Film : Kate Taylor close up
Instead of following the path of other members of her musical family, Aquinnah native Elizabeth Witham became a filmmaker. She and her husband, Ken Wentworth, founders of DocuTunesTV, are debuting their first feature length musical documentary on a subject close to their hearts.
"Kate Taylor: Tunes from the Tipi & Other Songs from Home" is a documentary film tribute to Ms. Witham's mother, Kate Taylor. It premieres tonight, Thursday, August 13, at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven at 5:30 and 7:15 pm.
"Making a film so close to home has been a really amazing experience for me as a filmmaker," Ms. Witham says. "There are definitely challenges to being able to step outside of the material and maintain the perspective of an outsider, which was probably my biggest challenge because we already know Kate's story and her music so well that it's hard to stand in the place of not knowing. But that was also something that made it very fun and exciting to rediscover my mom and her music through wearing the hat of an outsider."
Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth start their film at the tipi in Aquinnah where the family lived during the summers when Ms. Witham and her sister, Aretha, were growing up. Ms. Taylor visits the tipi with her back-up musicians, Sam Zucchini and Billy Derby, and sings songs inspired by the places she's called home.
Excerpts from home movies help tell the story of Ms. Taylor's childhood in the Morgan Creek Valley in North Carolina. She calls her brothers "all amazing guys," and says being the only girl in the family offered her good preparation for traveling with a band.
The Vineyard became the place where all five of the Taylor siblings felt the most carefree, and it still serves as home base for most of them. With parents for whom musical exposure was important, Ms. Taylor says music was a natural path for her and her siblings to take.
Kate formed her own band at age 15, and recorded her first album, "Sister Kate," in 1970 at the age of 19, with Linda Ronstadt and Carol King singing backup.
Generously laced with songs by Ms. Taylor, the film describes how close-knit the Taylor family has remained over the years and the depth of their Vineyard roots. Members of the family frequently play together or join in each other's performances. The Taylor/Witham documentary spotlights Ms. Taylor's appearance with her brother, Livingston, in a sibling memorial at the 9/11 Twin Towers site in 2005.
Ms. Taylor's mother, Trudy Taylor, still lives near Stonewall Beach in Chilmark, and brother Hugh Taylor runs the Outermost Inn at Gay Head.
Although Kate Taylor put her music career on hold for years to raise her daughters, she began recording again after her husband and manager Charlie Witham died in 2003. She released "Beautiful Road" in 2003, "Kate Taylor Live at the Cutting Room," and, last month, "Fair Time!"
"We hope that the viewer comes away with this is a film about not only Kate Taylor but also about Martha's Vineyard and its inspirational elements," Ms. Witham says. "What we know the viewer will come away with is a fusion between Kate's story and also a love story about the Island and how it has influenced her work and her life."
Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth have collaborated through their Island-based company, Film-Truth Productions, on a number of other films, two of which are Vineyard related. "A Home for Us All" describes the Island's affordable housing program, and "A Certain Kind of Beauty" profiles Vineyarder Dan Aronie, who has fought Multiple Sclerosis since he was 23.
"Kate Taylor: Tunes from the Tipi & Other Songs from Home," premieres tonight, Thursday, August 13, 5:30 and 7:15 pm, Capawock Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $10. Admission to the premiere party, $50 in advance, $60 at door, includes film admission and DVD signed by Kate Taylor. Ms. Taylor will perform with special guests. Tickets available at Alley's, Midnight Farm, Chilmark Store, Aboveground Records, and online at docutunes.com.