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Siblings Chip Away at Labor-of-Love Documentary

Gillian and Monroe Grisman are making a film about the history of Village Music, one of the most famous record stores in the world before the Mill Valley LP mecca shut down in 2007.

As a kid, begged and begged for a job at his local record store in Mill Valley, Village Music. Every time, proprietor John Goddard sent the pesky kid on his way as politely as possible.

"One day I was pumping his gas across town — I was probably 17 — and he finally stuck his head out the car window and said something like, 'OK, come in Friday and we'll talk,'" said Grisman, now 44. "He had pity on me. I ended up working there for four of five years."

The record shop was internationally renowned, and Goddard was a god in the good ol' fashioned record store business, a friend to music stalwarts ranging from B.B. King to Jerry Garcia to Elvis Costello and on and on. The store closed in 2007, within a week of the closing of the nearby Sweetwater Cafe, the most legendary music venue in Marin County.

Now almost five years later, Grisman and his younger sister, filmmaker Gillian Grisman — both of Novato — will spend the next four or five months editing their documentary film about Goddard's store, titled Village Music: Last of the Great Record Stores. They hope to premiere it at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October.

Monroe Grisman grew from a record store clerk to into a merchandizing expert in the music industry (including for worldwide acts such as Matchbox 20) and also into a first-rate musician in his own rite. He has played in countless bands over the past 30 years, ranging from tribute and party bands such as Petty Theft, AZ/DZ and the 85's to more original groups such as the Stereo Flyers and American Drag.

Gillian Grisman, 42, has worked in film, ranging from short clips and commercials to the 80-minute documentary called Grateful Dawg, detailing the relationship between the Dead's Jerry Garcia and the Grismans' father, mandolin virtuoso David Grisman.

"Gillian and I have been working together in one form or another for a long time," Monroe said. "This is my first film, but I have advised her a lot through the years. ... I kind of remember people more than she did as we got to know people in the industry.

"She wants this (film) to be told as true as possible, and obviously with her expert eye she can create some cool moments. I will be more aware of stuff that's more subtle, more about relationships and who we need to get in there."

The siblings have to weed through more than 1,000 hours of footage. They interviewed a who's who of modern music and relied on the encyclopedic knowledge of Goddard, another of the film's producers, to nail down the best photos and clips of the store’s final week.

Many people didn't realize, Monroe said, that Goddard filmed every one of his casual drop-in shows at the Sweetwater with multiple cameras. Many of the stars who stopped by were just passing by on Throckmorton Avenue and strolled in to see what was going on, then were talked into jumping on stage. It happened once when Monroe and his band, Triad, were playing an acoustic show and folk music icon Ramblin' Jack Elliott walked by and was persuaded to join them on stage for a number or two.

"If you think about the Sweetwater's legend, a lot of the big moments were at John's parties," Monroe said. "Nobody has ever seen that film, and we have full access to it. So that's Gillian's biggest challenge — taking a tremendous amount of information and rolling it into something comprehensive and palatable. That's something I could never do."

Even with a successful grassroots fundraising campaign to pay for some of the film's expenses, there is still a need for contributions, Monroe said. There are costs associated with using the Kickstarter website to raise awareness, entry fees for film festivals, packaging costs and some travel expenses.

"If people want to keep sending checks, we'll happily accept them," Monroe said. "There are a still a few people we'd like to interview, so our campaign for funding definitely has not stopped."

If you'd like to see this film to its completion, consider mailing a contribution to Hi De Ho Films, P.O. Box 2711, Novato, CA 94948. You can contact the Grismans via villagemusicfilm@gmail.com.

Born & raised January 28, 2012 at 05:16 AM
I bought all my 45's from Village Music, and my first Cassingle. It was an awsome store. RIP
Karen Pavone January 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Way to go Monroe!
S. Bell-Warner January 28, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Hooray, Monroe! These are the kinds of film projects we'll looking forward to seeing right in Grant Ave. when the renovated downtown Novato Theater opens. Keep up the good work.

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