An independent film maker and cinema’s answer to Lou Reed, Gorman Bechard found me when I found Color Me Obsessed—the first documentary about the Replacements. M y thought was that any director who made a film about the Replacements had to be the right kind of independent. The kind who makes films because he likes to make films and because he has something to say that no one else is saying. Then I hit the back catalog and discovered a collection that looked a lot like “I’m doing it my way. Get out of the way.” and I knew I was in the right place. Ladies and Gentelemen: This is Gorman Bechard.
Ara: The first film that made you want to make films?
Gorman: My love for film and filmmakers grew out of Hitchcock and Chaplin. But absolutely and without question, the film that made me want to make films was Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise.” It broke every rule. It broke rules that didn’t even exist yet. And yet it told a marvelous story, it was funny, it looked great. It was unlike any film that came before it. It freed your mind and told me there was no right or wrong way to tell a story, as long as you were actually telling a story.
Ara: A trailer of the first film that you made?
Gorman: I’m not sure there is a trailer for “Disconnected” anywhere. Which is probably a good thing. But the trailer to my second feature, “Psychos In Love,” can be found right on the main page of www.psychosinlove.com. Warning, it is so not safe for work.
Ara: What sort of influence has music had on your films?
Gorman: Music is the biggest influence in my life, so the influence on my work is monumental. I’ve always said everything I do begins and ends with “Here Comes a Regular” by The Replacements, and that’s not so far from the truth. But I always have music playing. Often times I cut a scene to the music, instead of having music written for a scene. And truly my favorite bands, Archers of Loaf, Wilco, the Mats, often times help me see where a scene or chapter is going. Likewise, people like Matthew Ryan, Aubery Debauchery, or the Wrens, seem to write music that just fits my films. Or I make films that fit their music. Either way.
Ara: When did you decide to make a documentary about the Replacements? And why the Replacements?
Gorman: I was actually in the original film. But in 2008, Hansi, the original director, wrote to me and said she couldn’t finish the film, but she knew I could. Now I had always wanted to do a doc. And here was my chance to do one on my favorite band. But I wasn’t sold on her footage or approach. So one night, I’m lying in bed, perhaps a little drunk, and I started thinking, how can I make this film special? How can I make a film that will turn me on? Now, I don’t believe in god, but I believe in The Replacements. Could I make people believe in this band without ever seeing or hearing them but through the stories of others? A biblical take, so to speak. I woke up my wife and told her the idea. She said it was the stupidest fucking thing she had ever heard. Of course two years later she cried when she saw the first cut. But I started over from scratch, shot 145 interviews, and though some people refuse to believe this, I never ever contacted the band to use music, or to interview them. Never wanted to. That wasn’t the film I was making.
Ara: I noticed a few things about your films. First of all, they show the beauty in the breaking and the broken and secondly they explore the human potential to love greatly but also to be greatly cruel. What do you want the audience to see in your films? What do you want them to question or answer after the credits roll?
Gorman: I want them to feel less alone. I want them to realize we’re all in the same boat. We’re all looking for something that really might be right beside us. We’re all frightened, lonely, horny, insecure. Especially with “You Are Alone” and “Broken Side of Time” I’ve tried to explore the things we do to make ourselves feel less alone, even if only for an hour or two. As for a question or answer, I like for people to walk away from my work with whatever meaning it has to them. There is no right or wrong answer. Whatever you think the film means, whatever you think a character is searching for, you are correct. Even if that thought never occurred to me.
Ara: When you started What Were We Thinking Films in 2004 along with producer Frank Loftus, what sort of vision did you have for the company?
Gorman: We started it to make a film version of my first novel “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told,” but because we need a few million to make that, we have yet to get it off the ground. Came close a few times. But both times walked away from $2 million when then investors tried to give us idiot notes. We even had cast a then unknown Rooney Mara as the Daughter of God. One day it will happen.
Ara: How important is independent film to the film industry? Why is having control of creativity so important to keeping it free?
Gorman: Without independent film all you get is blockbusters, or watered down versions of what might have been a great film. I’m a strong believer that a film needs to be one person’s vision. You can have a strong producer, but ultimately their job is to have my back, and make my vision a reality. And having worked the Hollywood system both as a writer and director, you learn that the people paying the bills have the final say, and it annoys the piss out of me when some business man or lawyer, who really hasn’t a creative bone in his body, tries to tell me how to make a story. That is a nutshell is why Hollywood movies are so damn bad.
Ara: How do you keep the fierce in independent?
