Trio craft documentary about instrument’s culture, history
By CAMERAN RASMUSSON – Staff Writer
SANDPOINT – It’s hard to ignore a harp guitar when you first lay eyes on one.
As musicians and guitar-makers, Anthony and David Powell have answered their share of questions from onlookers curious about the uniquely-shaped instruments – essentially a combination of conventional guitar with additional strings available for plucking. Distinctive, too, is the passion that the instrument inspires among its devotees – a force that eventually influenced the Powells’ career as artisans.
“When Dave first saw a harp guitar, he just looked at it longingly and said, “That’s such a cool thing,”” Anthony Powell Said.
Given that blend of curiosity and enthusiasm, it’s only natural that a documentary about the instrument would be produced. “The Hollow Arm,” a feature-length documentary written and directed by Sandpoint native Alden Morgan, follows the instrument’s history and the culture surrounding it, as well as performances from its most dedicated adherents. The film is set to premiere at the Panida at the end of the month.
“Being from Sandpoint myself, I knew that once the film was complete I wanted to have a screening at the Panida, where I performed quite a few times in high school in various school bands,” Morgan said. “It’s very exciting to come back to Sandpoint and share this film with the place where I grew up.”
The Powell brothers have taken on a great many projects in their time, but they said helping the creation of a documentary was unlike anything they’ve ever done. They took on the project with Morgan, their friend and fellow musician, who had already produced a documentary short called “Harp Guitar Heroes.”
When he decided to expand the short into a movie, the Powells were happy to assist in developing the project.
“The biggest question up front was how to make a story around an inanimate object,” David Powell said. “That’s how it ended up being (harp guitar musicians) telling our stories.”
One of the biggest opportunities for filming occurred in 2012 at the tenth annual Harp Guitar Gathering. A multi-day convention for harp guitar players, builders and enthusiasts, the gathering was the ideal location to collect footage from some of the most prominent harp guitarists playing today, including Andy McKee, Stephen Bennett and more. As the foremost cultural event surrounding the instrument, the Harp Guitar Gathering makes its Idaho debut in Coeur d’Alene this year Oct. 3-5.
A large portion of the movie was also shot in Tarzana, Calif., at aficionado Gregg Miner’s The Miner Museum – a priceless collection of rare and unique stringed instruments – which gives the subject matter a historic context. Finally, Morgan dropped by Sandpoint to visit the Powell brothers’ very own Tonedevil Guitars workshop and collect B-roll footage throughout the town.
All that travel and work resulted in a documentary that spans four states, and seven cities but maintains one central theme: the love for an under-appreciated and fascinating instrument.
“The Hollow Arm” is set to premiere in Sandpint at the Panida Theater Friday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a concert performance by the Powell brothers and Arvid Lundin at 8:45 p.m. Tickets are available at Eve’s Leaves, Eichardt’s and Flatpick Earl.