Sam Green has made a lot of films.
But “The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller” is the only film he made that was someone else’s idea. And it would lead him to a documentarian’s paradise.
About six years ago, Green found himself sitting in a room at Stanford University, surrounded by papers — the largest collection of papers ever belonging to a single person.
There were photos, sketches, correspondence, newspaper clippings, even laundry receipts and bills. Collectively, it is estimated to be 270 feet worth of paper — a record of every 15 minutes of his life from 1920 to 1983, making Fuller the most documented human life in history.
He called this scrapbook of sorts his “Dymaxion Chronofile,” and it would become the bones of Green’s live film, which he will perform with Yo La Tengo on Saturday, June 16, at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
“I’m always happy to do it anywhere; it’s like an old friend,” Green said. “It’s a great piece that people like. Buckminster Fuller is so interesting and relevant, and a lot of people don’t know who he is — or if they do, they don’t know a lot about him. So I’m always happy to spread the Buckminster Fuller word. And, also, it’s just fun to perform.”
At each screening — and no two are ever the same, Green noted — the filmmaker narrates live, cuing images, archival footage and interviews from a laptop while Yo La Tengo performs their original score.
It was a collaboration that Green called “a magic experience.”
“We created a portrait of him, using music and material from the archive,” Green said. “It’s roughly chronological and talks about his inspiration and his struggles. He was somebody who failed many times and, at the end of his life, he was still going at it very strongly, but the world was going in a different direction.”
At his core, R. Buckminster Fuller was a grandiose and generous thinker of the 20thcentury, overflowing with ideas. Having been expelled from Harvard twice — first for spending all his money partying with a vaudeville troupe, and again for simple lack of interest — he was neither an architect, nor a designer, nor an inventor, and yet he was all of those things, Green said.
He was odd, and enigmatic, and compelling, with infinite energy and an idealistic outlook on the world. He believed in “doing less with more,” and always had something to say, famously putting together the lecture series called “Everything I Know,” which was 42 hours long — and executed without notes.
He was an early proponent of conservation and environmental stewardship as social justice, and widely credited with the popularization of the geodesic dome. He was not the original inventor, but he received its patent in 1954.
“I once knew Buckminster Fuller the way many people know him: ‘Oh, he’s that Dome guy.’ That’s basically all I knew about him,” Green said. “The more I learned, the more I was taken with his ideas and also him as a character. He’s endlessly fascinating. He is, in many ways, very hopeful and idealistic, even a utopian person. And there’s something very lovely about that.
“But at the same time, if you look at what he hoped the world would be like and what it looks like now,” he said, “there’s also something heartbreaking, too.”
The live film walks the line between those two emotions, Green said, just as he did sitting in that archive room years ago.
“He was consumed by this idea of making the world a better place, and also he was a complete oddball. He was sort of like a person who wore many hats — way, way, way before there were people who wore many hats,” he said. “I have scratched the tiniest surface of that archive. I spent weeks there and have probably seen 5 percent of it. Mine was a curated journey through it. I knew things to look out for and asked people to suggest things, so it’s not like I just got some tiny obscure corner; I sort of hit the greatest hits.”
“I was really taken with him, and still am,” he added. “He is such an interesting and relevant character. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll definitely make something with this. And I’m so glad I did.”
“The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller,” a live documentary presented by Sam Green and Yo La Tengo, will be performed on Saturday, June 16, at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Tickets range from $40 to $120, or $38 to $115 for members. For more information, please call (631) 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.