If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast director Danny Gold discusses feeling compelled to incorporate music into the documentary, meeting cultural icons and what he hopes people take away from watching the film.
HBO: How did you become involved in this production?
Danny Gold: [Executive Producer] Aimee Hyatt and [Producer] George Shapiro had decided to move forward with George’s passion project regarding people living well after 90. They watched my movie 100 Voices: A Journey Home and they liked it. We met about this project and they offered me the directing job, which led to me co-writing and producing with them as well.
HBO: Do you have a favorite segment from the film?
Danny Gold: Every segment touched my heart in some way, so it’s hard to say which one was my favorite. Being in the room with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Norman Lear was amazing. These are people I grew up admiring.
HBO: Why did you decide to have Carl Reiner conduct some of the interviews?
Danny Gold: Carl has a natural curiosity and he’s great person to have a discussion with; that lent itself nicely to having him speak with Betty White, Kirk Douglas, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Dick Van Dyke. It was more of a discussion than an interview. The film really evolved into a combination of discussions, inspirational stories, comedy and music.
HBO: Can you explain your use of music into the film?
Danny Gold: I have a very strong passion for music and incorporating music organically into story. It was quite exciting to film Tony Bennett and go to Capitol Records to film Dick Van Dyke. We filmed on Stage A, which is where Frank Sinatra sang all his amazing hits.
HBO: How did the Dick and Arlene Van Dyke studio moment come about?
Danny Gold: They were singing and dancing together during our interview and it seemed like music was such an important thing to them. I wanted to see if they would push the envelope with me and go into the studio and record a song. They were so great and supportive of the idea. We decided to first cut the song and have them sing it, and then film the session of them singing it with a stylized performance. You see in the film they go from being in casual clothes to being a little more dressed up.
HBO: What about the musical number in the credits?
Danny Gold: The last song is called “Just Getting Started,” by lyricist Alan Bergman and his wife Marilyn Bergman. We went back to Capitol Records and filmed Alan singing it, and had an amazing session there. They wrote the song for the ending credits, but then I thought, he’s over 90 and decided to show him singing it.
HBO: Did you learn anything from speaking with the subjects in the film?
Danny Gold: I think all these people have so much wisdom to share. We did interviews with people from all different walks of life, but I think there’s a similarity between all of them. They all have a passion for something and wake up in the morning with a purpose, have friends and enjoy laughter. Those are all ingredients to living past 90.
I look at the movie as a valentine to all those living after 90, and something inspirational for the rest of us. I want people to feel like they have a lot to look forward to in life.
Watch If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast on HBO.