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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter


by director Leo Scott

The origins of almost anything can be put down to a series of random occurrences. This is true for many movies, but in the case of Val, it could not be more evident.

I met Val Kilmer, one of my creative heroes, a decade ago, around the time I was editing a half hour comedy directed by Harmony Korine, where Val was playing himself as a motivational speaker in a parallel universe. I was so spellbound by his performance that I felt a deep urge to tell him. Harmony convinced me to email Val and tell him. After half a day deliberating, I wrote to Val who replied almost immediately with the short response, ‘HK speaks well about you too, let’s sell our houses in Malibu, Nashville and London and set up a shadow puppet theatre in Bali.’ I was already in the process of moving from London to L.A. and within a few weeks, I became completely involved in Val’s creative world.

Like everyone else, I had my own projections of who he would be (in my mind a cross between Iceman and Rivers from Top Secret), but learned quickly what a knowledgeable, spiritual, generous, layered and utterly hilarious person Val is. From initially helping Val and his Mark Twain one man play through to unearthing this incredible archive of tapes and film, Val would let me more and more into his world, trusting me with countless important things in his life and in the process we developed a real friendship. I had never set out to tell his story but the more he trusted me, the more I understood him and the more I wanted to help share his inspiring story with the world.

We had been making a story about acting, centered around Twain, but had to put it on hold for a couple of years. It wasn’t until Ting Poo, my friend and collaborator of several years, sparked the project back to life. She’s an incredible storyteller, undaunted by the mammoth task ahead, with over a thousand hours of material spanning five decades. She had seen some of the archive a few years earlier and it had remained potent with her. We went to Val for his blessing and he trusted us to delve into it.

What a journey it has been and if I hadn’t sent that first message to him, I would not have had the incredible experience of being a part of it.

by director Ting Poo

When I first saw some of the material Leo was working with, I was blown away. It was so raw and personal and somehow felt nostalgic to my own life because I had grown up watching so many of Val’s films.

We had over 800 hours of footage from Val and another 200 hours that we either sourced or shot ourselves. One question that I get asked a lot is, “What was it like to go through all that footage?” The truth is, it was wonderful. At least once a day I would find something that inspired me, made me laugh, or broke my heart.

When I met Val for the first time, I was incredibly intimidated and had no idea what to expect. I had already begun looking at a lot of the footage he shot, and so I was getting to know him in the past at the same time as I was getting to know him in the present. What I found in both places was the same incredible spirit that commands every room he is in; he is equally as demanding as he is loving. What I continue to be in awe of is his lack of vanity both in front of the camera and in real life, and his bravery that seemingly comes so easily to him.

I was extremely lucky to have been invited by Leo and Val into their creative circle. So much of the intimacy between Val and the camera in the footage we shot with him present day comes from their deep friendship and mutual trust and admiration. It was a privilege not only to be trusted with the personal recordings of Val’s life, but to be so welcomed as a friend and collaborator, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

It was a dream of Val’s when we set out to make this film that it would one day play in theaters to cinema lovers. It is a movie as much about filmmaking and storytelling as it is about anything else. We could not be happier that that dream has come true.

Posted July 20, 2021

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