I love Elvis … Mitchell

I’m in my hometown of Cave Creek, Arizona prepping a short film, and since my parents have internet service dating back to the dial-up Pleistocene, I’ve been seeking alternative media outlets. (A shock to one’s internet-addicted system, for sure.)

One pure joy, and happily corresponding with my immediate need to don the director’s hat, is listening to Elvis Mitchell’s radio show on movies, popular art and entertainment, “The Treatment” on KCRW.com. I’m listening to pod casts of show after show after show, walking the rural desert streets, watching big trucks with horse trailers fly past me … and fast. Elvis’s soft voice in my ear, guiding me through ways in which to think about contemporary movie making, is the perfect companion on the road.

Consider the following recent guests: Geoffrey Smith (director, THE ENGLISH SURGEON), Nancy Miller (creator, “Saving Grace”), Quentin Tarantino (well, you know) and Anne Fletcher (director, THE PROPOSAL). Here we have, in just four recent installments, representation across work made for extremely different movie-and-tv-going audiences: an independent documentary recently broadcast on PBS’ POV, a popular television crime procedural, a big budget auteurist Hollywood gore fest, and a big budget star-driven Hollywood romantic comedy. Elvis has amazingly broad taste! And he treats each guest with equal respect in terms of the artistic merit s/he brings to the table. Speaking of s/he, he seems to have more guests that are women, more guests of color – making Hollywood actually seem like it’s diverse! Of course he keeps an eye out for these few folks, skewing the real numbers of makers out there, but given a choice, I’ll live in Elvis’s world any day.

He also asks the right questions. Unlike the attention-seeking James Lipton or any given slap-it-together-fare on DVD extras (although of course some are quite good), Mitchell consistently elicits insight from artists that not only entertains but also provides plentifully for other artists. Lynn Shelton on “organic directing” on the set (HUMP DAY), Nancy Miller on writing for Holly Hunter (“Saving Grace”), Chai Vasarhelyi on creating an “emotional arc” in her documentary (YOUSSOU N’DOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE) – there are simply articulations here that are qualitatively unique – no other show as richly mines the creative process.

And that voice! Listening to Elvis is great – intonations, lilts like buttah. I also love imagining cinematic technique through a radio filter – a uniquely visual medium paired with the ghostly, evocative qualities of solo sound. Thank God it’s not a TV show, with boring talking heads, foreshortening one’s ability to imagine the scenarios being discussed. I’m sure my Elvis-love would extend to watching him on the tube, but for now, I’m very happy on the desert road with Elvis and guests in my ear.