by director Greg Camalier
In the beginning, for the first few months after we had the idea to make the film, I tried to get out of directing it. I knew I wanted to try film making as I was deeply missing the creative outlet in my life, and I really wanted to make a narrative film but I would never ever have guessed that I’d make a documentary. In the end, I directed Muscle Shoals, my first film, and I’m ever so thankful I did.
Muscle Shoals is a story that I feel honored to have helped share with the world and it’s enriched my being in ways that will take the rest of my life to absorb and appreciate. In making it, I felt like I was carrying a precious vase that I couldn’t drop, and the deep friendships I developed with many members of our crew is something that I’ll both personally treasure as well as something I’ll call upon for the rest of my career (hoping and assuming I have the ability to make more films). Their expertise and dedication to helping bring out the tale of Muscle Shoals in all of its complexity and heart enabled me to focus on my vision for the film…which itself unfolded over the course of our journey as we got into the people and music of Muscle Shoals. On top of all that, engaging the artists and individuals we did, both local to Muscle Shoals as well as those who’d visited and recorded there, was quite literally like finding myself in the midst of an extraordinary novel.
Muscle Shoals and the people who created the story have a soul and a pulse and I knew that I wanted to capture as much of that essence as possible in the film. Even though much of the story occurred many decades ago, I felt it imperative to make it feel relevant and contemporary because it is still a living piece of history that is in fact still writing its next chapter. Thus I wanted to marry the past and the present through the use of archival footage and pictures, but to do so in manner that also wove that material into the people and place today. Both very much still exist as living/breathing entities.
Muscle Shoals is a story that I feel found me as much as I found it. It drew me in, it kicked my ass, and it rewarded me in ways I that suspect will continue to unfold for the rest of my life. There were so many profound, comical, challenging, and daunting moments in its making that I can only hope I have the ability and privilege to continue to make films that are as rewarding as this one has been. I can only hope that whoever sees Muscle Shoals finds something in it to move them in ways that it has moved me.