Professor emeritus' documentary shifts the spotlight off stage

Media Arts and Design

By Charlotte Matherly, staff writer

John Woody has a ton of lanyards, and every press badge from those many concerts and shows tells a story. 

Those experiences inspired his nationwide quest to document the pit — the area just under a concert stage where music photographers shoot stunning images of the artists. Woody's new documentary, “A Year in the Pit,” follows 45 photographers at 16 music festivals.

“We didn’t do a documentary about musicians, and we didn’t do a documentary about the people on the stage,” Woody said. “What we did is a documentary about that area between the stage and the fans … I’m doing something that very few people have done with photographers, is tell their story.”

In its world premiere, “A Year in the Pit” will be featured Dec. 11-12 at the Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students. Woody said he hopes the documentary will shed light on photographers’ stories and satisfy his audience.

Woody, a SMAD professor emeritus, shot and edited the film himself — and all with his iPhone 11. As he began traveling to music festivals to get footage, he said, he quickly realized he needed a support system. Because he didn’t have a crew to take with him, he built what he calls his “rig,” a complete kit for shooting with an iPhone in a small space. It has stereo, wireless and shotgun microphones, a Movi stabilizer with a counterweight system to secure the phone and external lenses that up the quality of the iPhone video. With that, Woody said, he was ready for anything.

“Just give me a Movi, give me an iPhone and give me credentials, and I’ll go anywhere,” Woody said.

Producer, music photographer and festival coordinator Bob Adamek was vital to the film, Woody said. The two had met a couple of times at different music festivals before Woody approached Adamek at a festival in Nelson County, Virginia, and pitched the documentary idea. Adamek helped connect Woody with festival directors and get him in the door to shoot.

The documentary has won several nominations and awards, Woody said, and after the film’s upcoming premiere, it will go on the festival circuit. Woody and Adamek have already entered the film in nearly 30 film festivals.

“I’ve never been happier,” Woody said. “I’m just really proud of … getting it done. I’ve done my job — hopefully, people will like it.”

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Published: Monday, November 15, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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