Here is the next interview in our new 10 Questions series, featuring artists, photographers, and filmmakers involved in punk, hardcore, and independent music.
We recently caught up with co-director/producer Deedle LaCour, and director of photography/co-editor, Justin Wilson of the upcoming documentary Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL.
1. What was your introduction to this music scene and the Descendents/ALL?
LaCour: I got into punk rock in the early 90’s. Not exactly the golden age of punk or the Descendents but to quote Chris Shary “You can’t choose when you are born”. So as a “skater” teen in the 90’s I got on board as soon as I could. I was part of a small music scene and we all played in bands and loved the Descendents and ALL. My bandmates and I all gravitated to the melodic stuff but we also liked it fast and hard, so naturally the Descendents and ALL were at the top of our lists. We became diehards and embraced the Descendents/ALL mentality and philosophy. Questing ALL! Going for ALL! In ALL things.
Wilson: I was introduced to the Descendents when my best friend in high school played me a Somery tape. They had so much more conviction in their playing that the current punk bands and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
2. How do you find the balance between your day-to-day priorities of family and work with the pressure(s) of completing this film?
LaCour: Making this film has been one the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I’m married with two young kids and have a very busy career as a film and video editor so it’s a juggling act. Lots of weekends and late nights. My wife, Marissa LaCour, who is also one of the film’s producers, has been extremely patient. We have awesome parents who live close and help out with the kids when we’ve needed to take off to go film a Descendents show or grab some interviews somewhere. We actually got to take our kids on stage to one of the Riot Fest Descendents shows so that was pretty cool. My son is not even three yet but his favorite band is the Ramones and he knows who Milo is. I can’t even begin to tell you about the pressure of this film. The expectations are high and we take what we are doing very seriously. This is not your typical band story. It’s very complex.
Wilson: Some of us work together at a post-production facility in Dallas called charlieuniformtango and we work on it when we’re not booked on paying jobs. We’re lucky to work at a place that encourages us to make independent films.
3. The Descendents are a renowned band that has influenced many. How did the process of capturing such a vast history become tangible and come into fruition?
LaCour: We were huge fans when we started this project and thought we knew a lot but we learned so much more during the process. We filmed well over fifty interviews over a two-year time period. We also filmed a bunch of Descendents and ALL shows and a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff. Bill Stevenson opened the “vault”, if you will, and we went through boxes of photos and old videos. It took months to go through everything. We also reached out to fans, people online, and anybody that knew anything about the band. People that are connected to this band or that just love them are typically a bit crazy. They are fanatics and have so many stories to share. Joe Nolte from The Last spent a day with us in the South Bay and took us to all these historical spots and gave us all the back stories. Mike Watt gave us some incredible insight into the old days as well. As we move forward in the story we also move forward with the cast. We wanted the people that were there to help tell the story along with the band. There is no written narration. The story is told by the band and those that were around them, influenced them, or influenced by them. The bad ass photographer Glen E. Friedman shot some classic early Descendents photos and I called him about using them in the film and he basically lectured me on how to make a documentary film. It was awesome. These incredible animators that still draw everything by hand from Belgium (IMOV Studio) came on board to recreate some of the classic stories in cartoon form. So many people have helped out and rallied around this project because so many people love these guys.
Wilson: We’ve always documented our own bands to the nth degree with music videos and tour/recording videos so it just made sense. When Deedle & Matt told me they wanted to get serious about making a Descendents/ALL film, I immediately got on board.
4. Is this your first music-related film?
LaCour: This is my first feature as a director/producer but not my first music film. I’ve edited both documentary and narrative short films and plenty of music videos. Before I got into the editing and film world I worked at a recording studio producing and recording bands so music-related stuff has always been part of what I do. All of your previous experience of course influences and affects what you do. Having a music and studio background certainly helps when you are working on a music film. Audio is king on docs, especially music docs. How many docs have we all seen with poorly recorded audio?
