Destin Cretton, writer-director-producer for "I Am Not A Hipster"
Ron Najor, producer
Joel P. West, composer
Related Story: 'I Am Not A Hipster'
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. From San Diego to Sundance, be the film I am not a hipster opens Friday, a film made by SDSU graduates about the indie music scene. They have just started an online fundraising campaign to help them self-distribute the film. My guests, Destin Cretton is director, and welcome to the show.
CRETTON: Great to be here.
CAVANAUGH: And Ron Najor is the producer. Hi, Ron.
NAJOR: Thank you very going us.
CAVANAUGH: And Joel West, the composer. Welcome back
WEST: Thank, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us how I am not a hipster got started.
CRETTON: I wanted to just work on a project with Joel, to be honest. And he's been one of my favorite musicians playing in San Diego. And I wanted to do -- write a story that would be able to incorporate a lot of his talents along with a main character that would be a singer songwriter who he could write music for. So that's kind of where the inspiration came from.
CAVANAUGH: So you've got the main character that you want the story to be about. What is it about?
CRETTON: The story takes place over the week that the main character's three sisters are visiting San Diego to spread their mom's ashes. So the movie not only takes place within this indie subculture in San Diego and resolves around music and art, but it's also just a story about a guy dealing with learning to deal with the loss of his mom
CAVANAUGH: Now, Ron, you produced this. How long did it take?
NAJOR: Actually, it was a really fast process. Destin had another feature that he was working on that we thought was going to go. And when that sort of didn't happen, we had been developing this project. And he really wanted to try to submit something to Sundance. And so it was one of those things where he said okay, this is not going to happen, do you want to do I am not a hipster with me? And before even thinking about it I just said yes. And in all honesty, it was like kind of an insane thing because that was in mid-June. And the Sundance deadline was basically the end of September. So it was an insanely fast process. And yeah, it was one of those things where I don't think any of us really knew how much we were undertaking.
CAVANAUGH: Did you have any hesitation? This is your first feature film, right? To turn this around so quickly?
NAJOR: I think partially because it was my first feature film I didn't think logically enough about it.
[ LAUGHTER ]
NAJOR: But I think that in a weird way is sort of the spirit of the film. And it was interesting too because Destin even said, once I did kind of start to rationalize the scope of what we were trying to do, he has these great artist/film-makers, and artists in general that are in San Diego that I've been introduced to, and it's people like Joel P. West, and Hess, and other artists, and we just pooled all these resources from different people, and just tried to make the best film we could possibly make.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear a scene from the film. This is a scene in which brook played by Dominic Boguard is being interviewed by a DJ.
NEW SPEAKER: You want me to talk about how she died two years ago, and we moved out here, and when I wrote my album with the music I was trying to figure all that out for myself, how to grieve. Maybe you could fulfill your childhood dream. I might start balling like you can have like a Barbara Walters special or something like that. Is that what you're trying to do?
NEW SPEAKER: Where is this coming from?
NEW SPEAKER: If your mom died, would you want to talk about it on some indie pop radio show?
CAVANAUGH: That's a scene from the film. It opens this Friday at the museum of photographic arts in Balboa Park. Destin, you worked with Joel P. West before and produced music videos for his band, the tree ring, which we have had on this program. Why did you choose him to work on this feature film?
CRETTON: Because Joel P. West is the best.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CRETTON: We've been working on a bunch of things together, and it's -- there's something really special about working with somebody that you both really respect their art, but then you also really respect them just as a person, and we've become really good friends since we've sort of started working together a few years ago. And I hope I can work on the next one with him as well.
CAVANAUGH: Joel P. West is the best. It sounds like a Doors song.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Joel, you created a fictional band for the film, right? How would you scribe the music?
WEST: It's kind of a minimalist indie music, where it's in the tradition of somebody who is -- they get music but they're not necessarily pulling together, like, a 10-pieces orchestra or something. They just have whatever's in their bedroom, and a laptop and a mic, and are just trying to make something that's compositional and interesting, but with really limited resources. So it's pretty stripped down, and it's pretty raw. And it's kind of something that is maybe trying a little bit extra to be avant-garde or interesting in more like the independent music scene.
CAVANAUGH: That's interesting. Let's hear one of the songs.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: Destin, that is a great title. How did you decide on the title?
CRETTON: The short answer is that it was a line in the movie at one point, and we ended up cutting the entire scene so the line disappeared. So the title stayed.
CAVANAUGH: I see. It reminds me, recently on the Steven Colbert show, he identified a young man who had black glasses in a bagel commercial, and he said that's a trust fund hipster! Does hipster have a negative connotation, do you think?
CRETTON: Yeah, it depends who you talk to, but I think a lot of people use it as a pretty derogatory label. I mean, one small thing -- mostly people, when they walk into this movie, they're expecting one thing and they'll get a little bit of it. But this movie is not an hour and a half joke making fun of hipsters. It's actually just a very real character-driven story about real human emotions that happens to take place within that subculture.
