TAXI, the independent A&R service, concluded the first night of its annual three-day “Road Rally” conference in Los Angeles with a film screening of BANG!, the rockumentary about the life of the late Bert Berns––one of the greatest songwriters of all time and perhaps the most influential music executive to have ever lived. This critically acclaimed film was directed by Berns’ only son, Brett, who spent nearly 10 years (and most of the royalties that his father’s music left behind) in order to make a film capable of reintroducing the world to an iconic legacy and a historic catalog of rock & roll music that was cut short by his dad’s sudden death at age 38 years (in 1967).
Immediately after Friday night’s screening, director Brett Berns was joined on stage by his associate producer Betsy Hammer and co-producer Brooks Arthur for an interactive panel with audience members. The commencement of this Q&A session was noticeably hard for the emotional director, who also had to answer multiple questions about the other star of his film––Ilene Berns. She was the director’s recently deceased mother, whose tenacity, talent and perseverance were similarly showcased in the sentimental documentary. BANG! depicts how Ilene Berns was forced to assume all of her husband’s music business and parental responsibilities in the wake of his abrupt death. If fact, the film refers to Ilene Berns so often that, during the Q&A, Brett Berns jokingly mentioned that he and his co-panelists were thinking of making a BANG! PART II in her honor.
Despite the initial sadness of the three panelists, they happily reminisced about what it was like to know Bert Berns, expressing to the audience how their love for him (as a person, musician and a businessman) fueled their grueling efforts to complete the entire production process for BANG! They also shared how the breakthrough success of BANG! helped them to gain traction in a victorious campaign to earn Bert Berns his rightful, posthumous, induction into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame class of 2016. As the Q&A session for BANG! reached its conclusion, Brett Berns, Betsy Hammer and Brooks Arthur merrily shared their thrilling plans to invigorate the legacy of Bert Berns even further, with a biographical feature film in the works and a Broadway show that is already well into production.
Friday night’s meaningful BANG! event began with Brett Berns expressing to the audience how the world had once forgotten all about his father. And it ended with a joyous Q&A session in which he vowed to never let that happen again.
Text & Photos by Miguel Costa