Music lovers were lucky when the documentary Woodstock was released a year after the festival. Organizers made plenty of mistakes with the festival, but arranging to film the event wasn’t one of them.
The legendary documentary is considered one of the best documentaries ever. A young film editor named Martin Scorsese, Thelma Spoonaker and director Michael Wadleigh used innovative techniques including wide-screen and split screen techniques and stereo sound to recreate the experience of the festival in all its peace-loving, mud-splattered glory.
The 2 and 3 panel split screen technique was an innovation born of necessity on the part of the film makers. With so much footage shot, and the studio’s unwillingness
to expand the length of the released movies running time, it was decided that a
way must be found to maximize the amount of footage that could be used. Because
of the wide-screen aspect of the release, they realized the multi-panel
format could be used most effectively to not only include as much film footage
as possible, but to also have concert footage AND crowd reaction shots together
on the same screen.
Unlike the festival, the movie was a commercial success. It was also a critical success earning an Academy Award for best documentary and earning Spoonaker, a nomination for film editing.
Various reissues have added footage not included in the original, so if you haven’t seen Woodstock in a while, you might want to give it a second look.
Michael Murphy’s Woodstock novel, Goodbye Emily, is now available on Kindle, Nook, most other e-book formats and at a bookstore near you.