“Filmmaker Alex Horwitz explains why “Hamilton’s America” is not your typical making-of.” Katherine Brooks (The Huffington Post) features filmmaker Alex Horwitz and asks key questions about his documentary Hamilton’s America. As a follow-up to our previous post, ‘HAMILTON’S AMERICA’ TELLS THE STORY OF A GREAT AMERICAN AND A GREAT MUSICAL (PREMIERES TODAY ON PBS), here are excerpts.
Just over three years ago, filmmaker Alex Horwitz decided to make a documentary. He didn’t know exactly what he was documenting ― at that point, it could have been a concept album or maybe a show. But Horwitz did know that whatever his college pal Lin-Manuel Miranda was cooking up in 2013, he wanted to be the one behind the camera capturing it all.
Fast forward to today, and Horwitz’s “Hamilton’s America” film, produced by Radical Media, is the behind-the-scenes passport musical fans have been waiting for. It does indeed follow Miranda as he perfects the songs and performances that make up “Hamilton,” the theater phenomenon that’s arguably become the center of gravity for pop culture in 2016. It moves from backstage on Broadway to the research actors embarked upon to craft their characters. But it’s hardly, as Horwitz was quick to point out in an interview with The Huffington Post, a typical making-of.
”That movie has been made, several times. It’s been made about Lin,” Horwitz noted, citing Radial Media’s “In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams,” a documentary about Miranda’s first Tony-winning production, a story of a company of young, unknown performers putting on a make-it or break-it show. Instead, “Hamilton’s America” would be about history ― “How Hamilton the man comes to life through whatever it is you’re doing,” Horwitz pitched Miranda.
To tell that story, Horwitz recruited not only a gang of “Hamilton” insiders from the cast and creative crew, but also a brigade of politicians and historians capable of drawing parallels between the very real theatrics of two centuries ago and the political maelstrom of today. From Elizabeth Warren to President Barack Obama to a famed historian who refers to Alexander Hamilton as an “asshole,” the resulting film centers on creative writing’s ability to bring the past back to life. [. . .]
[. . .] Obama is somewhat of a significant “character” in the documentary. At one point, you have this beautiful camera work that moves from a portrait of George Washington down to Obama watching a [“Hamilton”] performance at the White House. Were you yourself trying to draw parallels between Obama’s presidency and some of the narratives told in “Hamilton”?
I’m so glad you took note of that shot. And I think that shot is the answer to your question. We don’t have to do much work to illustrate the parallels between the life of “Hamilton: The Musical” and the Obama administration. Lin premiered the first song at the first art event that the Obamas held during their administration at the White house. We follow that through to an event they held in their final year, when they invited the full cast back in March. That shows the journey that Lin took, from a song that he had written and was performing alone, to the phenomenal success of the show with a full company.
I think a lot of journalists and critics have read plenty into the connection between the Obama administration and the casting of the show and the chronological life of the show. I don’t have anything to add other than what is in the documentary that you saw. You know, that shot tracking down from a portrait of George Washington to President Obama ― with Chris Jackson, an African-American man, playing George Washington and singing the words of George Washington ― says it all. My impression is that Lin was never consciously trying to… well, I don’t want to put words into his mouth. But I look at it as a beautiful accident of timing. You can’t really write better synchronicity than that.
[. . .] OK, you were obviously friends with Lin beforehand, then you spent three years filming him. Did he change throughout the course of “Hamilton,” as you were documenting him?
Lin has always been the same player, it’s just that the stage around him has gotten bigger and bigger. He is remarkably unchanged personally from the guy I met in college. Although I think his eyes have gotten wider as he himself has been shocked by the lengths to which “Hamilton” has changed American culture, he’s the same guy. That’s just a testament to him as a person. He is grounded and is as good a friend as he is a collaborator. I’m sorry to disappoint you and say that he hasn’t changed much. [Laughs] [. . .]
For full article and interview with Horwitz, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hamiltons-america-documentary_us_5806761be4b0dd54ce35d132