Gorman: Read some of my filmmaking blog posts at www.GuyWithTypewriter.com I’m a cranky bastard, and proud of it. I make the films I want, the way I want them, controlling every aspect from conception, until the DVD is in your hand. This way if there’s a fuck up, it’s mine. I can live with that.
But that said, I work with the same people over and over because they know the film is going to have a vision, the story is going to work, it’s going to play festivals, it’s going to get distribution, and YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS, they are going to see royalties off the backend. I treat my hard working crew members exceedingly well.
Ara: The most important film that you’ve made so far?
Gorman: I have to say “Color Me Obsessed, a film about The Replacements,” because it told the story of the most important band of the last 30 years, and because of the interest in the film, I believe it also showed the members of the band how important they were to a lot of people. And hopefully because of that we even played a small part in their upcoming reunion shows. It also turned the rock doc genre on its ear. And the genre needed that. VH1 had made it more boring and predictable than watching grass grow. We showed you could break all the rules and still make a great film.
Ara: What is the role of independent film in cinema?
Gorman: It keeps cinema honest, real. Film is the greatest art form of all time. Independent film makes sure that never changes.
Ara: To me, the most brilliant thing is seeing something authentic and edgy. Not something regurgitated or purposely created to look like the real thing. Your films have this naturally, this conversational atmosphere that makes the viewer feel like they are part of the film. How do you create this temperature in your films?
Gorman: People tell me I write good dialog, and if that’s true it’s because I listen to the way people speak. I’m a good listener. I listen to conversations around me. I take note of not only what people say, but how they say it. That’s the biggest sin in film, to write dialog that no human would ever speak. (Diablo Cody take note.). And when I’m guilty of that mistake I recognize it immediately and allow the actor to make the dialog sound real. Writers should never fall in love with the words on the page, they should be in love with the story they’re telling.
Ara: I think humans can be irresponsible with living things that cannot speak words. Language isn’t words. A spirit in the eyes of anything living, speaks. I think anyone who loves animals knows this. I was moved by the shorts In Her Eyes and This Used to Be My Beautiful Home. What compelled you to make these shorts? What feelings did you want to evoke in the viewer?
Gorman: In a nut shell, treat animals the way you’d like to be treated. They are living, breathing beings, that have emotions, and feel pain, and attachment. Especially with the later, I wanted to show that and the plight of elderly dogs in shelters. It’s such a sad sad thing. Which is why after three rock docs, my next feature is “A Dog Named Gucci,” a look at animal abuse laws in the US and what people can do to change them. www.ADogNamedGucci.com
Ara: I’ve been following your new film “ A Dog Named Gucci” and I have to say that I can already foresee its success. This is just a story that was asking to be told by the right person. Can you tell us about the film? Why did this film HAVE to be made?
Gorman: I knew after three rock docs I needed a break. I also wanted to do something more important, something that might evoke change in the world. My wife sent me Gucci’s story, and it was perfect. Not only did it have a beginning, a middle and an end, it had a happy ending. I contact Doug James immediately, and we were in Mobile, Alabama shooting the story a few months later. Gucci and Doug proved that people have a voice, they have power to change laws, and that most of us realize that anyone who could abuse or torture an animal deserves to be locked away for a very long time. (And not just get a slap on the wrist and be allowed to return to his million dollar football career, which is just one nauseating example of the failure of our court system to protect those who can’t protect themselves.)
Ara: How has the internet and social media impacted film, music, art?
Gorman: It’s made life easier for independent filmmakers. We can find our audience. Or they can find us. I personally think it’s bad for bands, and it’s one of the reasons we’ll never have another Replacements. Bands now have a Facebook page before they’ve even played a gig. There’s no more going on the road, learning to play, learning which songs work, which don’t. It’s too much about image now and not enough about rock and roll.
Ara: What is the future of cinema? What hasn’t been done yet? What do you wish film would do again?
Gorman: I think the future of cinema is the past. Forget the fads like 3D and crap like that, and focus on acting and story. Or course, perhaps that’s just my dream. As for what hasn’t been done? I’m always looking for answers to that question, and as soon as I find them you’ll see them in my films. I have a few ideas for rock docs. My upcoming film on Husker Du’s Grant Hart should turn a few heads. It’s certainly unlike anything we’ve seen in the rock doc world. Beyond that…
Ara: In the spirit of Inside the Actors Studio, just a few quick questions.
Band? Archers of Loaf
Album? Icky Mettle
Film? Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”
Song lyric? “I dreamed about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me.”
Person? My wife, Kristine
CIty? Key West