The Man In The Red Bandana – 911 Documentary
We had the opportunity to sit down with Matthew Weiss, a practicing traffic attorney who can now add film director to his list of accomplishments. The Man In The Red Bandana is the debut effort of Weiss who first learned of Welles’ remarkable story over lunch with Jefferson Crowther, Welles’ father. Weiss was amazed and inspired and quickly decided that everyone should hear this story and obtained the Crowther’s permission and blessing to make the documentary.
This is a story of sacrifice, selflessness and how the actions of one man have touched and inspired others. Our film is about Welles Crowther, a 9/11 hero. Welles was tragically killed in the lobby of the South Tower when it collapsed. He stayed to help others and his heroics only became known 8 months after the tragedy due to an ordinary object … a red bandana. The film re-traces the unique manner in which his heroics became known, as well as his last inspirational hour (his finest hour) saving others from the upper reaches of the South Tower. The film, then, depicts Welles’ folklore stature throughout the United States including songs, artwork and babies that have been named in his honor. This legacy section leads up to the revelation of a remarkable secret about Welles that provides the perfect, inspirational ending.
OR: There are so many inspiring stories related to 911. What inspired you to take on the Man In The Red Bandana project?
MW: The inspiration behind the story was amazing on every level but what is truly incredible is how a piece of fabric, a bandana, could ease agony, soften tragedy and create legacy.
OR: When you first spoke to Jeff Crowther, Welles’ father, what was going through your mind?
MW: The first time I spoke with Jeff was over lunch and I was truly blown away by the heroics of his son. Welles saved, at least, 10 people including carrying one of them on his back down 17 flights of stairs through horrific conditions. He continued going up and down while the situation became severely catastrophic. He wore the red bandana over his mouth and this is what identified him as we learned through the survivors.
OR: In speaking with some of the survivors, do you believe that they keep Welles’ legacy alive and share their personal story or do you think that it is hard for them to keep reliving that ill-fated day?
MW: Some of the survivors speak about 9/11 and how they were saved by “a man in a red bandana” and others, will not speak about the tragedies of that day. It was challenging to get some of the survivors to speak on camera so, for some, I had to resort to inferior-quality archive interviews and even audio only bites. For me, it’s important to remember our heroes and honor those who have risked their lives.
OR: Can you share how the Crowther’s are keeping Welles legacy alive?
MW: The Crowther’s speak at schools, in different communities and anywhere they can share their son’s heroic story. They started a trust that has raised over 1m and use those funds to help personify the values of Welles with some great organizations. They do various fundraisers such as the Red Bandana Skate, Red Bandana 5k, to name a few.
OR: With the firemen that you interviewed for this documentary, what were some of the things they shared about Welles’ heroism?
MW: They all were impressed with Welles’ leadership in hellish conditions, and that we need more people in this world like him. I couldn’t agree more.
OR: When Gwyneth Paltrow was asked to narrate the story, what was her initial reaction to the Man In The Red Bandana project?
MW: She was moved by the story and was more than happy to help. Gwyneth’s subtle, somber and caring approach of telling the story really sets the tone for the film.
OR: How did you connect with Lyle Lovett to write the closing song for the movie?
MW: Stive Linek, a songwriter I know from Nashville, connected me to Lyle Lovett who collaborated with Steve in writing the song. It is a poignant and moving tribute and truly enhances the film.
OR: What are the three key takeaways from the movie?
MW: 1. The measure of a man isn’t his longevity, but how he spends his life.
- Follow your heart and dreams.
- Think of others more and less of yourself.
OR: Now that you have added movie director to your resume, do you see yourself tackling other topics and if so which ones?
MW: Yes, this experience has enabled me to work again with Chad Verdi and Verdi Productions on a new film, a feature called Vault. It is based on a true story involving the largest heist from a vault in US history. In 1975, roughly $30 million was stolen from a vault in Providence, Rhode Island. I love the script written by B. Dolan andTommy DeNucci because, like Man In Red Bandana, it has some amazing reveals.
OR: Have you left the field of law completely to become a full-time movie director?
MW: No, I’m still practicing law but on a more limited basis for select cases and matters. The remainder of my time is devoted to being a great father and husband, hot yoga and, of course, filmmaking.
OR: Any tips or suggestions for aspiring movie directors?
MW: Try to find an opportunity to work with something bigger than yourself – something that can impact others with your actions or outlive you. These types of activities provide a unique type of inner happiness that is not attainable in any other manner. I have been happier and healthier by committing my time, money and effort to tell and share Welles Remy Crowther’s story and keeping his legacy alive. It has been such an honor and privilege that the Crowthers bestowed upon me and I am (and will always be) deeply appreciative.
The movie is being theatrically released nation-wide and can be downloaded at iTunes or Apple. and I strongly recommend that everybody should see this documentary and share the story of Welles Remy Crowther. I did!