“PUNK’S NOT DEAD”: FROM CHEMICAL ABUSE TO MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (PART 4)

I understand it took five years for you to make. Why is this?
It actually took around four and a half. Docs take a long time to make. I think that time is pretty average. I know “Dig” took seven years. I had day jobs during the making of the film. And I had to succumb to the bands’ schedules, so I had no say over what they were doing or when – you just kind of have to go with the flow.

What medium did you shoot the doc on?
We shot on mini-DV. Sony TRV 950 and TRV 900. They were great cameras to shoot a doc like this on because they look like consumer cameras, so it didn’t draw a lot of attention to us.

How much did it cost (adjust the figure up or down according to studio/punk credibility rules) to make?
That has yet to be decided. Since we’re self-distributing, we’re still incurring costs. Marketing a film is expensive. And the licensing is insane! When all is said and done, it will probably be close $800,000, or maybe more.

Any favorite parts of the movie?
Yes, but I’m biased because they’re my friends. My favorite part of the film is the old-school bands still touring. I just love their morals and beliefs. Plus, I love their music. I also love the footage of the bands around the world that they all sent in to us. We had no idea at the time how great and touching that section would become.

Best and worst things about punk?
Best things – the music and the people. Worst thing – the judgement. Punk was never about that – it used to be that anything goes. Now, it seems as though many people feel superior and want to judge.

Why are the British bands so jocular as opposed to the much more serious face the Yanks put on? Think there are any major differences between the British and American scenes? Why cover both?
It’s true – Americans take punk so seriously. The British take it seriously as well, but they also take the piss out of it a bit. As for differences, I may be wrong, but in the UK, punk was born out of desperation and no hope. It was very working-class. I think the same is true for NY, but in many other cities, people got into it because they were bored or they related to the music or the politics or they were unhappy with the status quo, but many of them came from middle-class families. It’s important to cover both because both the US and the UK were integral to the birth of punk rock and to its growth.

Any bands/artists surprise you for positive or negative reasons?
Yes – some of the pop-punk bands surprised me. I didn’t realize how sincere they were or where they were coming from.

Anything you shot in the movie surprise you?
Nothing surprises me that much in punk rock.

Any areas of punk you wanted to avoid and, if so, why?
No. I think it’s pretty obvious that we tackled the elephant in the room (pop-punk). It felt necessary to include it since it’s become so popular.

What did you think of “American Hardcore”? Any other fave punk docs?
I thought it was an interesting film. I thought they did a good job. “The Filth & the Fury” is always good. As I mentioned earlier, “Decline (of Western Civilization)” is key. “Punk Attitude” was interesting. I say, go see them all! Support punk rock!

Are you pleased by the reaction the film’s gotten so far? Have audiences/artists responded as you hoped or thought they might? Any negative reactions?
I’m very pleased by the reaction that the film’s gotten so far. We got great reviews in major papers, but more importantly, during the festival run I’ve been able to see how the audience has reacted. Everyone seems to identify with the film. I hoped people would like the film, so it’s been really amazing for us to see the reactions first-hand. As for negative reactions, it’s funny – they usually come from people who haven’t seen the film yet, but just read what it’s about. They draw their own conclusions without having seen a frame.

Ever fantasized what it’s like to die violently…horribly? (Sorry, that’s a line from the classic 1985 punk zombie movie “Return of The Living Dead.” Feel free to answer. Or not)
I wouldn’t have known that if you didn’t tell me – I don’t watch scary films – I was traumatized in my youth when I saw “Night of the Living Dead” when I was too young.

Do you find punk guys (or girls) sexy?
I LOVE punk guys!!! They are very sexy (not to say that the girls aren’t hot, but that’s not my thing). I love tattoos, piercings, etc. Plus, most of them like the same music and have the same political outlook as I do. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few of my ex-boyfriends in the film (although I’m not saying who!).

Did you purposefully shy away from the fact that many hardcore punks are damage cases?
Are they??? Not the ones that I know. In DC, they were very thoughtful, intelligent people who had a lot to say. I love the early hardcore scene – it’s a huge part of my past.

So you think that the Warped tour is sincere in their supposed support of punk?
Yes. Of course, they want to make money, but who can blame them? Especially if you’re making money doing something you love. But I know Kevin Lyman and he wants to support the punk scene and music in general. He also gives back to a lot of charities, which is something we’ve also tried to do, and I respect that.

