Music fans may notice a familiar name in the credits when the 2017 documentary “Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport” screens on Channel 13 (WNET, New York), Jan. 3 at 10 p.m. Larry Fast co-wrote and co-produced it with director-editor Scott Morris.
From the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, Fast, who grew up in Livingston and now lives in the Gillette area of Long Hill Township, released a series of influential synthesizer albums under the name Synergy, and was a key collaborator of Peter Gabriel’s during Gabriel’s early years as a solo artist. He also has worked with Hall & Oates, Meat Loaf, Foreigner, Bonnie Tyler and countless other artists, and remains busy, at the age of 66, with a variety of music and film projects.
“Saving the Great Swamp,” though, marks the first time he has produced or co-produced a film.
Narrated by Blythe Danner, the film is a historical look at the successful 1959-1968 fight to keep a 10,000-acre jetport from being build in the area of Morris County now known as the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
Fast was a kid and a teenager during that time, but remembers it as a “pretty big deal.” Later, in the ’80s, he became one of the original members of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, an organization that formed “just to make sure there wouldn’t be overdevelopment, and things that would be detrimental to the swamp,” he says.
It occurred to him at the time, he says, that the fight against the jetport might make a good documentary, but he didn’t have enough experience in the film world to make it happen.
He has stayed interested in the subject, though, and his wife, Phyllis Wald-Fast, is now on the board of the Great Swamp Watershed Association (she’s an associate producer of “Saving the Great Swamp: Battle to Defeat the Jetport”). In 2014, Fast says, he and Phyllis went to a GSWA dinner “and there was a PowerPoint presentation by Mayor Nicolas Platt of Harding. He’s a descendent of some of the principal people, Marcellus Hartley Dodge and Geraldine R. Dodge, who figure very importantly in the story.
“He did his own PowerPoint talk through the story, and I went, ‘He’s kind of got the spine of the script there.’ So my wife and I went and talked to him, and we said, ‘We think it would make a great movie.’ And he said, ‘I think it would make a great movie.’ And a day later, we’re sitting around his dining room table, which happened to be in the very same house — the house he lives in — where many of the pivotal political and economic decisions of the opposition were hatched. And we brought in a good friend of mine for many years, Scott Morris, who’s a director and producer himself, and has PBS experience.
“With Scott as a co-producer, and my wife as an associate producer, we moved forward from that point.”
Fast didn’t, however, score the film. Morris’ son Ben Morris, who happens to be an award-winning composer, did that.
“There’s a lot to do when you’re writing the film and producing the film,” says Fast, “and having scored other films … if you take that seriously and do it conscientiously, you don’t have a lot of time for other things. So being in ‘management’ of the film, as it were, I kind of knew that I wouldn’t have the time to do it to the level that I would want to. And it’s better just to let that go, to somebody who is going to do a wonderful job. And we lucked out. All the pieces fell into place for us.”
Though this will be the film’s first time on Channel 13, it has had about 150 screenings on various public television stations, nationally, and been shown in local theaters including the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown; the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township; and the Clairidge Cinema in Montclair.
It has also been shown at some film festivals, including the Fall 2017 edition of the New Jersey Film Festival in New Brunswick, where it was named Best Documentary; and the 2017 Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Award for Documentary Television.
For information, visit savingthegreatswamp.com.