Update! The time of YOU BELONG EVERYWHERE screening has been changed
“You are a poet, invited on tour by a popular rock band. Europe!! There will be large audiences. They might be drunk. They might get loud. They might not understand English. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime…. Now what?” (From the press release for You Belong Everywhere.)
If you are Derrick C. Brown — electrifying performance poet, former 82nd Airborne Paratrooper, President of Write Bloody Publishing, and one of America’s top five poets according to National Poetry Slam founder Marc Smith — you invite your friend, documentary and commercial filmmaker Stephen Latty (Drums Inside Your Chest) to document your career-defining tour opening for Cold War Kids.
Smart choice. The result, You Belong Everywhere, is a compelling, dynamic, you’ll-laugh-and-cry, rock ‘n roll poetry concert film.
And just in time to celebrate National Poetry Month!
There will also be a Q&A with Derrick and Stephen after the Echo Park Film Center screening of You Belong Everywhere. After reading the artists’ immensely entertaining interview below, conducted by email during the hustle and bustle of the tour, you’ll want to see You Belong Everywhere and ask them more questions yourself.
Hilarity may ensue.
Ms. Go Go: Stephen, you’ve written that “It is a really interesting time for poetry. Young poets are starting to be able to make a living as poets – not as musicians, or screenwriters, or greeting card writers, or insurance salesmen, but as poets.” Derrick, do you agree and if so, why do the two of you think poetry is becoming a viable way to make a living?
Stephen Latty: When I first met Derrick, he was in his early thirties working at a small production company making Sunday school videos for kids – very weird and very funny Sunday school videos. The strangeness he brought to it was fantastic…gigantic hot dog men in space talking about God and telling bible stories with dead fish.
Stuff like that. He was definitely pushing the envelope in that medium, which I didn’t even know was possible. Anyway, the job seemed pretty ideal – I think it paid okay and he was able to take off for months at a time to do poetry shows around the country. So when he quit that job, I had a feeling poetry was becoming something much more sustainable for him, otherwise I think he’d still be doing it. There’s nothing like slightly warping children’s minds. I should mention that Derrick introduced me to other poets who also make a living writing and touring as poets – Beau Sia, Mindy Nettifee, Mike McGee, Buddy Wakefield…those are just the people I know pretty well as friends. The list Derrick could give would be a lot longer. The only reason it seems to me that poetry is becoming a viable way to make a living is that I see these poets doing it. I admire them all. I believe in that fight to make a living doing what you want to do.
Derrick C. Brown: It is not as viable as advertising for cruise ships, prestidigitation or even mowing lawns. But it is more possible than ever to use the rock and roll model to hit the road, sell t-shirts off your fancy website, offer to perform weddings, work with orchestra’s etc. It all depends how disciplined and organized an artist can be.
MGG: What did you think was going to be the biggest challenge about making YBE and what actually was the biggest challenge?
SL: I thought the biggest challenge would be to shoot the film. I was following the tour by train with my girlfriend at the time, who was instrumental in helping me get the project started, and the two of us wore ourselves out getting to each city, figuring out where Derrick was, shooting something in the afternoon, setting up in a theater, hooking up an audio recorder, charging the batteries, etc. On a fifteen-day ‘European’ shoot I think we went out to eat together once – at a horrible café in Paris. There was zero time for relaxation, which I’ve come to believe may be the only way to actually make a decent film.
The actually most challenging part was editing the film. There was no post-production budget, so I cut it myself, and that took a long time. I had a much bigger scope in mind at first – Derrick reading poetry throughout the world, showing more of his life, meeting his family. We shot a lot of other material, which is all really interesting, but there is something really unique about the Cold War Kids tour. Derrick really seemed to be exploring new ways of dealing with negative energy in the audience. Plus, Cold War Kids often performed with him on stage, which was often very wonderful. I really admire the spirit in that band. It still took me a long time to see that the material from this tour worked best isolated in its own film…editing.
DCB: For me it was wondering if we were capturing the most bizarre, stressful and exciting moments. I wonder if the movie makes it seem too easy or way too hard to hit the dirt.
