Street Singer Productions has announced their latest film, John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling. The feature-length documentary film — directed by Trevor Laurence and produced by Laurence and Woody Mann — is a profile of John Monteleone, one of the world’s greatest guitar builders and a living artist on permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“It was like meeting Stradivari,” recalls acclaimed musician Mark Knopfler who partakes in the film alongside the likes of musical luminaries David Grisman, Ben Harper and Frank Vignola, among others. Making its film festival debut on November 23 at the Tiburon International Film Festival at 4:00pm PT, John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling looks beyond the technical aspects of the cherished lutherie and examines the life, passion, talent and unique approach Monteleone takes to his art.
“It is a great privilege and honor to be documented in this very special way,” John Monteleone recently told Guitar World. “I am also deeply humbled by it.”
“John’s love for life and passion, whether it be food, music, art or architecture, just all goes into the instrument,” says Ben Harper. “He is a fearless luthier as hopefully you are a musician.” Jason Kerr Dobney of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City frames Monteleone as “a living master of the highest quality.”
Starting with his early interest in the craft at age 10 , Monteleone repaired the dilapidated family piano, then smashed a cheap guitar so he could see what was inside. John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling follows him through his realization as a young man that building instruments was actually a job, and on to his launch of a career repairing some of the world’s finest instruments.
Largely self-taught, Monteleone used his background in repair to begin building instruments, both mandolins and guitars, in the traditional style. Once he mastered this he began to innovate and design his own models. The film examines John’s influences including his father and uncle’s artwork, his own interests in Art Deco, architecture, cars, trains and the work of industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Branching out further, Monteleone drew on these influences to create one-of-a-kind themed guitars with names like the “Radio City,” “Sun King,” “Orange Blossom Special,” the “Radio Wave” and many others.
John’s family and creative roots are in Italy, where the film follows him to the northern forests to find the perfect wood for his next projects, and then on to Cremona, known as the city at the heart of violin building. John takes us on a tour through the Museo del Violino where the violins of Stradivari and the Cremonase masters are on display, and explains what can be learned from the old masters’ approach to building, and what must be learned on your own.
John Monteleone: The Chisels Are Calling is expected to have a full public release in 2022 (exact date TBA).