Rock Fish Stew

Rock Fish Stew team members Mika Chance and Ivan Weiss at work as movers unload Steinway pianos for Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" at Big Ears 2014. Image by Kate Joyce

Rock Fish Stew (RFS), based in Durham, N.C., explores the artistic drive, devotion to craft, and the daily processes of imagination. Viewers come to understand the connection between creators, their histories and the worlds that shaped them. RFS’ earlier projects include: The Jazz Loft ProjectBull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark, and The Education of Ida Owens.

Over the past few years, RFS has focused on the Big Ears Festival and the city of Knoxville. In 2014 and 2015, Sam Stephenson and Ivan Weiss led their team of documentarians from around the country to Big Ears, and this March they will return for the third time. With hours of footage and tens of thousands of photographs, RFS will fashion a sprawling musical journey through this dynamic, “scruffy” city.

Big, Bent Ears—a 10-part multimedia series for New York-based literary journal The Paris Review, as well as an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, N.C.—has served as an introduction to this project. Along with the festival, the series included material on legendary New Yorker magazine writer, Joseph Mitchell, whose first book (1938) was called My Ears are Bent.


Executive Producers

Sam Stephenson

Ivan Weiss

Photographers and Cinematographers

Alex Boerner, Cinematographer

Carter McCall, Cinematographer

Mika Chance, Cinematographer

Jem Cohen, Cinematographer

Levon Henry, Interviewer and audio documentarian

Kate Joyce, Photographer

Jonna McKone, Cinematographer

Ligaiya Romero, Cinematographer

Richard Rothman, Photographer

Pratishtha Singh, Interviewer, audio documentarian, and coordinator in Knoxville

Additional Contributions

Bryan Crow, Liaison to AC Entertainment in Knoxville

Jack Neely, Historian and writer

Erin Donovan, Liaison to Visit Knoxville

Tori Ralston, Project coordination

Natalie Smith, Graphic designer

Loch & Key Productions, Video production house in Knoxville

Tennessee Archive of the Moving Image



Below you can find a series of images by RFS' Kate Joyce chronicling the Big Ears shoots, with Sam Stephenson, Ivan Weiss, Ligaiya Romero, and Mika Chance, as well as AC Entertainment's Bryan Crow and Emily Harenza.

(Kate Joyce created the series of audience photos on the cover of this website, made in the Bijou Theatre.)