In 1994, director Suki Hawley and producer Michael Galinsky set out on the first of their many ventures together, the product of which was the tasty nugget of mid-Nineties apathy Half-Cocked. The pseudo-documentary is the tour story of Truckstop, a spontaneous band of early twentysomethings traveling Tennessee in a stolen van full of stolen gear.
The nonactors living the dream are nostalgically familiar: Rodan's Tara Jane O'Neil, Jason Noble, and Jeff Mueller; Jon Cook; and Cynthia Nelson switch off gear and jabs in Truckstop, and Nation of Ulysses' Ian Svenonius rips up the part of O'Neil's self-absorbed big brother and frontman of the Guilloteens. But this isn't some preachy flick of finicky teens making it in the world. Half-Cocked is a time capsule full of heart and hope, and underneath all the drama, right there in grainy black and white, is the real documentary of coming of age in the transition time between angst and responsibility.
"We've always been very interested in documentation and archiving things for the future," Hawley explains. "I think [Michael] was looking at the scene, the indie rock scene of that time, as something that was going to not be there forever, and in fact, the kids that we shot with were in bands that I think broke up really soon after we shot the film. It was prescient."
"I had taken some documentary photo classes and was very interested in that," Galinsky continues. "Suki had studied classic Hollywood film at Wesleyan. So what we were trying to do was kind of marry the two with Half-Cocked, which was trying to make a narrative film that had that kind of humor of Billy Wilder but that was also capturing something that wasn't going to be there. The idea was to document à la Suburbia or something something that existed, but do it in a narrative way."
Half-Cocked didn't make it into film festivals that year ("It just didn't work in the festival world at that point, whereas now it seems like people are starting to see it for what it is," Galinsky says), so the duo packed up the van and took it on the road, sometimes screening it in the very rock clubs and record shops it was filmed in. They took the film to the people who would really understand it: music fans.
While cruising around Europe, Hawley and Galinsky stepped into their second feature, 1998's Radiation, another doc-shot narrative recording the music scene, this time focusing on Spanish music promoter Unai and his monumental fuckups. They filmed in Madrid and Barcelona, capturing Spanish faces and clubs, and this time the film took them to Sundance, New York Underground, South by Southwest, and upward of 40 international festivals. Radiation was also the partners' last narrative, spending the days till now working on such documentaries as 2002's Horns and Halos, 2005's Code 33, A&E follow-up Miami Manhunt, and the upcoming American Cannibal, which Hawley edited.
"We've written other scripts or worked on ideas," says Galinsky about the future of another narrative. "But it's such a Herculean task to pull together everything you need to do with that many people."
For now, distributing on their own Rumur Releasing, Hawley and Galinsky travel the country with the 10th anniversary "because 13th just looks stupid in print" DVD release of both Half-Cocked and Radiation. Most of the 20-plus cities on the tour are holding the screenings in rock clubs, just like Half-Cocked was originally shown. But Austin, of course, has the Alamo.
"Hopefully people will go there, get drunk, laugh about what they used to be like, and pass out," Galinsky chuckles. Just like the old days.
Monday, Feb. 12, 9:45pm
Alamo Drafthouse Downtown
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