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Motley Crue’s Final Performance Captured in a Film for the Ages

December 31st, 2015 marked legendary rock group Motely Crue’s final live performance. Band members Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, and Tommy Lee put on an unforgettable show for fans lucky enough to attend in person at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Fortunately the concert—including material from the previous night’s show and exclusive behind-the-scenes-footage—was captured on film. On June 14, 2016, fans can catch the one-night only screening of Motley Crue: The End as it debuts in more than 250 theatres across the country. Christian Lamb, who directed the concert portion of the film and oversaw the edit, shares what it was like to have a front row seat to Motley Crue’s last gig.

Tell us about your background.
 Initially I’d started out in photography, capturing everything from fashion to music and reportage. Eventually I found myself transitioning into the film industry. My first legitimate career move there was into editorial and post. I started out on a Lightworks offline system as an apprentice and ended up working as an editor primarily on commercials and music videos. My first break was a long form for REM and Warners on the Out of Time album. 525 Post was our online citadel in those days and a show biz community unto itself.

As I progressed in my projects and clientele, editorial led me into production and in turn cinematography. Feature films large and small mostly constituted those years with a stint at Digital Domain. I then segued into the music business for better or for worse, as a shooter to begin with and then on into content creation. Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro served as my staples in terms of aesthetics and workflow. My first full credit as creative director was the Incubus Morning View tour, which is also where I cut my teeth in multi-camera directing.

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with a certain level of talent over the years. Madonna, Tori Amos, Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz, Taylor Swift, and Coldplay were all clients, and all inspiring to me. I alternated between commercial work, multicam, music videos, and documentary for several years when Motley Crue came calling: The End marked something of a return to directing live concerts.

What was your goal for the film?
 Motley Crue has a storied past that’s already been well chronicled, so the last thing I set out to do was rehash it. Instead I wanted to find their present mindset, their thoughts on ending what’s been a 35 year relationship. That story alongside the visual concert was the backbone of the film.

We captured this time capsule, these perspectives, on what the group was going through in its final stage. It’s an honest portrayal of their internal struggles and in many ways relief in their own demise. We witness this end of what is really a marriage born of music. And it’s a film steeped in legacy for that matter, they’ll never play a tour again together.

One understands that sense of gravity as they perform Home Sweet Home for the last time. Vince starts to tear up, to break down at the microphone, and as we looked all around us, the audience there at Staples was overwhelmed in much the same way. That emotional element and the raw dynamic between the four them makes this film special to me, and hopefully for the fans as well.

What were some of the challenges you faced on this project?
To begin with, I was well aware of the responsibility on my shoulders. We all were really, my producers Nate Parienti and Dominic Cotter included. This had to be iconic in its own right, it had to glorify in some ways but it also had to paint truth, and in the end closure. This was it, there was one opportunity to capture this, and in a short amount of time. From story arc to multicam positioning and show capture our challenges were numerous and endless. We employed 13 Sony F55s with Cine lenses, a Phantom slow motion camera, and even managed a 50-foot Technocrane at Staples Center.

In addition to prepping and shooting these final two concerts, I also focused on the show’s build, the overhead rigging leading to stage construction. I wanted to see what most don’t, it was an opportunity to see the people who build this circus day in and day out. As the shows neared we conducted interviews with the band and with several of the crew members, to find the right tone and the right voices to carry the narrative.

Our schedule was rushed in every conceivable way but we ended up with phenomenal footage both in story and in music. The trick was then in finding these stories, finding these visuals amidst a myriad of footage. Once we’d concluded filming I went off grid to Mexico for 10 days to recharge and to wrap my head around it all. When I returned to LA it was into full post production, full immersion.

Tell us about the editing process.
Lamb: We had two separate edit suites running parallel to one another at Sunset Edit in Hollywood; one focused on the multicam concert and the other on piecing together the interstials, the documentary scenes. My editor Jonathan Covert and I spent 12 hours a day for over three weeks straight sifting through footage and toying with ideas as we did. I was passionate about getting it right so the hours just blurred into one another, we were locked in the cave subsisting on take out.

One story that took flight and put us in a conundrum was the failure of Tommy Lee’s Cruecifly coaster on our final night. It had worked without a hitch on the first night but, by stroke of fate or perhaps a final send off from the rock gods, ended up malfunctioning on New Year’s Eve. Tommy hung helplessly upside down for what seemed an eternity. He held his poise admirably I have to say, climbed down the trussing to the chants of the crowd, and threw the spotlight to Mick.

It was make or break in that moment and everyone knew it, but we all pushed forward and moved past it. Tommy handled it as best he could in that situation. It was obviously not what he’d envisioned for his last performance, but he and I agreed to acknowledge that it happened in the film, to be truthful about it. It was the only way. It’s rock, it’s real, and we weren’t out to make a fluff piece.

How did Adobe Creative Cloud help the process?
Lamb: I’ve used Adobe Premiere Pro CC exclusively for my post work so Motley Crue: The End was no different in that respect. I had a team of editors and assistant editors working around the clock at Sunset Edit pulling selects and stabilizing in Premiere Pro and After Effects. With two nights of continuous footage from 13 cameras, in addition to the Phantom and the documentary vignettes, there was a vast amount of content to go through. The multicam viewer in Premiere Pro helped tremendously to compare live and visualize as we cut, as did the ability to Dynamic Link between Premiere Pro and After Effects.

I used After Effects CC specifically on several of the dolly moves and Technocrane footage to reduce shake and smooth shots for the big screen. We also used After Effects to create the credits, and Photoshop CC in some of the interstitials. An organic workflow was key and, to that end, Adobe played a major role in the creative process for this film.

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
I’d say the level of raw honesty from the band and from the crew wasn’t surprising, but was appreciated. I felt like we were allowed access into reality, a truer prism of what was really unfolding. And for that I am grateful. I think we collectively told the story we intended to.

The consensus among the band was that creatively as Motley Crue, there was nothing left for them and that personally, in many ways, there was no love lost between them. It was time to move on. At one point Nikki says that although they’re not enemies, they’re not really friends either. That was quite a powerful statement. But that honesty was captivating and I think leaves fans with a more poignant and complex depiction of what really led to The End.

Photo credit: Stacie Hess

Motion Graphics & Animation, Video Editing