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What's not to Dig!?

Ondi Timoner : Part Two

Read part 1 of the interview

 

[more:]Prefix Magazine:
You mentioned that you grew up with the bands as the project progressed. Was it ever hard to draw the line between filmmaker and friend?

Ondi Timoner :
Definitely. Anton was like a brother to me; Courtney was like a brother to me. They all came and stayed at my house if they got in fights with each other, or their girlfriends. Zia (McCabe, keyboardist for the Dandy Warhols) described the film as a family scrapbook, a document of our lives. That's also what helped me finish it up. I kept dreading going in there to edit. I was bummed out, and I shed quite a few tears, but when I got in the editing room, after three hours, I was laughing out loud.

PM:
So how did you create that filmmaker boundary during the process?

Ondi Timoner :
I had to keep reminding myself that I was a filmmaker and that's why I was there. As long as there were people around Anton to intervene, I didn't have to. I would do it sometimes off-camera because I cared about Anton very much. But it always got me into trouble.
The one time that I almost really screwed it up was when I was so into both bands, and I really came to believe in both of them so much that I raised money to put Anton in a studio to make a record. And then I had to remind myself, "Hey, you're the filmmaker. You need to record what's going on. If he's not able to make a record right now because he can't get the funds, you need to document that, and not record the album." I wanted to see his dreams come true.
I ultimately pulled back from doing that and I'm really glad. You take the movie Double Dare, for example -- the one about stuntwomen. And the filmmaker actually brought the stuntwomen together, and I feel like the film loses so much power because the filmmaker affected the action.

PM:
There are a couple moments in the bonus features where you're on camera and you're discussing the project's direction. What made you decide to include those clips on the DVD?

Ondi Timoner :
I thought people would be interested in an inside look at a filmmaker's frustration with a madman. I thought it was interesting looking back. One of my fellow interlopers saw that footage and thought, Holy smokes, she predicted Sundance. When I was actually finishing the film, I was just trying to finish what I started. I had no notion of even getting into Sundance. I was just trying to create a document that would be a summary of what happened.
I think there's a lot of curiosity about creativity -- I mean, the whole film's about that exact thing. And I think there's some validity to those four clips I put in of myself. It's one thing to just stand back and hold the camera, but I'm willing to show a little bit of my own befuddled self stumbling through. There are a lot of filmmakers out there that hit that point, and I hope it helps them to see the value of finishing what you start. Did you think it was a bad idea to include that?

PM:
No, I thought it was interesting, because if this is a movie about creative process -- the Dandies vs. Jonestown -- then here's a parallel story: the director who's capturing all this.

Ondi Timoner :
Yeah, that's what I was trying to do. With the DVD, I had the freedom to add that to the story -- which was not about me. But it was certainly my life, too. That's why it was so painful to edit it. I tired to hire other editors, but you couldn't relate the 2,000 hours of footage to other people.

PM:
How long did the editing process take?

Ondi Timoner :
Four years, on and off. I financed the film by directing music videos, EPKs, TV series, lots of things.

PM:
How much did Dig! cost?

Ondi Timoner :
Um a lot. Quite a bit. We haven't recouped. At all.

PM:
There's a reality-TV aspect to a lot of the footage, in the train-wreck sense. There's very little staged material, it's almost all on-the-spot footage. Did the reality-TV boom have any influence on the film?

Ondi Timoner :
Not at all. I'm not a fan of reality television whatsoever. The greatest byproduct of reality TV is that it opened the door for documentaries because people started to realize that real life could be more interesting than fiction. That's the only positive thing to come out of it.
Dig! was influenced by the content of Dig!. With a documentary, you have the freedom to allow the material to influence the form. With dramatic features, a lot of filmmakers look at other films as an influence, and they often reference each other. But as a documentary filmmaker, with such rich content, it's all about capturing and presenting the conflict in the most interesting way possible.

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