On a quest to shoot some B-roll film, New York filmmakers Matt Cascella and Corey Gegner found themselves barking at dogs in the back alleys of Missoula. They were looking to capture everyday scenes in Missoula for a documentary they're filming about young bands. And that meant, for them, avoiding the obvious Montana landscape footage. They wanted something more offbeat, more intimately Missoula, and getting shots of the town's beloved dogs seemed like one way to illustrate it.
"We're being very strict with ourselves about not getting generic, like, 'Ooh! The beautiful, scraping mountains shots,'" says Gegner. "Matt had a really great idea of getting dogs in town barking in their backyards. We walked around all day going, 'Arrp! Arrp!' It didn't work at all! We had one vicious dog that was going to punch through the cement and kill us both and swallow the camera."
Thus began the adventures of two filmmakers who uprooted their lives in Brooklyn to spend two months in Montana. Their documentary, with the working title Band: A Documentary, will focus on three different young musicians in three different corners of the U.S. The filmmakers plan on eventually filming in the Deep South and Maine, but their first stop is in Missoula to profile local musician Joey Running Crane and his punk rock band Goddammitboyhowdy. They got the idea to film Running Crane after reading a 2008 Indy feature story called "Reservation Rock" about Goddammitboyhowdy and other bands originating from Browning. Running Crane—who sings about, among other things, life on the rez—struck the filmmakers as exactly what they were looking for: someone authentic and different from what potential viewers might expect.
- Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
- Brooklyn filmmakers Corey Gegner, left, and Matt Cascella, right, are in Montana for two months to shoot local band Goddammitboyhowdy. “I think we both like hanging out with people,” says Cascella. “That’s a huge part of our lives. We also have a lot of curiosity. I want to keep talking with people even when the cameras are off.”
"The idea is not about having virtuosos," says Cascella. "We want people that are not refined, because that's the good stuff."
"Forget the kids who say, 'I'm going to be a famous musician,'" adds Gegner. "Don't talk about it, just do it because you love it. That's why Joey is perfect."
Cascella and Gegner, both 24, graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan in 2008. They made several short films together: A music video for the song "Fuck It" by the band Titles, a coffee shop short called Humdrum and a sci-fi comedy called Save this Machinery. After graduating, Gegner got work as a freelancer doing cinematography for narrative projects and commercials. Cascella, who focused on directing, landed at a television network. But the duo wasn't ready to settle into jobs working for other people.
"I was just sitting at my desk, staring at my computer and I thought, 'Holy cow, this is awful, and I'm losing myself,'" Cascella recalls. "I thought it would be a good idea now, when we're still young and energetic, to go out and pursue this thing and not just say, 'Yeah, we'll do it eventually.'"
Cascella quit his job and the duo hit the road. Since their arrival in Missoula the first week of February, they've kept busy. On average, they spend about six to eight hours a day, seven days a week, on the film, including shooting, editing and driving to sites. So far, they've shot a live show at the Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC) featuring Goddammitboyhowdy, the band's practices and a recording session at Club Shmed. They've also shot scenes in Running Crane's apartment to provide a more intimate portrait of the guitarist/frontman.
"He's unfiltered when he's playing live," says Gegner. "When he's with you he looks you right in the eye and he doesn't judge you. He just gives you all of himself. And I think he takes all of that kindness and he puts it toward the music by getting really into it."
The filmmakers seem intent on not coming across as some kind of arrogant New York interlopers. And they don't. They're living on very little, lugging their equipment—a Panasonic digital video HPX camera, tripod and accessories—between strangers' couches and the Hutchins Hostel. They set up shop wherever they can in order to download footage and to edit their work. Money donated from friends and family has helped launch the project, but now they're looking into grants; two they've applied for are pending.
With such a bootstrap operation, Cascella and Gegner also get to experience Montana life outside of the Band project. When there's no opportunity to shoot Running Crane, they film side projects to keep themselves busy. After the barking dogs shots fell through, they wandered over to the Senior Citizens Center and introduced themselves to a room of bridge players. That turned into a short called Meatballs on Tuesday. They also took a drive to Georgetown Lake and spent all day filming three men ice fishing. No fish were caught, but it was exactly what Cascella was looking for.
"In a documentary there's no control, but you embrace it and whatever you get, you get," he says.
Cascella and Gegner recently got an invite to come shoot Running Crane in Browning, where he grew up. They plan to meet his family and film the place that spawned the tough, often satirical lyrics of Goddamittboyhowdy. Having lived in New York most of their lives, the filmmakers say they're fascinated with punk music that doesn't come from the city streets.
"People might say, 'What do you have to be mad about? You live in Montana,'" says Cascella. "But Joey's got plenty to be mad about. And the interesting part is that he found punk music as a young kid when it wasn't really being played around him."
Capturing that unexpected aspect of a punk rock scene is one way the filmmakers hope to differentiate their film from other music documentaries. But it's also a deeply personal endeavor since both filmmakers are also musicians.
"I got big into docs over the last two years or so and I became kind of fanatical," says Cascella. "And I thought about something that hit home with me: being young and playing music. You can't compare it to anything else. It's a pretty unique time in someone's life and we're hoping to get some of that, to capture that feeling."
Track Cascella and Gegner's work on Band: A Documentary at bandadoc.blogspot.com.