Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY

Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary (1970)
Michael Wadleigh -1969During the summer of Woodstock, Michael Wadleigh, 27, was gaining a reputation as a solid cameraman and director of independent films. At the time, he was experimenting with using rock’n roll in his films to emphasize the day's social and political themes, and he was working with multiple images to make documentaries more entertaining. Two years prior, Michael had left medical school with a draw to document the urban streets, which was the arena for the cultural conflicts of that time. He'd filmed Martin Luther King Jr., and also Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern talking to middle Americans on the campaign trail in '68.

Up until that time, rock documentation was not mainstream. No market, meant no profits, and Rosenman and Roberts of Woodstock Ventures couldn't entice any of the big movie studios into filming their weekend. They did, however; attract Michael Wadleigh. Their idea was irresistible to him, and although money was nil Wadleigh went for it anyway.

To get started, film was needed and Kodak wanted cash up front, so Michael withdrew $50,000 from both his personal and independent film business accounts. He put together a crew of cinematographers and assistants, including Martin Scorsese. Michael explained that no one was paid until after the job was complete, but promised he could get them in to the “be-in” of the summer. The crew signed up on a double-or-nothing basis, meaning that if the film made it, they'd get twice regular pay. If the film bombed, they'd lose.

The crew arrived in Bethel a few days before, and Wadleigh had rented all the rooms in a local motel for his team and equipment. But as the crowd continued to grow, and cars began to block the roads, the film crew found themselves sleeping under the stage for this historic three-day concert.

Wadleigh’s idea for this documentary was to show Woodstock as a modern-day Canterbury Tale, a pilgrimage to the land. He wanted the film to be as much about the hippies who trekked to the concert as about the music. He wanted the stories of the young people, their feelings about the Viet Nam War, about the times - and the stories of the townspeople. Michael put himself amidst the crowd, and brought the landmark concert as "up close and personal" as it was possible to get, without actually being there. Utilizing wide screen, split screen, and stereo-sound technology to the utmost, Wadleigh puts us right in the middle of 400,000 spectators.

Woodstock Ecstasy Caught on Film (3/27/70)
Woodstock Uptight as Hippies Move In (6/18/70)

Woodstock set the standard for all rockumentaries to follow. Mr. Wadleigh was able to exemplify what he set out to do. The images that he brought to us are thought to be indelibly connected with the struggles and ideals of the 1960’s. The three-hour film debuted on March 26, 1970, and won the Oscar for Best Documentary.

That ‘60s spirit continues to live on in the work that Michael Wadleigh and Cleo Huggins do through The Gritty Organization (www.gritty.org), a New Hampshire nonprofit organization whose primary activities are global media production and education.


- “How Woodstock Happened” By: Elliot Tiber
- Answers.com

The Woodstock Film Crew at the Woodstock '69 Festival
Barry Z Levine, Photographer

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             MOVIE PROMOTION
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Autographed Lobby Cards
(With Our Thanks to Michael Wadleigh)
Autographed Lobby Card - Woodstock 1969 Autographed Lobby Card - Woodstock 1969 Autographed Lobby Card - Woodstock 1969


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