Beatles Stories, now available on DVD, was a labor of love undertaken by director Seth Swirsky some eight years ago. Swirsky began interviewing individuals who had experienced personal encounters with The Beatles. Many of the interview subjects were famous (Jon Voight, Ben Kingsley, Henry Winkler, to name a few), some were not (Beatle fan and former “Apple Scruff” Cathy Sarver). All the stories—whether funny, touching, thought-provoking, or all of the above—have one thing in common. They’re all interesting.
Swirsky found success as a songwriter in the 1980s, writing hit songs for Taylor Dayne (including “Tell It to My Heart” and “Prove Your Love”). As a recording artist, Swirsky has released award-winning albums of original material. In the ‘90s, he added “author” to his resume with the best-selling Baseball Letters, a collection of his correspondence with MLB players that spawned two additional books.
I spoke with Swirsky about how he tackled the realm of documentary filmmaking with Beatles Stories.
You taped interviews with a lot of people for this film. How did you manage to pare it down to what we see in the final cut?
I had so much material to work with. To be honest, the Beatles are so sacred—not just to me, but to the world. I felt like I had to be very careful about how I presented it. I felt like the best thing to do was to try and create the feeling of reading a book. There’s a chapter title, yet I didn’t want each chapter to go by in one minute’s time. That would be too fast. Two minutes, three minutes, that might be too long. But it’s not like I had a rule. It was important to me that the stories were told, especially through the photographs.
The photographs used are quite illustrative of the story being told at any given time.
It took me a long time to find the photos and the other footage. If somebody was talking about the Beatles in 1965, the photo had to really reflect what they looked like in that period. And not just a generic photo. Like the Steve Kipner interview, the songwriter who told the story of how he was with Maurice Gibb and Lulu when Ringo Starr made him baked beans and toast. Then they watched a movie at Ringo’s house. It’s a hilarious story. But it was very important to find a photo of Ringo eating, which wasn’t easy to do. So it was somewhat of a sleuth-type thing.