Do you like pop punk, or any of the bands representing that subgenre in here, or did you just stick them in to show the way punk has mutated over the decades?
Funny question. I did not originally like the pop-punk bands, and thought they had nothing to do with punk rock. I initially thought I’d really stick it to them. However, after interviewing several bands, I changed my mind. Many of the bands were very sincere, and I thought, who am I to judge them? A lot of them talked to me at length off-camera about bands they loved growing up, their past experiences, and how punk rock helped them. What they all said is valid. Let’s let everyone draw their own conclusions. Isn’t that what punk rock is all about – thinking for yourself? As for their music, now that I’ve heard it so much, it’s really grown on me. I would go see Sum 41 anytime and I actually just bought the new My Chemical Romance CD.

How much footage would you have for the inevitable DVD release, and what sort of footage is it?
We have crazy footage for the DVD release. Probably around 2 hours. You’ll have to wait and see. It’s some great stuff!!!

I understand you’re releasing the film independently, though you have had studio offers for this. Who offered you, and why release it yourself? Scared to lose punk credibility?
Can’t say who offered us – don’t want to burn any bridges! We decided to self-distribute the film for a number of reasons. First, none of the studios offered us enough money. We have spent well over a half a million dollars in licensing footage and songs for the film, and what we were offered wouldn’t cover our costs. Next, if we release the film ourselves, we know our target demographic and how to market the film to them. We know that many people didn’t even realize some of these other punk docs were out, so we’re making a huge effort to let everyone know that they can see PND in the theaters. As for credibility, it doesn’t hurt to stick with the old DIY approach – it’s been working for us so far.

Were you surprised at the response to the ‘international’ segment in the movie, with the amount or quality of stuff you were sent?
I was actually surprised we didn’t get more material submitted. We opened it up for bands all over the world to send in material showing us their scenes (including the US and UK, but we ultimately decided that they were already well-represented). Some of the material we couldn’t use because the files were corrupt, but we did get a great sampling from all over the world.

Will there be a soundtrack album?
Hopefully, yes.

What does punk mean to you?
Freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom to be who you want to be and do what you want to do (as long as it doesn’t hurt others). And the music is a huge part of it for me.

Does punk mean the same as it did 30 years ago? What did/does it mean? Are any two definitions of punk the same?
I think that’s a tough question that going to be different for everyone you ask. For me it’s changed because it’s not new to me anymore and because I’m older now. But for kids just getting into it, it may mean the same thing to them as it did for me when I first got into it since it’s new to them. I think Ian MacKaye sums it up very well in the beginning of our teaser (on our website at www.punksnotdeadthemovie.com – shameless plug). He basically says that for anyone who says punk’s dead, that’s a selfish concept, as if they own the definition of punk rock. Punk is indefinable, so it can never be dead and you can’t kill something that doesn’t have a single definition.

Is punk still relevant?
Absolutely! I think it’s more relevant now than ever. Punk is a great forum to get out your angst and your anger, and there’s so much to speak out against today. We never had to worry about being attacked by terrorists on our own turf. We weren’t at war for no reason. We weren’t the most hated country in the world. If you don’t like the status quo, do something about it to try to change it!

Don’t you think punk is something you outgrow?
No way. I think the film does a good job of proving that. The elders of the punk community may not look the same way or dress the same way they did 25 years ago, but there’s still a lot to shout about (see above question), and the music is still amazing.

Think there’s an element of eulogizing your youth with this movie?
Not really. I loved my youth, but I love my life today. And I’m still into punk. And the film is really about punk today, not a nostalgic look at the past.

What do you see the future direction of punk as being?
Who knows? Time will tell. Hopefully something new and shocking and dangerous will come along again, but it probably won’t be called punk because punk is now an identifiable genre.

Anything you’d like to add?
Yes. It needs to be said that without the support of everyone who worked on the film and volunteered their time, photos, video, etc., this film never could have been made. And the bands who gave us so much time and access were amazing. And the venues and festivals who let us film there were invaluable. Just the strength of the punk community in general proves that punk’s not dead.

Check out “Punk’s Not Dead” in a theater near you!




Posted on July 9, 2007 in Features by
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