Roger Gastman, the talented writer, producer, and film-maker grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. After graduating from high school, Gastman attended college for a few years, but ultimately found inspiration in the artists, graffiti artists, and film makers he met. While developing and publishing a few magazines, While You Were Sleeping, and Swindle, Gastman worked on his first film with his long-time friend and collaborator, Joseph Pattisall, Bedtime Stories, which was the beginning of their inspiring creative partnership.
Gastman also began to work on film projects with many talented film makers in Los Angeles, and eventually made the move out there in 2004. In 2005, Gastman worked on the documentary, Infamy with director Doug Pray about graffiti writers and artists. This led to credits in several other documentary films; Bomb It in 2007 and Exit Through The Gift Shop with director Banksy in 2010, which he counts as one of his inspiring experiences in film-making, as well as other films.
These projects inspired an unquenchable thirst for storytelling and history, both in the oral tradition and written. ‘Cool’ Disco Dan’s graffiti work inspired Gastman and Pattisall to want to find out more about this graffiti artist. After extensive and in-depth interviews with Dan, the two creative partners decided to create a documentary about him. During their many years of research and filming, it became obvious to Gastman and Pattisall that they had stumbled onto something more extensive than they had originally conceived.
How did you develop the film The Legend of ‘Cool’ Disco Dan? How did you decide to make it into a film?
“We started interviewing Dan extensively and really looking around. We decided &$%@- it. Let's start filming it. At first, we were still just going tell Dan's story, but as we started talking with people, we really realized Dan's story is the story of DC in the '80s. You know, one way or the other, so many people crossed paths with the Dan tag, the Dan symbol that was D.C. They all had a story about it. Dan crossed so many barriers, from race to economics, etc. with that tag and people's stories were about it. His story really just became the story of the city (Washington D.C.). He was the person we told the story of the city through”.
You mentioned previously about other people having stories about Dan and their experiences in the city: How did you find the people to interview for the documentary?
“I mean, we researched and filmed in one way or the other for 12 plus years. A lot of crazy stuff that, we had to dig up. One thing would lead to another thing, and a lot of the people in the film, they're not necessarily public figures. We just knew their nicknames from the 1980's. It wasn't easy to find a lot of the people for that. It was a lot of street producing. So, the same way you really just go work a bunch of the old neighborhoods and just talk to people, until you find somebody. Then hopefully when you find that person, they'll know somebody else that will know somebody else, and so on. Most of all, the interviews and the subjects in The Legend of Cool Disco Dan; there's Chuck Brown, Marion Barry, and some very public figures, but so many people in the film are old crew members, old graffiti writers, old gang members and people that just went by crazy nicknames like Cool, Calm Chuck”.
Who helped you all through this process of making the film?
“We had a lot of awesome help from so many people, and then on top of that, Iley Brown and Caleb Neelon really helped produce it. Day in and day out, it was me and Joseph (Pattisall)”.
The four also have an exhibit of Dan’s work showing at the Corcoran Gallery until April 7th as well as a book with extensive interviews and background of Washington D.C. entitled, Pump Me Up, which is available on Amazon.com.
“It's a companion piece, because we couldn't fit everything we wanted into the movie. We couldn't fit everything we wanted into the museum, and we couldn't even fit everything we wanted in the book, but a lot of it's there. The book is about all things from hardcore punk rock music to go-go music to an interview with Marion Barry and musicians. It's extensive".
To read about other talented film-makers, subscribe for free to this column and get e-mail updates on new articles, click the (+) sign next to subscribe at the top of the page.