By Madeline Orton
When you’re a megastar like Bruce Springsteen, an entire film can be made just on your fans alone. With the upcoming documentary Springsteen & I, that’s exactly what director Baillie Walsh has done.
“He has such a great relationship with his fans. More than any other artist really,” Walsh explained. “He is such a great storyteller, which inspires storytelling in his fans, so it seemed a really smart idea and smart way to go.”
Following the template of Life in a Day, a crowd-sourced documentary by the same production company, Walsh created his film entirely from video submissions by fans and concert footage.
“We put a call out to fans on the fan sites,” said Walsh. “I loved the purity of the idea that I … didn’t film anything. I loved the idea that it was literally the fans’ voices.”
Between Springsteen’s years of concerts and his immense music catalog, there were a lot of stories to tell.
Lisa Purcell, whose video submission is included in the documentary, has a special place in her heart for Springsteen. “Bruce’s lyrics inspire me and his music helped me through a difficult health crisis. I’m a thyroid cancer survivor,” she said.
Another cast member, Nick Ferraro, shares his experience meeting the artist in person. “He pulled me up on stage and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen, I wasn’t sure, and he just gave me the mic and we winged it.”
Nick’s scene in the film shows him and his wife, Dotty, sitting on a park bench recalling the day Nick’s lifelong dream of singing as Elvis with Springsteen was realized. “We had a sign that said, ‘Can The King sing with The Boss?’” he explained. To the Ferraros’ astonishment, that’s exactly what happened — with the film footage to prove it.
More than 2,000 fans from around the world submitted videos sharing their personal Springsteen stories for Walsh’s documentary. For cast members, the chance to spread their love for Springsteen, and give back to someone who has given them so much, was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
“It’s about being part of this collective experience paying tribute to somebody that we clearly all have a deep love for,” explained cast member Maureen Taran.
Kate Schweitzer, also a member of the cast, expounds on what his music means to her. “I love the joy and the celebration, but he would also write about what’s hard and it’s sort of like that person who puts a name to what you’re feeling, and then it kind of makes it better,” she said.
“He’s … an extraordinary human being,” said Walsh. “And people somehow feel that they understand and know those stories… They feel that he’s writing about them.”
And now through Walsh’s documentary, fans are returning the favor.
“He saw the film and I think he really enjoyed it. I think he may be possibly self-conscious because it’s a love letter to him,” Walsh said.
“It was really great to see it,” shared Springsteen fan Debbie Kinzley of Hackensack, who attended an advanced screening for cast members and fans. “It was great. It was great.”
Springsteen & I will be released in select theaters worldwide July 22.
Major funding for NJ Arts is provided by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the F.M. Kirby Foundation.