It was in the early ‘60s at the Cinémathèque in Paris that I met Jean-Luc Godard and we talked about doing a film together. His idea was to set up a town somewhere, and my partner Ricky Leacock and I would arrive and shoot whatever we found there, with no script or preparation on our part, like a newsreel. That film never happened, but a few years later Godard decided he wanted to make a film with us. PBL, forerunner of Public Television, agreed to produce it. The film was to be called 1 AM (One American Movie), and it was to be about the rising resistance to the Vietnam War and the impending revolution that Godard was convinced was about to happen in the U.S.
After shooting the film, Godard and Leacock both decided to leave town, Godard going off with Gorin to start a new leftist cinema and Leacock to teach at MIT. I was left to deliver something to Public Television or face severe contractual coercion. Thus, 1 AM became 1 PM (One Parallel Movie – or One Pennebaker Movie, as Jean-Luc has called it.)
Ricky had filmed pretty much what Godard wanted, but I was the extra camera that nobody noticed, and I filmed whatever looked interesting. So when I began putting the sequences together as Godard had suggested, I saw a lot of stuff I’d shot that hadn’t been planned, and I was soon making a film of my own. I doubt it was the film Godard had in mind when we started, but then, it seldom works out that way anyhow. I found what happened entertaining and filled with surprises. It’s some sort of history. I’m grateful to Jean-Luc, Ricky and everyone who showed up to see what would come of this crazy idea, and I am continually amazed that such a film would ever get made.
D A Pennebaker
A Film By D A PENNEBBAKER With JEAN LUC GODARD & RICHARD LEACOCK Starring RIP TORN, LEROI JONES, ELDRIDGE CLEAVER TOM HAYDEN, & THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Camera: JEAN LUC GODARD, RICHARD LEACOCK, D A PENNEBAKER Sound: KATE TAYLOR Editor: D A PENNEBAKER Produced By PENNEBAKER-LEACOCK, INC. Directed By D A PENNEBAKER 1971, 95min., Color. © 1971 Leacock-Pennebaker, Inc. All rights reserved.