Richmond, Virginia metallers LAMB OF GOD entered into a worldwide distribution deal with Specticast (LED ZEPPELIN's "Celebration Day", Paul McCartney's "Rock Show") for their Don Argott-directed ("Last Days Here", "Art Of The Steal", "School Of Rock") feature film "As The Palaces Burn". Filming for the movie began in 2012 and concluded in March of 2013.
"As The Palaces Burn", which should not be confused with the making-of documentary packaged with the recent re-release of the 2003 LAMB OF GOD album of the same name, was conceived to be a documentary focused on the power of music and its impact on cultures around the world and its ability to bring together people of all nationalities regardless of religious or political differences. After a worldwide casting call, filming took place in Colombia, Venezuela, Israel, India, and the United States. As filming reached its conclusion, the documentary was forced to take a major turn when the band's lead singer, Randy Blythe, was arrested in the Czech Republic and charged with the murder of a fan in June 2012. Granted unique access to Blythe's saga, Argott's filming covered Blythe's 38-day imprisonment in Prague, his release and the band's return to live performances, and finally Blythe's trial for murder in Prague in February 2013.
Asked how close he was to completing his initial project when Randy was arrested, Argott told Empire: "We were in the phase where we were done shooting and we were putting the film together. But as soon as we got the phone call [about Randy's arrest], I was like, 'Well, we've got to get to the Czech Republic!' In the first day or two, there was a lot of uncertainty about how this was going to shake out: the vibe was that it was a big misunderstanding and a blip on the screen, and the band might only end up canceling one festival date. Once it was clear it wasn't going to be that easy, I really pushed Larry [Mazer, LAMB OF GOD manager] that it should be a big part of the film. Everybody was very hesitant, because obviously it's a nightmare situation and this is only a movie. When you make documentaries, so much of it has to be about walking that line between being in the right place at the right time but also respectful to the situation. That's tricky to navigate, so a lot of it is based on trust, and the idea that your subject knows what you're trying to achieve and you're not trying to be exploitative. So I was respectful of that, but I was also like, 'What are we doing here? This is a big opportunity! We should be jumping on this!'
"We had developed a really good relationship with Larry and the band up until this point, and since Larry's office was so close, I really wanted to go and interview him and talk about what was going on. He didn't want to agree to that, kept insisting that he wasn't going to do it, so in the end we just fuckin' showed up. That's the scene that's in the film where he's on the phone. Two days later [producer] Sheena Joyce hired a cameraman in the Czech Republic just to cover the arraignment part. And then Randy was in jail, and at that point we had the sit-down discussion about how we were actually going to proceed with the film.
"I spoke to all the guys in the band individually, as friends first of all, just to gauge what they thought, and the feeling was that it was Randy's call: if he was okay with us making these events part of the film, then they were okay with it. But no one could get to Randy because he was in fuckin' prison! It wasn't like I could shoot him an email. We had to tread very lightly.
"A week or two into Randy's incarceration, I went over to the Czech Republic with the band's lawyer Jeff, and Randy's wife Cindy, and I brought the camera just to see what I could get. I didn't film a whole lot on that trip, but Cindy and I hung out, and what came out of that trip was Randy's agreement that this was important and we should keep documenting as part of the film. Once he was on board, everybody else was more open to talking to us. From that point on I was around as much as I could be, in Virginia with the band and in the Czech Republic. Much like every documentary, there was no blueprint: it was just organic. Life happens and you suddenly wake up and find you're making a different film to the one you thought you were making."
Regarding how he got permission to film in the courtrooms in Prague, Argott said: "I had emailed the judge before the trial asking permission to film, and he said we could only film the opening of the trial and the verdict. So that sucked: that didn't seem like it was going to be great. But like anything you can't get hung up on the first 'no.' Once I was there, I asked the lawyers if they were allowed to record stuff. And they were, for their own purposes, so I was able to give them some audio recording equipment so that at the very least I'd have had audio, and I'd have figured out how to use it with court sketches or something, like you see on the news. Slowly I was acquiring the content.
"Then we started pushing the boundaries of what we were allowed to shoot, basically keeping the cameras rolling until they noticed, and the judge started to loosen up. And then something kind of crazy happened where part of the trial was postponed for a month because there was a key witness that wasn't available. And during that hiatus, there was another high-profile legal case going on in the Czech Republic that was being televised, and I think our judge was like, 'Hey, I've got a high-profile case! I deserve some media too!' So when we got back we were allowed full access to film and we got a ton of footage and some great drama."
Read more from Empire.