The busy producer talks about making this unique film as well as her work on Top Chef and Project Runway
Jane Lipsitz is a woman with a lot going on. In addition to having two hits like Top Chef and Project Runway (as well as Emmy nominations for these shows) on the air, not to mention a bevy of projects in development, Lipsitz found time to produce her sister, Alexandra's documentary, Air Guitar Nation.
This film about air guitars and the people who play them was recently released on DVD, and Jane took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss making this film.
Aside from the chance to work with your sister what attracted you to Air Guitar Nation?
Jane Lipsitz: Well Dan (Cutforth; Jane's Producing Partner) and I first started it. I was an executive at VH1 and that's where Dan and I met. The first show that we did together was something called Bands on the Run. So we've always been very attached to music based projects. When we met (Air Guitar Nation associate producers) Kriston Rucker and Cedric Devitt), while we were working with them they came across this air guitar contest in Finland. When we heard about it it just played into all of our sensibilities. Music combined with their quirkiness, we were very drawn to it. So we put on the first US Air Guitar Contest and when we went there it was so infectious, seeing it was such an amazing event... we decided initially to do it as a television show. We were gonna do something with VH1 and then they decided that they were not going to move forward with it but we kept going, and as a result it sort of turned into this feature documentary.
Did you ever worry that there may not be enough of a story with people who play air guitar to make a feature length film? Or, once you saw the US contest was that fear completely disabused?
Jane Lipsitz: I think there's a bunch of components to the film that make it work. They all came together pretty quickly. The first was the event itself, as pure entertainment, whether it be costumes, the music or the absurdity of it... also the passion the people bring to it, that was the first thing. The second thing was you always have to tell a story and it was the evolving story of Toroque and C-Diddy, which it became clear was a rivalry in the tradition of great sports movies. So we started to see it as that and it became clear pretty early on, we felt like we had something solid.
Jane Lipsitz: No, not really. Having a director was little bit different. Alexandra stepped in a little more with her vision for what the film is and the direction of the film, but storytelling is a big passion of ours. It's really important to all of our shows. We definitely brought that to the film. It's very close but having a director involved in a feature it allowed us to take a step back more so than on our shows.
What was it like getting to work with your sister in this capacity?
Jane Lipsitz: It was great. She works on a lot of our shows, too. She works as a supervising producer and a field director. She's been with our company since we started. It's a lot of fun. You still have some of the childhood fights (laughs) but for the most part it's a lot of fun.
In making Air Guitar Nation what were some of the bigger hurdles that you came across?
Jane Lipsitz: Well, it's a labor of love which means that we didn't have funding. We had to come up with that ourselves... because of that it took a lot longer. It took a couple of years to put it together because we didn't have... we sort of had to grab help where we could. That was one thing, it probably took longer than we thought it was going to. The second was, dealing with music in film is always very challenging.
Is that from a rights standpoint or a performance perspective?
Jane Lipsitz: More in the clearance area it was a challenge. I feel like we ended up with a great soundtrack for this and everything worked out really well. I think, in terms of mood and pacing of the film.
Well, you have bands like KISS in the movie... when you think of air guitar that is exactly the band you think of.
Jane Lipsitz: Yeah, definitely. The music in the film feels very in-synch with the spirit of air guitar.
Why do you think Reality TV and movies like Air Guitar Nation pique people's interest so much? Do you think it's because it makes fame seem so accessible?
Jane Lipsitz: I think a lot of the shows that we do, whether it's Top Chef or Project Runway... or even this film about air guitar, as funny as it may seem, it is about people sort of achieving their dreams. It's very inspirational. Air guitar is a funny performance but at the heart of it it allows people to let go, and sort of find a part of themselves that they may not be able to access while they're sitting at their 9 to 5 job.
What are you working on next?
What's the name of that show?
Jane Lipsitz: We haven't announced it, yet. I think it will be announced in the next couple of weeks. We're doing a lot of development stuff and some other pilots. We just finished a pilot for Oxygen. We're in a transitional phase right now aside from the shows that are in our usual stable.
Air Guitar Nation is currently available on DVD from Docurama.
Dont't forget to also check out: Air Guitar Nation