“Mayor of the Sunset Strip” is a return for you to documentaries after the critically acclaimed film The Man from Elysian Fields — does being both a narrative and doc filmmaker make you feel psychotic at times?
(Laughs) I’m psychotic anyway. No, actually I love going back and forth between the two. Picasso made both oil paintings and collages. Not that I’m Picasso, but why limit yourself? Both are rewarding and exhilarating in their own ways.

What makes radio legend Rodney Bingenheimer worthy of an entire documentary? How do you choose good documentary subjects?
The second question I’ll answer first. I don’t make documentaries too often. They’re very, very labor intensive, the money is extremely hard to find, and they are very time consuming. Fortunately, I found great producers in Greg Little and Tommy Perna. I have worked on “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” on and off for over the last five years when the idea was first presented to me by Chris Carter. Consequently, the only way I can really answer your first question is to say that the subject really has to interest me. After Chris made the initial introduction, I found Rodney interesting not because of his accomplishments, but because of what he represented. Here was a young guy who was literally abandoned by his mother at Hollywood’s doorstep. Consequently, it was how he learned to make his way in the world that fascinated me. His ability to live in the shadow of pop stars – and how that eventually led to his ability to help other people achieve their dreams of becoming stars themselves – sometimes mega stars – despite the fact that to this day he has very little materially to show for himself. That was a paradox I found compelling. I guess it was Rodney’s unwavering loyalty to celebrity, to being “there” that fascinated me. And it was in that alone that I saw a story bigger than Rodney, rather I saw a story about all of us. I not only saw part of myself in Rodney, but I saw in Rodney what American culture has become. Our undying obsession with fame has become a way of life and it has helped fill in the cracks of our often-fragmented society.

What did you learn about Rodney that might surprise us?
I don’t know if I learned anything about Rodney that surprised me. What I did find surprising is what I learned about myself and how all of us in western culture, at the beginning of this new century, are almost completely molded and shaped by what is fed to us through the media. It’s not a healthy state to be in and I hope by making the film I have been able to give myself a little distance.

How do you go about getting funding for docs?
There is no one answer to this question. Look everywhere you can. My best advice is to just have the passion and will to do it. Find a camera and start shooting, even if it’s a little home video camera. That’s what my producing partner Chris Carter did before he approached me to come onboard. He just shot with anything he could find. If you have the will and perseverance you’ll find a way.

What do you hope audiences get out of the film?
I don’t mean to sound glib, but that’s really up to them. I guess the best answer to that is I hope they’re entertained and moved. And I hope they will recommend it to their friends.

Posted on June 17, 2003 in Interviews by

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