Prince. No agents would allow their clients to talk. The one I really wanted on camera was Chaka Khan, because she knew and worked with Prince longer than anyone else in his lifetime. Again, closed doors from her agent after months of pleading.


One night, I took my crew of two for a late night snack and drink to Dan Tana’s restaurant in West Hollywood. It has a lot of wonderful history and vibe in the star world. Throughout my career, I met so many Hollywood icons there, sharing meals and incredible stories. In walks a wonderful singer by the name of Miki Howard. I knew and loved her music. I told her I was a fan and honored to meet her and that I loved this particular song. I guess it was something she needed to hear at that moment because she gave me huge hug and big kiss on the lips!! Wow! I was so surprised, but of course delighted. She said she wanted to introduce me to her friend and to join them for a drink. We walked behind a column in this empty restaurant and sitting at a table was Chaka Khan!!!


Yes! OMG! Miki told Chaka that she wanted to introduce her to her new friend and what I had said to her. Chaka stood up and embraced me!!! OMG again! The last thing I could tell them was we were making a film about Prince and I’d been trying to get her, Chaka, for an interview these past few months. For sure she would have thought I had stalked her, as we were literally the only people in the place — with my two team mates. They had spent the evening next door at the famous Troubadour listening to music and just dropped in for bite. We left the restaurant and I invited them to dinner some time. They lost their keys and I found them, so they were very grateful. Miki gave me her number and said they owed us dinner (not knowing if it was real) and we parted ways that evening.


Weeks later and returning back to Los Angeles, I tried calling and texting her to invite her and Chaka out to dinner. As I expected, no reply from that number… A week later, she texted back saying they’d be delighted to have dinner. We offered to take them to their favorite restaurant or one of our choice, or… we could cook them dinner. They came over! We listened to them writing songs together in our Airbnb living room. Wow! What a magical experience hearing these beautiful voices live and up front. We became fast and close friends and they helped open those celebrity doors. However, we were on an uphill battle, understandably, because the Estate still hadn’t settled.




What is the core direction of the film, in other words, what was your overall vision during the writing process?


Since the Estate wasn’t on board and we were prevented from including his music in the film, a true biopic was out of the question. So the focus was to explore who and what influenced Prince, i.e. musical artists, the war, the civil rights uprising etc. In turn we wanted to explore those that were inspired by him. As time went on, both triggered shocking revelations. The focus became the Community center called “The Way”. The center took youths off the streets and taught them Black history, Spike taught the kids how to dress, walk and have respect for themselves and others. This gave youth a place of their own, to grow and learn from mentors.


So many wonderful life opportunities were nurtured there, spawning tremendous success stories of which Prince was one. Others like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Senator Bobby Joe Champion, Jelly Bean and Sonny Thompson are amongst a few. It’s now become a mission for me to somehow recreate this extraordinary environment in other such communities, through charities and this film’s story.





Is there anything that struck you — other than love for Prince and his art - as being a common trait between all the speakers we see on screen?


Yes! The common trait was how deeply affected by this human being everyone was. I love Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, but this wasn’t fandom for an icon. It was a personal connection, with every single person. Prince had changed all of their lives profoundly through his immense and incomparable talents, his messaging of love and unity amongst all, his colorful image and confidence and, finally, his philanthropic nature. Prince helped so many individuals and charities financially, but swore them to secrecy. He did not want nor seek the “pat on the back.” It was private and real altruism, that completely changed the image I had of him. Lastly, his poetic lyrics resonated deeply with his fans, more than I could have imagined.


One music star said that Prince was the seed within him that is the center of all his creativity. After making this film, I now understand that sentiment. I couldn’t provide all the magical stories in this one film so I’ve just released all full interviews digitally streaming. On my site.





Your film is a definite must-see for every Prince lover on the planet, what are your hopes and perspectives in terms of distribution?


The film was in distribution with a sizable distributor. Just before its completion, they went into bankruptcy. I found it difficult to place it with any other distributor. There were offers from broadcasters, but they mostly wanted to wait for the $60 million bio pic that was about to come. So I decided to build a custom site to self-distribute. The industry offers many platforms that allow this, but not one offers exactly what Producers require.