Wilson: I’ve worked on a documentary about the year 1968 that chronicled lots of the year’s music and got into a few film festivals. Deedle actually created a short documentary on the Arlington, TX punk rock scene we were all a part of. I’ve also worked on a doc about the life of Bill Mallonee of the Vigilantes of Love but that one’s still in edit limbo.
FILMAGE Teaser 2 from Deedle LaCour on Vimeo.
5. You feature archival footage in the trailer. How much was submitted by fans?
LaCour: We’ve had a good amount of archival stuff sent in by fans. Descendents and ALL fans are fanatics and keep everything (old show flyers, ticket stubs, newsletters etc). They rule!
Wilson: It’s hard to say percentages but some of it was definitely from fans. We set up a website where fans could upload old video and photos and we got some incredible stuff, lots of it is in the movie. Other never-before-seen footage came from the band itself, which is exciting in a whole different way.
6. Can you reflect on capturing the energy in the Descendents/ALL live show these days, compared to what you have seen from performances earlier on?
LaCour: The energy of the live show is just as intense as it ever has been if not more. These guys are not fucking around when they hit the stage. They practice all the time still. The whole “go for ALL” concept is alive and well when it comes to their live shows. Joey Cape from Lagwagon in the film says “They may even be better than they were, which I don’t understand”. Capturing these current shows has been incredible because there is so much energy on stage and in the crowd. We had lots of cameras rolling in the hands of many great shooters all under the leadership of our DP Justin Wilson. There is some captivating footage for sure. I still get goose bumps on many of the shots in the film.
Wilson: Not much has changed, they still rock and everyone still loves them, perhaps even more now.
7. Many aspiring filmmakers don’t have the funds available for the cost of production and/or promotion. Do you deal with these obstacles as much?
LaCour: We are punk rock dudes so DIY runs in the blood. Our little core group self funded the film and did much of the work (Matt Riggle, James Rayburn, Justin Wilson and myself). We have been very budget-minded but spend money when necessary. For a film like ours, travel is one of the biggest expenses. A few of us work at a post house (charlieuniformtango) and so that has its perks. We have a lot of friends that work in the industry as well that have come on board and volunteered their time and expertise. Licensing and clearance of music, footage, and photographs is a big challenge and something we are still working on. From my experience, this is probably the biggest challenge when dealing with a doc or music doc. My advice for up-and-comers is to put in hard work, pay your dues, and hone your craft. I’ve done an incredible amount of work over the years for little or no money to learn and get experience. Technology has made professional tools very inexpensive so there is no excuse on that front anymore. Aside from that, tap your friends for help. If you have a worthwhile project or idea, people will get on board and work for the greater good of the project for little or no money
Wilson: A documentary filmmaker needs more patience than money. We succeeded in pulling off a high-quality film by assessing our priorities and carefully planning our trips. By spreading things out you can accomplish more. Your Facebook fans may curse your name for having to wait longer, but in the end it creates a better film.
8. How difficult is it completing a documentary about a story that is still being written?
LaCour: Our film has a story book ending. Our co-director and writer Matt Riggle really did an incredible job of putting together a timeless ending. Every story and film is different but we wanted this film to resolve the story and yet leave the future open.
Wilson: We’re capturing their legacy up to this point, so we’re happy to end on a high note. They’re back playing and everyone is healthy.
9. If this film can accomplish one thing—What would you like that to be?
LaCour: For the masses to know how much Descendents and ALL as a whole and as individual people influenced and continue to influence rock and punk music as we know it.
Wilson: We want this not only to serve as a documentation of the lives of one of the most important music groups of our time, but also introduce them to a whole new audience. We wanted to give other musicians and fans the chance to talk about and give back to the band that’s heavily influenced them. This band is very underrated and musicians love to gush about them.
10. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
LaCour: Getting this film out. We are in the very final stages of the finish and trying to hit the film festival circuit. Aside form that I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and dusting off the guitars and getting a new band together.
Wilson: Our plans for the rest of the year are to finish the movie and then get it into the public’s hands as soon as possible.
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All images © Filmage