A look inside the mind and approach of one of the world’s greatest instrument builders. John Monteleone, a hero to guitarists everywhere, specializes in acoustic archtop guitars, yet his instruments are as sought after by rock musicians like Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler, as they are by jazz players. Some see him as a modern-day Stradivari but Monteleone doesn’t think about such comparisons, he just builds with the musician in mind. “What music will this instrument play?” is the question he asks. The results are never quite the same but every note on the fretboard always rings as clear as a church bell.
This feature-length documentary film will look beyond the technical aspects of the craft of guitar building and examine the life, passion, talent and unique approach John Monteleone takes to this art form. Starting with John’s first interest in the process: when, as a child, he smashed a cheap guitar to pieces in his basement so he could see how it was put together, then following him through his realization as a young man that building instruments might actually be a job, and on to his innovations that have driven the archtop guitar to new heights of musicality.
The incredible sounds of these instruments are also reflected in the designs that inspire people to collect them as works of art. The Chisels Are Calling will present Monteleone’s visual influences, including designer Raymond Loewy’s Studebaker Avanti car, Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotive, Lucky Strike, BP and Coca Cola logos, as well as guitars based on industrial designs including Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building, the Spirit of St. Louis and the Cincinnati Union Terminal.
Cameras will also follow John when he’s not building guitars, providing a view into his unassuming lifestyle. When not in his workshop Monteleone spends time with local friends and musicians, makes his own wine, plays piano, cooks and paints. In short, he takes time to reflect and in so doing gains the insight and inspiration needed to build with elegance and purpose.
After learning about his process, A-list clients and life beyond building, we will accompany John to Tuscany, Italy where he will teach a workshop for luthiers of varying levels. We will watch as he interacts with students and helps them raise the level of their craft.
The Chisels Are Calling will seek to inspire and entertain as it gives a glimpse into the work and perspective of a world class artisan.
Photos: Rod Franklin
click on a photo to enlarge