That’s why I decided to build my own with the combination of plug-ins and existing platforms. I’m also integrating a fan base interactive opportunity for Prince fans around the world. This is increasingly difficult, as the Prince Estate is quite limiting from a rights perspective. Rightfully so, as Prince is a financial brand. I just want to share our hearts, not his image or music. After all, every Prince fan has all his music already.





Would you say that digging this deep into Prince's universe, and everything it brought to people worldwide, was a life-changing experience? If so, how?


I touched on this earlier so not sure how to respond without much duplication, but I can tell you this: so many people have credited him with literally saving their lives, i.e. a young teen growing up in the Midwest 1970’s who found himself repressing his feeling of being gay. His father was seriously homophobic and this kid had decided to take his life. Miraculously, he encountered Prince and his music which gave him the confidence that he was not alone. Prince’s messaging of acceptance of all, young, old, gay, straight, white, black etc. was so spiritually strengthening to youths of that era — and it continues, to this day.


I’m always amazed and heartfelt at Prince celebrations. The diversity is so wonderful and life affirming. There’s so much support and love of each other in the Prince fan community. I can only hope that it keeps resonating with future generations. This will sound strange, but this experience and connection to his story, music and fan base has taught me how to love again, something I lost so many years ago. I deeply respect others religious beliefs, but this experience renewed faith in myself.


I can tell you that the making of this film was not only the best experience of my life, but also the worst. There was much trauma and loss in my life throughout the making of this film that accentuated all my emotions in my otherwise leveled disposition. I think it ultimately saved me realizing how powerful the world of Prince really was and still is.


Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema


I do believe notable changes will emerge from the pandemic, and we will see a new cinematic paradigm. In the US, movie theaters/chains were hit hard by Covid-19 and some actually had to shut down or file for bankruptcy. Coupled with the monumental increase in streaming services, that provide convenience and high-quality content. This will always create that battle for cinemas to bring back people into the seats. But then again, there is something magical and existential about watching a film in a theater that brings some level of nostalgia. I also think that producers and distributors will be challenged as many of these streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, are creating their own content and not buying from independents. But in the end, it’s a win-win for the Film industry as the barriers and devastation caused by the pandemic will no longer be in play.


We were fortunate to be able and shoot two films in the US during the pandemic and provide work to some of the folks hit hardest in the industry. And specially grateful to Karolina for showcasing the heartwarming festival and highlighting a new wave of passionate and talented filmmakers.




BIO


Daniel D'Or

DIRECTOR, PRODUCER & WRITER





Producer and Co-Creator of Starhunter (2000), the 66 episode TV series, Daniel D'Or is recognized for producing quality feature films and television series for markets worldwide. He has an outstanding record of establishing long-term, profitable media companies in North America, including Canada's premier online post-production facility, Greystone Creative Services, which became a producing entity of substance under his leadership, involved in an impressive variety of television product.


He founded Ryan Helicopters, a helicopter company specialized in aerial cinematography from aerial action work to the coverage of major sports events and St. Lucia Helicopters (named in trade magazines as the most profitable North American helicopter company per machine hour.)


Dan also designed and implemented key interactive media technologies for Air Canada and Ontario Hydro, more than ten years before these became industry standards, now implemented worldwide.


He co-founded Spaceworks Entertainment with his business partner G. Philip Jackson, with whom he has teamed up for production since 1993, through their companies PNA, Danforth Studios Ltd and Greystone Studios Inc, producing some 18 features as well as the three TV series under its banners. Recent titles include co-producing Icon's theatrical comedy Wish You Were Dead (2000, starring Mary Steenburgen and Christopher Lloyd) and his original market concept which became the US syndicated, 66 episode series Starhunter (2000).


D'Or made his feature directing debut with the outer space drama Falling Fire (1998, TV, starring Michael Pare), a Showtime Network World Premier which went on to garner a Gold Award for Directing at WorldFest Charleston. The opening film at the Festival, it was again as the sole preview screening for Media at the Festival International du Cinéma Fantastique in Montreal. Dan also directed the UK segments of Starhunter.


