There’s this persistent myth of the starving artist who after enduing years of hardship, living in obscurity and poverty overcomes all by sheer force of will, talent and a determination to never, ever give up. It’s a myth that can keep dreams alive for years on end while all logic dictates that enough should be enough. But that being said, perhaps its the only creative space where the artists’ intentions can be said to be truly pure? In his feature documentary ROCKBOTTOM – Songs of no Money, director Marc Helfers will examine poverty and Rock´n´Roll across the globe through a diverse range of artists, all united in their struggle and their musical talent. Marc explains how the documentary concept developed and how supporting the ROCKBOTTOM Indiegogo campaign will help make the film a reality, but first let’s meet two of the film’s tenacious stars in the crowdfunding pitch video:
I have been making music videos in Germany for the last ten years, small ones, unusual ones at first, but as the acts and their budgets grew bigger I got lucky and was able to make many big music videos for many famous German and European bands. Lately I’ve put a lot of thought into something very idealistic, the thought of searching for the true soul of good music, the heart of Rock´n´Roll if you wish. What makes greatness in music? It is definitely and for sure not necessarily where the success, the money or the stardom is – quite the opposite.
The blues derived from poverty and suffering and almost any other musical genre that followed was based on struggle and rebelliousness – soul, reggae, hip hop, punk, etc. While I was busy thinking about this issue I bumped into an online clip that somebody posted to me. It was a homeless guy from New York called Super Bad Brad singing an old soul classic to the people on the streets of NYC. The name of the song was For the Love of Money, an old song by the O´Jays, and surprisingly this YouTube experience hit the nail on the head of my topic and I started thinking about making a movie about poverty and Rock´n´Roll.
I immediately found out Brad´s cell phone and called and dropped very lucky. I found him to be very open and quite a storyteller, which for filmmaker is a bit like finding the first nugget of gold in a big pile of mud. I also knew very early on, that I wasn´t willing to let any other people on board the project concerning funding, as I wanted it clearly to be my film. Having made musicians look great, whose music I in some cases didn´t even like, brought me to a point that this one was going to be as indie as possible. Two weeks after having talked to Brad I decided to just go with my 5D and some really good lenses and head out to New York and let things happen. The flight was payed by an airline, that owed us a favor as it had delayed us on another shoot. A friend came along for the sound and 4 days of great shooting with Super Bad Brad was the initial, inspiring experience.
When I got back to Berlin, I met Texas Terri Bomb, a Rock´n´Roll legend, almost 60 and trying to make a living in my hometown of Berlin. Altogether I want to show 5 very different musicians: different in style and very different in their locations – places like Kingston, Jamaica or Bamako, Mali – places that tell a story about struggle and uprising, just like the musicians living in these places, having very little but their music left.
Now we are crowdfunding, not to fully finance the film, that would probably be too difficult to reach, but the hard, actual costs that we are confronted with if we want to carry on making the movie. We are trying to raise funds for the travel costs, some rights issues and a little thank you payment for the musicians. All the other costs in the form of our time, equipment and post, all of that is what we are putting into the film. “We” meaning Neue Stereo Filmproduction, which is the production company that I share with my best friend, the producer of ROCKBOTTOM, Martin Groß.
Although the documentary’s topic has to do with the abyss of life, it is not meant as a pitiful film which evokes people to feel sorry for my characters, but rather an inspiring film that shows strong, resilient protagonists living for music – idealism is clearly also on my mind. The subtitle Songs of no Money! refers to the fact, that the complete soundtrack, every song will be about the lack of money, presented in different musical forms – soul, reggae, punk, etc. I am hoping to reach my goal, which is to finish this movie within a year and be able to keep it independent, not be owned by the music industry, and launch it at the festivals, ideally Berlinale 2015 and then we´ll go from there.
If you’d like to help ROCKBOTTOM: Songs of no Money get made head to the film’s Indiegogo campaign page and pledge your support.