What motivates creative sorts like singers, musicians and visual artists to do what they do? The financial rewards might be nice but in “Make.Do.” a new documentary by San Francisco-based filmmaker, Brian Frank, it appears that it could spell doom if that is the only goal.
The short-form documentary was premiered last Friday, March 21 at the RVCA artist's gallery space in the Haight. It took Frank, originally from San Diego, on a long and sometimes lonely road trip across the country, to interview more than 40 creative souls. It is of the Casey Neistat dry-erase marker, renegade school of filmmaking.
Of the creative types featured are Missoula, Montana singer, Ashley Rezvani who schedules time every day to write music whether she feels like it; and New York photographer, Bill Wadman who switched out from advertising to pursue his passion for photography.
A large contingent of Bay Area artists are also featured - Oakland artist, Scott Greenwalt; San Francisco designer, Eleonore Santos; photographer, Matthew Reamer; and interactive artist, Ivan Cash who last year helped staged Couchella - an online music festival to be enjoyed from your couch.
They all offer nuggets of wisdom either through the hard graft of experience or the sheer idealism of inexperience but Frank edits the film to reveal each vignette as an aspect of the creative soul and the different methods of employing the muse or lack thereof. But all share the same take-away - just do it. And keep doing it.
The 25-year-old Frank is not re-inventing the wheel here, but in making the film he practices unabashedly what his hero, Neistat preaches. A provocateur, Neistat's most popular videos are the ones with a social message from "iPod's Dirty Little Secret" to "Do The Right Thing" and "Bike Lanes" - an acerbic 3min rebuttal to a ticket he was given by a traffic police for not staying in the bike lane. It went viral and became a youtube sensation overnight. But Neistat has also worked with traditional legacy brands such as Mercedes Benz and Nike.
You would have seen his viral videos even if you don't recognise his name. His most recent "What would you do with $25,000" saw him use the entire budget meant to shoot Ben Stiller's movie trailer for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" to focus on the plight of the Philippines after the Typhoon Haiyan ravage.
Neistat has more than 60 videos on his YouTube page, and over 30million views. And though he operates in a very millennial-driven digital age, his rule of thumb is work with your hands, build it yourself, improvise, hence the handy dry-erase and the need for all who work with him to get intimate with plywood.
Frank who saw Neistat’s viral video, “Make it Count” in 2012 took this advice to heart and immediately set about to make this film with an inspired idea, followed by a successful Kickstarter grant and the sort of verve that guerilla film makers must possess.
His first effort may not have the visceral drive of Neistat but the template suits him. Besides Frank has now taken the camera and is running with it, hoping to make every step count.
You met your hero, Casey Neistat recently – what was that like?
I met Casey Neistat at SXSW 2014 in Austin and it was great to hear him talk about his life before he got to where he is today. He truly is a doer and improviser, and that’s apparent in his work. He was just a super well-spoken and nice guy. I told Casey that I’ll be doing a follow up video this month about the typhoon relief in the Philippines. He said he’d love to see it and to told me to just keep making movies.
So I have to ask you - do you know how big a sheet of plywood is?
(Laughs) 4 by 8 ft.
Did you always have ambitions to be a filmmaker?
No, when I was in high school, I wasn’t one of those kids that wanted to make films. But in 2012, I saw Casey Neistat’s video “Make it Count” that’s when I realized I could get into filmmaking. His style really spoke to me. It changed the way I saw movies defined - not just this big screen, movie theatre thing. It totally changed the way I saw how a movie could be and could be made.
So you’ve taken a year to make this movie? That’s pretty good for a first effort.
It could have been done faster but I moved to San Francisco and wanted to explore the city, do fun things and not think about this film that I had to finish. But as my first big project, it's good to now call it done.
You interviewed 40 artist but only 12 are featured in the documentary?
As I was driving around the country by myself during those three months, I was really connecting with all these people and what they had to say. Then when I was finally in the editing suite, it became obvious that it was going to be much bigger and harder than I thought. I began to see that I had to edit quite a lot and leave quite a few interesting stories out. I also didn't want to dilute the main story and wanted to keep it around 30mins. I am going to still edit the others separately into individual 5min videos and put them online.
What’s the most important thing you learned from making “Make.Do.”?
Planning. And having an assistant would have been helpful.
What is your next project?
I am in the process of working on a new documentary, about 3 to 8 minutes long about poverty, for the Sundance Short Film competition. I’ll be working with a local entrepreneur and we have a possible trip to India scheduled in May. The final project should be ready by July.
To watch Brian Frank’s documentary “Make.Do.” please visit vimeo.com/hibrianfrank or please click here.
"Make.Do." will be screened in San Diego next month. Please click here for website.