Billy Idol: State Line is a concert film that documents the rock legend’s April performance at the famed structure in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. The feature made its theatrical debut on November 15th, with additional screenings planned in the weeks to come (billyidolstateline.com).
Idol chose the location in an effort to raise awareness for a cause he strongly supports — the need for water conservation. He’s lived in California for three decades and sees how it affects the landscape and its population. He’s also enjoyed the Southwest’s National Parks, which he visits on his motorcycle rides. As such, he’s been working closely with the US Department of the Interior, and has appeared in a PSA campaign on behalf of the cause.
The new concert film was directed by George Scott, who has a history of working on music projects, including recent collaborations with Duran Duran and Experience Hendrix. It was Scott’s frequent collaborations with Ian Brenchley, the founder and CEO of Lastman in the UK, that got him involved on this project.
“It was all because of past relationships,” says Scott, who specializes in music documentaries and large concerts shows. “I'd never been to the Hoover Dam,” he adds. “Trying to think of when and where (to do) a concert? There [were] various options. Where we chose wasn't the easiest, by far, but it did give you that spectacular backdrop. I think if you're going to do anything with the Hoover Dam, and with that subliminal message, then you have to see the dam.”
The band and a crowd of 250 took over a heli-port on the edge of the canyon, which made for a dramatic background that changed from day to night as over the course of the show. The April shoot made use of 14 cameras, including three jibs, numerous fixed cameras, a drone and a Steadicam. Documentary footage was captured during the shoot, along with an acoustic performance of Billy Idol and guitarist Steve Stevens the day before the featured show.
The concert was shot continuously, though Scott says they were prepared to stop and reset, if needed. A live switch of the show was captured, though it ended up not being used. Instead, editor Phil McDonald, who is based in Glasgow, spent several weeks cutting the multi-camera edit.
“We worked very quickly,” says Scott of the edit. “I mean, essentially the concert was cut in three weeks. And it was another week or so for the documentary part, and then pulling everything together. We did the acoustic set, which was separate, and it was kind of incorporated into the documentary, so it wasn't a long edit, but [it] went through various stages of approvals, trying things and changing things. Essentially, the concert was finished at the beginning of July.”
The sound mix also went through several stages.
“The concert was mixed by Billy's guy, who's in Northern California,” Scott recalls. “Then, that was passed on to someone else, who did the 5.1 mix, (and) then someone else who mastered it. And then that went to someone else, who did the (Dolby) Atmos mix. The documentary was mixed by someone else, who is a documentary mixer.”
Scott is now on to his next project, a series about a luxury train that he’s been filming in Scotland with British actor Alan Cumming.
“I've just finished, (and) in the final edit of that right now.” It’s not a music project, which Scott notes is “actually quite odd for me.”