Jun 26, 2008

An Interview with Adam Yauch

Adam Yauch is a busy guy. He's recording a new Beastie Boys record with fellow members Mike D and Adam Horovitz. Along with ex-ThinkFilm exec David Fenkel, he's recently opened a new film distribution house, Oscilloscope Laboratories. There first release is his feature directorial debut, the high school basketball documentary Gunnin' For That #1 Spot! After a premiere at last month's Tribeca Film Festival, it opens commercially tomorrow. I caught up with Adam to talk about his new film.

CEC: When did you initially conceive of the project?

AY: It was a pretty last minute thing. A friend of mine was organizing this high school all-star game at Rucker Park and was essentially asking me for advice about how to document the game. I started having ideas about profiling some of the players that we’re coming out and became more interested in the world of elite high school basketball. It started sounding like a cool documentary. This is only like a few months before the game so I put it together pretty last minute. Shot it. Spent about a year editing.

CEC: I noticed you didn’t profile all of the players. How did you go about prioritizing them?

AY: I wanted to pick eight players to do profiles of and from those, pick the most interesting five and use five in the documentary, but I actually liked all eight and used all eight in the documentary. The way they were chosen they where actually recommended by the guys that were putting the game together. I wanted diverse bunch, from different kinds of backgrounds, different geographical areas, guys with interesting personalities, guys who were pretty decent backgrounds and I really liked all of them. They chose well for me.

CEC: Tell me about the consumerism aspect and how it melds with these players lives, how from the earliest stages there asked to sponsored with shoe companies and being pursued my marketers. How do you think that effects them as young men and what persective did you have on that in your film?

AY: I don’t know that that’s really the perspective in the film too much, but it’s certainly an interesting thing. I think as a country the United States is obsessed with consumerism. It revolves around consumerism. I don’t know if it’s much a part of there… it’s so intertwined with these guys lives, with professional sports. Consumerism is so entangled with professional sports its hard to imagine separating them at this point.

CEC: Did you have any particular inspiration or models for the aesthetic of the film? Certainly you took tremendous care with the sound design; it’s quite immaculate.

AY: In terms of the structure, I had some ideas about doing profiles of the different players whiched colored the game. The idea being that you could watch the profiles first and then know the players and then watch the game. The other idea was just to capture some aspect of the world of elite high school basketball to just get a sense of what their world is like. Some of the ideas were pretty rough going into it but those were basically the ideas. Part of the ideas of the film was to not have it be the traditional stiff documentary, but to have it move with the energy of a narrative and hopefully we achieved that, I think that the film moves pretty well.

CEC: What are some of your favorite sports films? Did you draw on them for inspiration at all?

AY: I saw Hoop Dreams back when it came out. I love it. In terms of inspiration for this film, it might have been more in the line of Spellbound, things like that, something that takes a look at another world. In terms of sports films, I always loved looking at slow motion photojournalism of the NFL, of football players in the 70s they used to make these cool slow motion films where there using a long lense of players running in slow motion. I always liked that.

CEC: Tell us alittle bit about your new film label Oscilloscope Laboratories? This is going to be your first release. What else do you have in the pipeline and what are some of your priorities as a film distributors?

AY: There are a few films that we have. The idea of it was to start a small indie film distribution company. There seems like there’s a lot of cool films that are falling through the crack, that aren’t getting distributed, that aren’t getting out there. The next thing we’re putting out is Flow, a documentary about the world water crisis. There are a few others we’re going to be releasing but they haven’t been announced yet. I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth.

CEC: Do you plan on making more films? Do you have to find the right thing to embark upon?

AY: Yeah. There’s sometime to find the right thing to do. At the moment I’m working on music, I’m recording with Adam and Mike on our new record. I’m sure I’ll make more films at some point in the future, when the time and the right project presents itself.