When I began shooting DIG!, my film about
what happens when art meets industry through the eyes of two young bands
(The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre), my goal was to
shoot life as it was unfolding so I could recreate the trip on screen.
The drama of these two bandleaders (Courtney Taylor and Anton Newcombe,
respectively), each other’s muses and rivals, their opposing views
on success, how they would attain it, was greater than anything I could
Seven years and nearly 2,000 hours of ‘real life‘ footage
later, I had built a mountain so high, it took nearly four years of
editing to climb it! Despite the struggle, and with a burgeoning pregnancy
in the last ten months, I was still compelled, laughing and chilled
no matter how many times I had seen the footage. I had to finish the
film so this footage could see the light of day. To balance the ugly
reality of my protagonist, with his vulnerability and talent, and make
it a watchable film proved the most difficult challenge. I finished
the week I gave birth to my son, Joaquim.
I recently looked back at my journal entries from over those early
years of filming and was able to re-experience DIG!
as it was unfolding through my thoughts. It was a time of purely youthful
energy and idealism. We believed in our subjects and were making this
film for the sake of doing it—for that we would shoot in any situation
no matter how precarious, and sleep anywhere in order to capture this
These entries were written early on in the process, just as I was coming
to know the characters of this story and the struggles of shoestring,
11-16-1996 – Los Angeles
I’m sitting in a sunny parking lot, in a city fueled by desperation.
I went to sleep last night convinced that there was no one to believe
in. No one and practically nothing…. The Brian Jonestown Massacre
is in town, so I’ve had four hours of sleep in two days. I love
these guys, though. They’re all addicts but their irreverence
is inspiring to me. Freedom. If you’re at rock bottom you got
nowhere to sink to….
11-21-1996 – San Francisco
I’m waiting for a speed addict who claimed he would be awake to
meet me at noon at the Squat & Gobble. We were supposed to do filming
today together. I care too much about him already. He is really dysfunctional
but claims to be thoroughly happy with life. Just wants to play in a
band, wants to shake his tambourine and groove to the music. No job.
No home. Can’t think of anywhere he wants to live, he never drinks
water or any food that isn’t bad. This is Joel, an interesting
new figure in my life.
12-13-1996 – Los Angeles
Investors have gone AWOL, and what a wondrous disappearance they’ve
pulled. And I can’t get a loan because of the student loans and
credit cards my father went delinquent on. One week in San Francisco,
sleeping on dirty couches and hanging in fucked up bars with The Brian
Jonestown Massacre, has no sound because of a faulty microphone. Ten
great hours of silent footage made me scream ’til I lost my voice.
But friends and dreams, love and imagination, action and will. My will
1-1-1997 – Suburbia Warehouse – Portland,
Anton is mixing and recording right now—a beautiful piece. He’s
putting it together right before my eyes. Sophie and Joel are lying
on the mattress with me and David is shooting. It is New Year’s
Day and the trip to Portland has so far been wonderful.
The Dandy Warhols’ New Year’s show at La Luna was amazing—people
rushed the stage and everyone was dancing. Hard shooting. People were
stepping on me—at one point my battery flew into the void. A nice
guy crawled under the stage and found it for me. My heart almost broke
when the countdown to New Year’s happened and everyone was hugging
each other, and I was standing there holding a camera up high—straining
and all alone. No kisses. Then I was stone cold sober backstage and
everyone was fucked up. I talked to Courtney for two hours—got
to know him. Like Anton, he comes from a line of mechanical engineers,
understands formalism and adheres to it. Because he is so much more
precise—but still less of a true visionary, an effusive font than
Anton—he still has more of a chance of succeeding. He is extremely
self-conscious and a real student of life, experiencing everyone and
everything to perfect himself.
3-8-1997 – Outside Hardware Store, Getting Rigged
Spy-cam Suction, etc.
Anton is definitely a huge, growing priority in my life. I love him
despite his weaknesses, inconsideration, and hurt of others. He is a
force to be reckoned with, married to his work—but a radical agent.
I have been documenting this for over six months. He can inflict pain,
is right now neglecting his relationship with his wife, Sophie, who
barely speaks English and has spent all her money on him, and is traveling
around a broken person—following her atomic boyfriend.
6-15-1997 – Written on Brother David – Chicago,
Life on the road with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Fighting all the
time. I don’t know if the greatest rock band in America will ever
5-30-1998 – Outside Café de la Danse –
Dandies are rock stars here in Paris—autographs, feather boas,
dreams come true. Power is $ and beauty. These are enough for fleeting
happiness. Courtney is surrounded by women and wine—every man’s
dream. He is happy now—but only for now.
5-31-1998 – Pink Pop Festival – Landgraaf,
My entire attitude has shifted. I talked to Courtney about raising the
lights when performing so I can pick up a better image, and about how
I’m the sole investor and making sacrifices for two years now.
Zia stuck up for the brilliance of the work, begging me not to give
up. I decided to stay on with the Dandies to England to shoot their
biggest show ever in London. I ran around the bus as we drove out of
Paris shooting everything—great vérité—my
subjects love me and I love the adventure of life unfolding.