I’m in the process of producing a documentary film about Swedish drummer, Morgan Ågren. I decided to answer some questions about my “how” and “why.”
Q: $10,000 sounds like a lot of money. You’ve already reached your goal. Why are you asking for more?
A: As of right now, the budget for the entire project from beginning to end (from the pre-production and renting of gear to the hiring of a crew to the pressing of DVDs and BluRays and release) is estimated to be $11,842.80. That does NOT include contingencies, which are unexpected costs. Equipment explodes, people get sick, sometimes the director will get shot by a “not significant” bullet. So we might just about break even if the Kickstarter campaign ended today. It’s been remarkable that hundreds of people have supported this project, because we would have no way to make it without their help. I personally came up with and spent $4,000 at the beginning of the project just to get through the first week. So $10,000 disappears very fast, in reality.
Q: Why did you decide to make a movie about Morgan?
A: I’ve had a war in my mind for a decade. I look at every industry, and I notice there is something fundamentally wrong with music. For example, the best basketball players in the world make millions of dollars. There’s no question that they are the best. Anyone can see them win on TV. Same with many other professions. If you are the best, you will come out on top. But with music, there is a point at which you become overqualified. Except for a niche audience of maybe a few hundred or a few thousand spread out across the planet, people no longer want to listen to your music. You get accused of being “too complex” or a “shredder” or “wanking.” Or of being “on drugs.” The fact is, there is very little music education in general audiences, and there’s so much to experience. So much more to enjoy than what most have heard. Music has become a background sound that people bob their heads to, so those musicians and composers who explore too far become worthless. And we have an industry where musicians go to places like Musicians Institute and Berklee, practice their asses off to play all sorts of interesting stuff… and then throw it all away and play simple radio music. It’s bizarre to me. And I’m not talking about those freaks who fly up and down scales as fast as they can with a metronome with complete disregard for every element of music aside from tempo. I’m talking about musicians who might play classical guitar. How insulting is it, that some poor bastard studies his whole life, all of the technique and theory just to play in the background while assholes are chewing their food and talking? Morgan is one of those musicians who really deserves to be heard and understood by more. It’s a subject I’m passionate about, and I take it personally.
Q: Why did you get into filmmaking instead of doing more music?
A: I’ve always been interested in combining multiple forms. I don’t see music as being any more magical than drawing or writing books. They are all ways to express yourself and share your message with the world. And I like to combine them. Filmmaking gives me a way to use these multiple forms. When I get bored with the writing side of things, I can work on visuals. Or music. And so much of the things I learned as a musician apply laterally to visuals. And I also enjoy Producing, which is a whole other holistic skill that not many really understand.
Q: What’s the difference between a Producer and a Director?
A: The two overlap quite a bit, but I see it as Parent and Child. As a Producer you can’t concern yourself with just the creative aspect. Your creativity can’t run freely. You have to be an adult, concerned with the brutal reality of the project. How much will it really cost, who is going to watch it, how long is it going to take, what gear and crew can you afford, where is the funding going to come from, how can you make all parties involved happy, is this thing even worth doing to begin with? A Director is more like a little kid with an endless imagination. The Producer’s job is to say “No, we can’t afford it — find a way to make it work with what you’ve got.”
Q: So isn’t being a Producer an uncreative job?
A: Not at all. It’s actually making something that would otherwise be impossible, possible. As a producer you create the opportunity for a project to exist in the real world, not just in someone’s imagination. My mentor once took me into his office and closed the door and said, “If I rented you an office, hired you a staff, got you the phones, computers, and equipment you need, paid all the bills — could you make it make money?” I of course said, “No.” He replied, “Well I can. And that’s the difference between you and me.” Then he opened his office door and gestured and said, “Now get back to work.” It was a powerful experience for me. For whatever reason you want to believe, this is not a world where all artists are able to make their beautiful art and survive off it. It’s a matter of finding a way for the artists to connect with and make some sense to more people, without compromising their vision. You don’t want to cross over that line. Or at least I don’t, because I also have my own uncompromising creative projects. And I wouldn’t want someone fucking with them.
Q: Anything else you want people to know?
A: I would like to see the drum community getting behind this project. It’s not often that we get to see movies about drummers, and what they really have to offer the world. I feel that drummers are underrated by default. They’re treated like they’re just monkeys banging on things and keeping a beat. But in fact there is a great deal of nuance and focus required. There’s so much physical training and mental coordination, using the whole body — training each of your limbs and muscles in a different way. And then beyond that, it can be such an expressive and melodic instrument. Morgan is one of those drummers who will try anything at any time. He takes chances, and that’s what makes dangerous art.
Please Pledge Now to help me make this film as good as it can be.