A good documentary transcends the topic's niche appeal and makes it interesting to a wider audience. You might not see DIG! and run out and buy CDs from The Dandy Warhols or The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but you will be enthralled by their story.
The two bands intersect and trade places constantly over the seven-year span of the movie. The Dandies climb the music ladder while the Jonestown boys constantly self destruct.
The man behind the madness is Jonestown's Anton Newcombe: a man so full of talent and smack that he's destined to inspire and infuriate everyone around him. Most of the band's sets end in arguments. One time after Anton has disappeared and is feared to be using heavily, a friend makes a plea directly into the camera: "Anton, just don't die."
The Dandies' career skyrockets, and the Jonestown boys seem to use the Dandies' success as proof of the unjust music industry and they travel further into the underground. Eventually the friendship between Anton and Dandies lead singer Courtney Taylor becomes so strained that all contact between bands come to an unruly end.
Bickering and rivalry aside, both bands grow creatively. You get to experience the amazing live shows without having to go to a dive bar with a disgusting bathroom. There are voyeuristic looks at fights, drug use, and troubles with the law. I want to say that DIG! should be required viewing for aspiring music scenesters, but once you tell any self-respecting hipster what to do they usually do the opposite. Just don't blame me if you go to Lux Lounge and all your friends are talking about a movie I told you to go see. Don't die, Anton.
Director Ondi Timoner was nice enough to answer some of my questions through cyberspace.
City: What impact do you think this film will have on the bands?
Timoner: I think it will get them to a larger audience. Most record stores have sold out of their albums where the film has been released. Now, if they will stay cool and collected, no one knows. Ultimately the BJM and the DW will have a chance to expose their work to more people.
City: Do you foresee follow-up interviews with the bands for the DVD release? (Please say yes.)
Timoner: There will be commentary tracks for the bands to talk, and we are trying to find out if it will be possible to do follow-ups with bands and members.
City: How is the distribution of the film going? How can audiences in smaller cities see the picture?
Timoner: Distribution is coming along. We don't have a huge marketing budget. We have been able to hold for four weeks in LA and NY, and that is very good. As for smaller cities, get your friends to tell people to see it in the big city, so we can get a larger release. Watch it on Sundance Channel. Finally, get the DVD.
City: The film took over seven years to make. What advice would you give for filmmakers who are starting a time-intensive project?
Timoner: Stick to it, perseverance can pay off. Find someone who knows about distribution and legal matters, and see what they advise you to do as you go along.
City: Have you read Anton's negative comments about the film on his website (www.brianjonestownmassacre.com)?
Timoner: Yes. His opinions are his own, but the facts he states are all incorrect. I think that if people see DIG! they will know that the facts are wrong, and that way they will also be able to get their own opinion on the film.
--- Matt Ehlers