DVD documents dynamic local music duo
Who knows what music fans think it's like to be in a hard-working band? But, thanks to a Milwaukee filmmaker and two members of three local bands, they can get a glimpse into the world of a local band.
Filmmaker Kristin Catalano, working toward her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA, focused her camera on musicians and roommates Eric White, of Heathrow, and Paul Wall, of Trolley and The Nice Outfit (and the briefly reunited Exotics), for a documentary class project.
The result is "Let's Start a Revolution," a 26-minute look at the sacrifices, struggles and joys of being in a band. The film has been accepted into a number of film festivals, including events in New York and Tulsa, Okla.
"I was impressed with their music," says Catalano. "I really liked the band members, as people, thought it was extremely interesting how Paul and Eric lived together, and felt a strong connection to them as struggling artists.
"When I see a situation, I think story. Here are these two roommates ... in different bands ... under the same label ... one is a college guy ... the other stays focused on music ... Conflict anyone? Actually, that was one of my biggest surprises: how much they support each other's music/bands."
Catalano spent a lot of time with the pair, capturing them at work, at home, on stage, in rehearsal and ... shaving. That had its ups and downs, according to White.
"At one point Kristin traveled to UWM to film me teaching and to interview me in my teaching assistant office," he says. "At another point, she followed me onto an MCTS bus which was a little embarrassing but necessary to make a point about my less-than-opulent lifestyle. Admittedly, I was often very frustrated with having to make time to film the documentary. I was feeling very selfish with my time because the bulk of the filming was happening during a period when I was trying to figure out how to write a 150-page American history thesis for my master's degree.
"I would receive e-mails or messages from Kristin about new angles on our (Paul and my) and the bands' stories that she wanted to capture. Of course, no matter what agitation percolated inside of me, the vanity and pride that sprouted from being a featured nobody in a film about a couple of major nobodies kept me involved enthusiastically in the process. I know at times Kristin must have been very frustrated with me, considering the lion's share of her work needed to be completed in Los Angeles and away from her Milwaukee subjects, but she did not often show that she was annoyed with my pouty manchild qualities."
Catalano doesn't seem any worse for the wear. "I've got to say, Paul and Eric are unique guys with wacky personalities and loads of humor. They bounce off of each other like superballs, which made my job easy. So, in that respect, I don't think all artists have the ability to draw in an audience nor entertain them for 26 minutes of jibber-jabber."
After three trips to Milwaukee and hours and hours spent with Wall and White, what she learned, Catalano says, is that the day-to-day battles of being in a struggling band are akin to the issues faced by artists working in all media.
"That is one thing that really drew me to them and doing this project," says Catalano. "As a filmmaker, I am in the same boat. All artists struggle in the same way. We all want to be, not only recognized, but appreciated. We want to influence and affect people we've never met. We want to be told that we are great... at least at what we do. That our passion is worthwhile. That our hearts are not a wasted organ."
White says the film also put things in perspective for him and Wall.
"Paul and I, as roommates and friends, talk so much there were not too many topical surprises. However, when you sit down, talk hours on end, compile tons of footage, and look at the finished product, you gain a new appreciation -- or a new frustration -- for all of the energy and resources you have to muster to keep a collective of creative individuals going."
Catalano does a good job of capturing the differences in attitude between White and Wall. While the former works just as hard on his band Heathrow, he's also keeping one foot in the career world by earning a master's at UWM. He also seems more fatalistic about music. Wall, on the other hand, appears to have every fiber of his being invested in his music and keeps a remarkably upbeat attitude through thick and thin.
"I think the work Paul has done," says White, "with creating a label of like-minded musicians in the form of Easter Records, who work together to make themselves less unknown, is something unique in Milwaukee -- a very musical city but one without a very definable scene. Watching how the disparate personalities that compose Heathrow, Trolley and The Nice Outfit interact and progress -- particularly in the confines of a 26-minute documentary film -- will hold the interest most individuals who have ever sampled some of the underground pop and rock that Milwaukee has to offer."
While Heathrow and Trolley and The Nice Outfit continue to live and work in Milwaukee, Catalano is not sure whether or not she'll come back to Milwaukee.
"I don't know where I'll end up," she admits. "I've lived in Los Angeles for over three years now. I used to hate it here, now I'm just numb to it. I stay here to do what I do: work my way into the industry. I can't see myself celebrating my 85th birthday here. Maybe my 84th, but not my 85th.
"If/when I can get funding -- any investors out there? -- I'd like to shoot a feature in Milwaukee, use the Easter Bands in the soundtrack. I'm working on a script right now that is set in Brew Town, and if it's meant to be, it'll all work out."
In the meantime, Easter Records is releasing "Let's Start a Revolution" as a DVD with some deleted scenes, a trailer and full versions of the songs used in the film. The Easter Records Web site is easterrecords.net.
Heathrow, Trolley and The Nice Outfit celebrate with a release party at Points East Pub, 1501 N. Jackson St., at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 25 (yes, Christmas). Catalano will also be on hand.
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