MGG: What was the biggest surprise of the tour?
SL: Derrick has an old poem about how much he hates Paris, which he wrote after a really horrible poetry show he did there. After reading that poem, I expected the show in Paris was going to be really bad. But it turned out to be the opposite. The audience was totally in it – laughing, shouting, gasping at surprising lines. It changed Derrick’s attitude completely. That was really beautiful to see. It’s the performance with which the film opens.
DCB: That you get sick of beer and whiskey when it is constantly dumped upon you and you can no longer sneak it into your backpack or luggage. I was also surprised at how incredible the French response was. I performed in their world of spoken word and it wasn’t as wild and blissful as doing poetry when people only expected rock and roll.
MGG: Were there any off-camera moments that you really wished you’d captured on film?
SL: The show before I joined the tour, a number of young women at the front of the audience apparently reached out and grabbed Derrick’s testicles as he tried to read a poem. Repeatedly. I would’ve liked to ‘capture’ that.
DCB: Yes. So many. We were limited to one camera though. The fist fight. The 3 aggressive women in Berlin. The bottles thrown. I am glad we even got some on such a small budget generously donated by the incredible amber tamblyn, a real pusher of poetry.
MGG: Before You Belong Everywhere, the two of you collaborated on Drums Inside Your Chest. Is that how you met?
SL: No, we met because I started working at that same production company! I graduated from film school and needed a job, and that was the most interesting one I could find. Way better than shooting porn.
So Derrick and I shot a bunch of Christian video skits together before we did any poetry films. He actually played the gigantic hot dog man from space, and I shot it. We had a lot of fun seeing how far they let us push things. I remember in one script we wrote had Moses yelling, “Get your freak on!” before the Israelites attacked Jericho. They cut that one.
DCB: I think we met in a sweat lodge, that I thought was a sweet lodge sponsored by See’s candy. I thought he looked better than average for a boxer from the 1930’s. And he had candy. The only one.
MGG: Had the two of you discussed doing another movie together before the Cold War Kids tour was offered?
SL: We first started writing some feature scripts together. Horror stuff. One was about these kids who bring their dead friend to the desert to burn him in the blue cougar mascot suit he was wearing when he died during a school football game. The friend comes back to life and terrorizes them wearing that outfit the whole time. I
still like that idea.
I started shooting Derrick’s poetry shows around Los Angeles as a favor, or maybe he paid me a little bit. I don’t remember. Our friend Amber Tamblyn, who I also met through Derrick, liked what I was doing with that and asked me to shoot some of her poetry shows. That’s how we came to make Drums Inside Your Chestand You Belong Everywhere, both of which Amber executive produced.
We started shooting You Belong Everywhere before Drums Inside Your Chest, however. YBE just took me a lot longer to finish.
DCB: We used to work on a kids show together. I directed the shoots and the graphics department.
MGG: Derrick, you describe Strange Light, the 40 minute poem that you wrote as part of a multi-media collaboration with the Dutch contemporary dance company Noord Nederlandse Dans, as your “final book” of poetry. Why is it your “final” book?
DCB: I am going to try and trick people into coming to my poetry shows by calling them plays.
MGG: Stephen, what is the particular challenge of making films about poets?
SL: It’s like filming a wizard casting a spell and expecting the same spell to be cast every time somebody watches it back. That’s just not how magic works. So you have to find a way to cast your own spell with the film, itself. Assuming you believe in poetry.
MGG: Finally, Derrick, how did being a paratrooper prepare you to become a poet?
DCB: It made me clean my room, fold my shirts before I began to create. It helped me be an artist with a survive at all costs mind-set. I’ll eat your pants for 5 dollars.
YOU BELONG EVERYWHERE w/ poet Brendan Constantine — Friday, April 13 @ 7:30 pm; $8 – Echo Park Film Center, 1200 No Alvarado St LA 90026
Ready? U Know U Want 2 Go Go….
UPDATE! Filmmaker Stephen Latty will be doing the post-film Q&A solo; poet Derrick C. Brown will not be at the event.
This update also gives the correct time for tonight’s show.