CAVANAUGH: As I said in the open, this movie did play at Sundance. You actually performed at Sundance. What was like that?
WEST: Oh, it was pretty amazing. It was an awesome process to work with this actor because he had to do everything to prep for this role that he already would have to do, and it was a really quick turnaround. But I wrote these songs, and he learned them enough to make it feel like he wrote them, and that he was just scratching around in his room and is comfortable just with his guitar. So it was pretty amazing because we got to play the music from the film, which the actor sings, and then a friend and I would back him up as kind of the band. And so most people who saw the movie that day, some of them were kind of confused about whether the music was made beforehand or whether the actor was mostly a musician or mostly an actor or what the deal was. And so then they got to walk in and watch him perform, and watch us perform together, all the songs that they just heard in the movie. So it was a pretty surreal experience to add to the whole experience of Sundance that was already kind of overwhelming.
CAVANAUGH: Ron, you not only were presenting a film, but you were promoting three bands from San Diego at Sundance, right? You had sort of a concert.
NAJOR: Yeah, it was kind of what Joel said, it was this amazing experience, especially for people when they got to watch the film, and then they come and sort of see the musicians play, which is something we're actually going to do at MOPA this Friday. We will actually in -- we have two screening, one at 6:00, and one at 9:00, and in between, we're going to have pretty much the same set that we did at Sundance that we did with a bunch of the musicians, playing different songs.
CAVANAUGH: So what kind of a buzz did you get from Sundance? Did it help the film get attention or distribution?
NAJOR: It definitely got very, very good attention. We got some really great reviews. Everything in terms of Sundance and that experience, I think we all agree was pretty much one of the most amazing moments of all of our lives. Unfortunately in terms of distribution, I think like one of the key elements that people -- all the distributor, the big distributors were saying to us was that you have no stars in this movie. And for us, it was a little disappointing because we got such good reviews, and after all our screening, people were so emotionally connected to the movie. And it kind of I think for all of us really made us want to push harder and do the film justice, and do something special with the film. And that's why we launched our Kickstarter, which basically we're trying to raise funds which is also tied into this MOPA screening on Friday which is sort of a co-fundraiser for the film.
CAVANAUGH: Did you say to them, what do you mean we have no stars? We did it in two months?
[ LAUGHTER ]
NAJOR: I don't think they care.
CAVANAUGH: Now, tell us a little bit more about the Kickstarter online fundraiser. I think a lot of groups are going to Kickstarter now. This is to raise the money yourself to distribute the film across the country?
NAJOR: Yeah, basically to go to some select theatres, to go onto, like, cable, video on demand, NetFlix, people don't realize this, but the districtor usually picks up those costs. And there's insurance, there's a bunch of different fees that a small independent film has to figure out a way to sort of coming up, and sort of in the same spirit that we made the film, which was pooling all our resources, I think that's sort of in our mind, the next step because we definitely want to try to get the film out there to as many people as possible.
CAVANAUGH: And Kickstarter is an online site where people who have theatre projects and music projects and film projects basically present what it is they want to do and they invite people to, you know, give them some money for a specific project, and to become investors in that particular project. Destin, you're having a San Diego premiere on Friday of I am not a hipster. How was the San Diego film festival involved in this?
CRETTON: The San Diego film festival actually approached us to host it. And we're excited to be teaming up with them. They've been a big supporter of my past, previous films. I'm really excited to be teaming up with them on this.
CAVANAUGH: How will you know, Ron, whether or not you've been successful enough on this fundraising approach to actually be able to get this film out in the various venues that you want?
NAJOR: The way Kickstarter works, you set up a goal for a number, and you 92ed to reach that goal, and if you don't you don't get the money. It's one of those things where we feel like obviously the more money we have, the more we can spend to get the film out there, but there is a minimum number we need to try to raise to get it out there. So it all depends in terms of whatever happens, we're going to get the film out there. So it just depends on, you know, how much support we can get to get if out there.
CAVANAUGH: Joel, will you be performing at this premiere on Friday?
WEST: Yeah, I will, and the actor, Dominic Bogart will as well. So we'll be playing some of the songs that appear in the film. So some people watch the film and get to hear the song, some will get to hear the songs and then see the film.
CAVANAUGH: Will there be any other bands?
WEST: It's going to be just Canine. Probably about 25-30 minutes.
CAVANAUGH: However had the desire to bring Canine into the real world?
WEST: It's interesting. We've talked about the idea of tours or doing something else with it beyond the film. The funny thing is that we've kind of gotten some press for this fictional band, and it's having a real band, myself, it's a little bit funny picketing Canine maybe being more successful than mine.
[ LAUGHTER ]
WEST: And Dominic too, he's really looking to act and not do music. So we'll see. It would be fun, but --
CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know, I am not a hipster has its San Diego premiere on Friday, 6:00†PM at the museum of photographic arts in Balboa Park. Thank you all very, very much.
WEST: Thank you Maureen.
NAJOR: Thank you so much.
CRETTON: Thank you.