Mel Tormé Would Be Proud of Jazz Great Jennifer Leitham
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
July 13 2012 4:00 AM ET
Jennifer, what was it like working on this documentary with Andrea Meyerson?
Leitham: I’m really glad Andrea approached me about telling my story. She did an amazing job of creating a narrative and story arc with all of the clips and stills and interviews. She’s been interviewing me for the last five years. We’ve become good friends, and we both feel comfortable enough with each other to say what’s on our minds. I’m also really glad the focus of the film has remained on my music and career. She has my utmost gratitude and respect.
What’s next for you both?
Leitham: I’m working on my book. I wrote a memoir during all of the flights I made with Doc Severensen, usually writing at 7 a.m. at over 30,00 feet — lots of typos, so I’m still editing. I’m composing again, working on tunes for my next CD. Hopefully I’ll be going back into the studio in the next year. I’m playing with my trio as much as I can. We’re playing a wonderful Jazz Festival in Mammoth Lakes, California this weekend. I’m also trying to attend the screenings of the film as much as possible. There are upcoming premieres for I Stand Corrected in Los Angeles at Outfest July 16th and QFest in Philadelphia on July 19th and 20th.
Meyerson: I will be starting another documentary in August as well as producing and/or directing some projects for other production companies.
Since the film is at Outfest on July 16, I wonder what Outfest represents for you?
Meyerson: Outfest is the reason I'm a filmmaker. I have been really involved with Outfest for a very long time. I have always been a member and my organization, Women On A Roll, has been a community collaborator for about 15 years. I used to produce their women's events and had the opportunity to meet many of the filmmakers. My involvement with Outfest is truly what inspired me and gave me the confidence to make my first film, Laughing Matters. So, obviously having the Los Angeles premiere at Outfest is perfect. We are very excited about it and hope it is as well received here as it's been at other festivals.
What's the response been like at those festivals?
Meyerson: The response has been wonderful. We just completed the film in April and the world premiere was at the American Documentary Film Festival on April 3. That festival screening ended on a high note when we won the Audience Favorite Award for Best Film. That was particularly meaningful because it was a very mixed audience — gay and straight, old and young. We have played in a three other festivals since and also won the Audience Choice Award at Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival. I love seeing how much the audience falls in love with Jennifer after the film. I am so lucky to have the subject of my documentary not only be so talented and articulate, but extremely endearing as well.
This film seems really divergent from your other documentaries, Andrea, in style and form. I think it’s one of your best.
Meyerson: Thank you. I didn't set out for this documentary to be different from my others, but given the topic, music, and history involved, I knew it would be. Actually when I first started working on this film, my intention was to make a short. But that changed quickly after my first extensive interview with Jennifer. I immediately realized that her story was too interesting and important and the only way to honor it was to make it feature length.