Last Thursday an animated video version of Graham Nash’s Crosby Stills Nash & Young hit song ‘Teach Your Children’ was published on the The Atlantic website. Using his signature style of sketchily painting over photographs, Jeff Scher used charged images of of 60s grassroots protest for civil rights and constitutional freedoms to recent protests against President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional policies. A film veteran, Scher (@Fezfilms) linked the CSNY anthem to the social movements and political issues of the times. ‘But while the video convincingly draws parallels, it also highlights a key difference between the two eras,” says The Atlantic. “The relentless polarization of the political landscape since the 1960s has rendered social movements more partisan—changing both their tactics and their goals in the process.” I spoke to Scher about the making this video.
This is such a gut wrenching video for a CSNY song has anthem status. How did you get picked to do it?
The video I made for Joan Baez was really the calling card. Graham and Joan are both managed by Marc Spector, and it was Marc who reached out. Marc was the manager of the Filmore East in it’s glory days, so he’s a guy with very deep roots in American Rock.
Written by Graham Nash, I presume he had some input into the design?
When I got the request to make the video I looked at a lot of footage of Graham both in concert and conversation. It was immediately clear that he has always been a genuine humanist, political activist and a man with deep consciousness of politics. Bonnie [Siegler, his wife and designer] and I talked about it and it was really her idea to connect the two halves of the song “Teach your Children” and “Teach your parents” with the two points in American politics; 1968 and 2018. Her book, Signs of Resistance was practically a template for the video. So Graham’s input was primarily by being who he is and we filled in the rest. We really only communicated after it was done when he wrote me that I’d done right by the song.
What is the intention behind giving the song new life through your work?
I loved the idea of bringing this beautiful anthem of the 60’s back to a new generation that shares so many of the ideals and aspirations of 50 years ago. It’s a timeless song and it should be up there with, say a Woody Guthrie song as being such a perfect expression of the depths and seemingly endless need to keep up the good fight.
Technically, everything syncs and transititons so nicely. How’d you do it?
Working with Bonnie is great. She sees everything so clearly in the broader sense, while I am a shot by shot guy. Once I knew the general idea I jumped in. I started at the beginning and then built it shot to shot. I drew about two thirds of the video, then filmed the drawings. At this point I started to cut the video to the music. This gave me an idea of what worked and what was needed. I drew the rest, connected the dots, and the film just cut itself. It’s relaxed rhythm gave me lots of leeway to let shots hold long enough to resonate.
There are some obvious sync points, like the “wonder why” moment, and the Colin Kaepernick shot on “teach”, MLK on “dream”. I didn’t cut much of what I drew out, although a montage of Putin and Trump and a shot of draft card burners are two orphans. I’m sure I can sneak them into another film one of these days.
What do you want as an outcome of this work?
I would love the film to be inspirational and reassuring to the new generation of protesters. It’s a long haul, that’s the message. But it’s really imperative to never give up. We will win in the end and the real enemy is complacency.