On July 1, 2011 Detroit suffered a serious loss with the death of David Blair, the renowned poet, musician and teacher. The cause of death was reported natural causes, potentially heat stroke.
It was actually through DETROIT LIVES! that I met Blair to begin with. We had finished up the Farmer and the Philosopher in 2009 and I wanted to do another short doc similar in style. I saw Blair perform as part of the first TEDxDetroit at Lawrence Tech and decided he was the guy– the “poet.” A few months later, we met and did an interview on the DIA steps and he performed his poem “Detroit (While I was Away).” It was as breathtaking as usual, even despite the freezing cold outside. That early, cold morning was kind of brutal for obvious reasons, but we had such a good time. David and I sang Hall and Oates songs in between takes of the interview complete with crude dance moves and waving hands. That morning and singing those songs are easily my fondest memory of the guy.
So, we never finished the film of Blair. There were plans to do an animation sequence on top of the footage of him reciting the poem similar in fashion to the work done by MK12 for the intro to the film “Stranger than Fiction” (see that sequence here). For the time, it was pretty ambitious, as motion graphics and that style of animation was kind of difficult to pull off. At least on our budget. Naturally, we ran in to some hurdles with the animation, and sat on the raw footage for a few months trying to assemble some firepower to push the film to completion.
Thanks to the work of Steven Oliver and some cramming, we took the various cuts of him delivering the poem “Detroit (While I was Away),” paired it with his interview, and scrapped the animations to create something. We released it in time for his memorial service and were very proud to know that was shown there. Hopefully the video gives folks another way to celebrate the life of such an incredible human being, performer and part of Detroit’s community.
Rest easy David Blair.