The farewell concert of the Band was extraordinary from the start: five hours long, with scores of special guests including Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, and a loving audience that had been served turkey dinners before the show (it was Thanksgiving). Director Martin Scorsese was prepared for a once-in-a-lifetime musical event and came with cameras in tow, maintaining a nuanced eye for action from set opener "Up on Cripple Creek" through "Don’t Do It," the band's encore cover of the Marvin Gaye song. It wasn't an accident that his cameras captured seemingly each solo and vocal delivery with perfect timing; he had painstakingly story-boarded each song beforehand.
Despite the affectionate nature of the evening, shooting The Last Waltz was not without its egotistical showdowns. Bob Dylan, in particular, came armed with stipulations about when he could be shot, and the restrictions were many. "When Dylan got onstage, the sound was so loud, I didn't know what to shoot," Scorsese once explained. "[Concert promoter] Bill Graham was next to me shouting, 'Shoot him! Shoot him! He comes from the same streets as you. Don't let him push you around.'"
After Scorsese fleshed out the project with backstage footage and interviews with the bandmembers (especially focusing on guitarist-songwriter Robbie Robertson), it was ready for release. It was immediately embraced by music fans (although Levon Helm disliked its focus on Robertson) and is still considered a landmark of concert filmmaking.