Ten years ago, Sam Green and Brent Green were in dramatically different stages in their lives—and, despite their eponymous surname, not in the least bit related.Sam was 39 years old, riding the tailwind of an Academy Award nomination for his 2004 documentary, “The Weather Underground,” which centered on a group of young radicals who, during the late 1960s and 1970s, attempted to violently overthrow the American government.
Brent, on the other hand, had just been fired from his job waiting tables at Red Lobster. He was 25, with a high school degree, no money and a lifelong artistic itch.
On a whim, he applied for a grant through the Creative Capital Foundation—and, not long after, he found himself among a group of burgeoning artists and fellow filmmakers at a retreat at Wells College in Aurora, New York. And Sam was one of the advisors.
“I was really nervous when I went there. I thought they had made a mistake,” Brent recalled last week. “I thought, any minute, they were going to say, ‘You don’t have to give back the money, but you need to leave.’ That’s what I thought was going to happen the whole time. I felt outclassed by everyone.”
But Sam recognized his talent almost immediately. And the pair hit it off right away.
“He’s a great artist,” Sam said of Brent last week. “And he’s a weirdo, in the best sense of the word.”
During a separate telephone interview, Brent said of Sam, “He’s incredibly charming and brilliant, and I was already a fan of his stuff.”
He hesitated, and continued, “I always think Sam looks like a Kennedy, and I look like someone who shot a Kennedy. I would trade with him in a minute. I bet he would agree. He’d probably agree with me to my face, and say something flattering if I weren’t there.”
The Greens both say they parted ways that summer on friendly terms, without any specific plans to reconnect. But, six months later, they did, on a random street in Utah, with the Sundance Film Festival as their backdrop—they were both participants.
“I was just wandering around and, at some point, I was walking toward Sam,” Brent said. “It was totally random.”
Over the last decade, the pair of kept one another apprised of their latest projects. In recent years, their artistic visions have somewhat aligned—at least in terms of medium—allowing them to finally collaborate.
For the first time ever, Sam and Brent will share a stage, each taking turns to present their own collections of short, live films narrated by each filmmaker in front of an audience on Friday night at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, accompanied by musician brothers Brendan and James Canty—the former most notably of Fugazi, the latter of Nation of Ulysses and, more recently, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists—in an age when watching a movie without checking Facebook is a lost art form.
“Everything now is streamed, and we’re watching everything alone on our laptops and iPads, I think people are hungry for and appreciate kick-ass live events. I don’t necessarily want this to become huge—me and Brent and a couple other people are doing it—and I’m happy to have it be a small niche in a way,” Sam said. “It’s all of the elements of a movie—music, images, narration—but it all happens live. And what we’re going to do at the Parrish Museum, we’ll never do the same way again. This is the debut, the premiere—for better or for worse.”
To anyone who asks Sam on Friday night whether he and Brent are related, he said he won’t deny or confirm it. The filmmakers often think they’re cousins, he said, though they’ve genealogically ruled out the possibility.
But that doesn’t seem to matter to Brent. He’s perfectly content to keep the rumor alive.
“Sam told me he told you we weren’t related. I’m disappointed,” Brent laughed. “I’m going to keep it going anyway. I wish we were.”
Filmmakers Sam Green and Brent Green will collaborate with musicians Brendan and James Canty for a program of live film, narration and accompaniment on Friday, April 10, at 6 p.m. at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. The program will include performances of “Strange Fates,” “EE Chapter #2 and #4,” and “Carlin” by Brent Green, and “The Rainbow Man’s Ex,” “Planting Trees Is a Utopian Act,” and “The Last Person in the San Francisco Phone Book,” by Sam Green. Tickets are $10, or free for members, children and students. Space is limited; advance reservations recommended. For more information, call (631) 283-2118, or visit parrishart.org.