Record stores and collectors have been a popular subject for documentary makers in recent years, with up and coming directors Sean Dunne and Jeanie Finlay both exploring the subject in their films. Reminiscent of Dunne’s 2009 short The Archive, Richard Parks’ 22-minute documentary Music Man Murray delves in to the life of an avid record collector who has dedicated much of his existence to building a record shop that he’s now trying to sell.
We spoke to Parks, eager to find out what attracted him to Murray Gershenz’s story and what it was like capturing his story:
“I love records, but as soon as I heard of Murray’s circumstances — trying to sell the collection, and nearing 90 years old — the records became the setting for a different story about leaving a legacy, nearing death, and — once I met Irv — about fathers and sons. So the story wasn’t just about analog formats or a man passed over by time, it was about something bigger/smaller than that. The store was the perfect place for this story to unfold, where Murray sits surrounded by the towering stacks of records he’s collected that, as Irv points out, he doesn’t have time to listen to. Murray’s story isn’t sad, though, which is one of the more pleasantly surprising things I found out in making this film.”
“The film was shot over the course of a couple months during short trips to LA from the Bay Area. I cut a lot of stuff. I think the film ended up being made up mostly of two long interviews (with Irv, and Murray) done in a day, the shots of the stacks, and then another day of hanging out with Murray while he got a bite to eat at his favorite deli and went to a singing class he attends dutifully every week. Oh, and the synagogue stuff. I cut a bunch of other interviews (one with Sarah Silverman) but it just felt right to keep the focus closely on Murray and Irv.”
There’s a great scene in the film where Parks questions Murray about his decision to withdraw from a life of religion, the scene offers a real insight into the steel and passion of Gershenz’s character as he brushes off the question like an interview veteran:
“He wouldn’t give me a straight answer, but that’s one of the scenes that best encapsulates who Murray is! It’s pure Murray. We were able to talk about most everything, and he was very open and trusting on the whole. I can’t imagine entrusting somebody with such a personal story.”
So what’s next for Parks?
“Today, I’m cutting a short documentary about the Biosphere2 project — the closed ecological system in the Arizona desert that eight researchers locked themselves into for two years back in the nineties. I’ve been shooting a love letter to the antique Toyota truck set in Oakland, Calif. called HI-LUX. And I’m working on a cookbook for a restaurant. I’ve also been filming my father, the musician Van Dyke Parks, who’d make a good subject for a documentary.”