No… this isn’t an article about Robert Redford having a comeback. That guy doesn’t need a comeback. It’s about the films that played at Sundance years ago that are still looking for distribution, and the recent resurgence of films being picked up again at Sundance. This year hit new heights with over 24 sales finding homes during Sundance. Well, a few years back, it wasn’t all puppy dogs and ice cream. It was quite rough; if you were a small film not backed by a major studio and you made it into Sundance… you were most likely still back to selling bootleg copies at the local flea market.
All of this is a preface to the guy this article is really about, Ari Gold, who’s seen both sides of the business. (Nope, not that guy from that HBO show, even though, coincidentally, the actor who plays Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier) is in Gold’s movie). Ari’s comedy, “Adventures of Power,” which premiered at Sundance during the “year of the bankruptcies” and is finally out on DVD/VOD, is about air-drumming and the American Dream. Coincidentally, this article is about the movie and the American Dream. Here’s its story.
So, how do you feel about sharing the name Ari Gold with the talented Jeremy Piven from “Entourage”?
It’s, uh, interesting? Especially when meeting people for the first time. I tell them my name is Ari Gold, and they say, “No it’s not.” Yes it is. If I could pick a new name, it would be Doug Ellin Makes Love To Chickens. When I broke my arm on the set of my air-drum movie, doctors thought I was prank-calling them. Yes, Ari Gold broke his arm.
So how did all this get started?
I started writing stories at the age of 8. But I really didn’t like spending time on my own. So I gravitated more toward screenplays as an adult, but I was unsatisfied until I started shooting my own stuff. Quickly it worked and I had a successful short. I got into Sundance. After having 3 shorts in a row at Sundance, suddenly the hype machine went crazy. But I was scared by the level of bullshit, and my own insecurities, and ended up running off to Eastern Europe to try to make a movie there. That didn’t work out too well, but I got to spend some time in jail, which is good for street cred.
It was my love of music brought me back to American filmmaking. I started playing this character called “Power” at open mics. People would be doing serious stuff, then there would be me, up on the stage doing a session of intense air drumming. At that time I was living in a small town in New Mexico where there were all these cool contradictions: copper miners, labor strikes, hippies and ranchers. I realized that this air-drummer was a great metaphor for any powerless American, fighting for his dream.
The movie took three years to make, but getting the movie out has been even more of a ride. Two companies made offers at Sundance, and the companies were bankrupt weeks later. We got yanked into the ocean, in this incredible negative tide against indie distribution–which seems to be finally coming back, just as my movie finally makes it to DVD.
What’s interesting is that during the tide, we were forced to try a lot of things that you wouldn’t have to do with the backing of a big studio. But that’s exciting too! One of the cool things we’re doing is giving away an air-drumming app with the release of the DVD. And we’re putting out 2 videos a week on Youtube. And, the movie started an auction to support music education, which now has Rush, Metallica, Kesha, Marky Ramone, Ween, David Wain, and a ton of other people on board.
Our hope is to get the movie to people who want to see it and haven’t gotten the chance. We’re winning a lot of fans through this kind of grass-roots outreach. Still, it’s hilarious how some people really hate the movie, as though air-drumming was somehow offensive. Or they’re pissed that I’m asking the audience to care about serious issues (unemployment, disability, immigration, et cetera), along with a premise that’s totally ridiculous. But for those who get the comedy, they also get the seriousness – there are audiences who say they cried during the movie. That for me is the height of success… I cried during “Babe”!
Every interview I do, I ask this question. What’s the story behind the story with your movie?
I’d had three shorts at Sundance, and saw people getting millions for their features. So when I finally had my feature ready, I was expecting a good result. No one expected the collapse of indie distribution to hit as hard as it did. It didn’t matter that we won the Audience Award at our first run of festivals. The people who loved the film before my Sundance screening were no longer returning my calls, because the screening was “low energy”- probably because half the distributors were about to go bankrupt!
I’m lucky I had a nonprofit called the Film Collaborative to help advise me as I rescued my film. I can’t recommend highly enough that every filmmaker become a member – it’s thanks to the incredible ideas and guidance of Orly Ravid at TFC that the film is finally starting to reach an audience. It sold out on Amazon in its first day. Before I met Orly, I had a big sales agent who made lots of money off of the film and we got nothing. I really don’t want this to happen to other filmmakers. People will tell you you’re a genius while they’re screwing you. And then they’ll tell you you’re a hack after they’ve robbed you. Fun stuff!
What’s beautiful about it, is that’s what the movie’s about. If you can learn to just listen to your heartbeat, it will tell you how to succeed. That’s what I had to do. I had to reconnect with myself and with the people who loved this film on the road. All the kids, the union members, and all the great people who kept writing to me as we toured to other festivals. They are the people who I made it for – not for the fickle Sundance crowd. I had to grow up from being the Sundance-obsessed indie filmmaker, who wanted to be pulled into instant fame and fortune by the “powerful.” That’s not what filmmaking is about. I learned it backwards, from my air-drumming character, Power.
I encourage everyone to check out the site for “Adventures of Power”. You can download the soundtrack and the App for free – I hope you’ll buy the DVD, which has over an hour of extras, including all my shorts! If you’re reading this you’re probably a dreamer yourself, just like Power. Keep the dream going!
I also encourage everyone to go see this film. It’s very funny, and has a great cast in it, the guy who plays Vinny Chase in “Entourage”, the guy who played Lenny in “Laverne and Shirley,” Michael Mckean, and that chick from “Glee,” Jane Lynch. Go to adventuresofpower.com and check out the trailer and buy a copy!