His other producer credits include the cult favourite sci-fi feature Replikator (1994, feat. Ned Beatty, Michael St. Gerard), in which he directed and operated camera during the film's three breathtaking helicopter chase scenes. He produced another cult feature, the acclaimed virtual reality adventure Carver's Gate (1996, feat. Michael Pare) voted "Audience Favourite" at the 1997 Madrid International Film Festival and opener of the "Midnight Madness" segment at Atlantic Film Festival. He went on to produce many more commercially and critically successful sci-fi titles.


In addition, D’Or produced the action adventure Men of Means (1998, feat. Michael Pare, Austin Pendleton) marking the Spaceworks team's first foray outside the sci-fi genre. Dan is President of Spaceworks and currently engaged in the upcoming production of the TV series Year Zero, as well as two new features in co-production with Pacific Rim partners.


Filmography

Writer / Producer / Director

Producer

. FATman at Lightspeed (TV Series) (development executive) / (producer) (pre-production)

. 2021 Mr Nelson on the North Side (Documentary) (executive producer) / (producer)

. 2017 Teens 101 (TV Mini Series) (producer - 6 episodes)

. 2017 Michelle

. 2017 Lydia

. 2017 Demitreous

. 2017 Joey's Story

. 2017 Cyber Bullying

. 2017 Starhunter Transformation (TV Mini Series) (3 episodes)

. Episode #1.3 (2017)

. Episode #1.2 (2017)

. Episode #1.1 (2017)

. 2017 Starhunter ReduX (TV Series) (executive producer)

. 2013 Meltdown (executive producer)

. 2012 Ice Hotel (Documentary)

. 2011 Quebec Carnival 3D (Documentary)

. 2007 Fraud Squad TV (TV Series)

. 2007 Fraud Squad TV: Seasons 1 & 2 (TV Series)

. 2000-2004 StarHunter (TV Series) (44 episodes)

. 2004 Hyperspace II

. 2004 Hyperspace I

. 2004 License to Fill

. 2004 Negative Energy

. 2004 Just Politics

. 2001 Wish You Were Dead (co-producer)

. 2001 Drop Dead Roses (executive producer)

. 2001 Longshot (producer: Canada)

. 2001 BattleQueen 2020

. 1999 Space Fury (Video)

. 1999 Cybermaster

. 1998 Men of Means

. 1998 Shepherd

. 1997 Future Fear

. 1997 Falling Fire (producer - as Daniel Dior)

. 1997 2103: The Deadly Wake

. 1996 Carver's Gate (TV Movie)

. 1994 Replikator (producer - as Daniel D'or)

. 1993 Timestorm Theatre (TV Short)

. 1990 The Fateful Balance (TV Movie documentary)


Writer

. 2007 Fraud Squad TV: Seasons 1 & 2 (TV Series)

. Starhunter (TV Series) (creator - 22 episodes, 2000 - 2001) (co-creator - 1 episode, 2003)

. 2003 Rebirth (co-creator)

. 2001 Resurrection (creator)

. 2001 Travis (creator)

. 2001 Bad Seed (creator)

. 2001 Bad Girls (creator)

. 1997 Falling Fire


Director

. 2021 Mr Nelson on the North Side (Documentary)

. 2017 Starhunter Transformation (TV Mini Series) (3 episodes)

- Episode #1.3 (2017) ... (2015-2016)

- Episode #1.2 (2017) ... (2015-2016)

- Episode #1.1 (2017) ... (2015-2016)

. 2017 Teens 101 (TV Mini Series)

. 2011 Quebec Carnival 3D (Documentary)

. 2007 Fraud Squad TV: Seasons 1 & 2 (TV Series) (2007-2011)

. 2001 BattleQueen 2020

. 1997 Falling Fire


Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

. 2000-2001 Starhunter (TV Series) (director - 18 episodes)

. Eat Sin (2001) (director: UK)

. A Twist in Time (2001) (director: UK)

. Super Max (2001) (director: UK)

. Dark and Stormy Night (2001) (director: UK)

. Half Dense Players (2001) (director: UK)


Cinematographer

. 2012 Ice Hotel (Documentary)

. 2011 Quebec Carnival 3D (Documentary) (3D shooting)

. 1993 Timestorm Theatre (TV Short)



Links


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