Remembering Adam YauchMay 22nd, 2012 | Posted by in Uncategorized
IndieFlix is pleased to introduce guest blogger Imogen Reed.
Battle with Cancer
After his long battle with cancer, the film industry is paying tribute to one of the true heroes of independent filmmaking: Adam Yauch, who died May 4. Although for many his memory is connected indelibly to his contribution to the music world, and in particular the Beastie Boys, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just last month, there is no arguing about his substantial contribution to the world of independent film; most notably with all of the productions developed through his film company, Oscilloscope Pictures.
Shot to Fame
Even if Yauch (pronounced Yawk), who directed the fan-filmed concert documentary Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! under the nom du film Nathaniel Hörnblowér, had not been an icon in the music world, he would be remembered for his achievements in the production of movies that may have never seen the light of day were it not for his insight and brilliance. It is widely hoped that Oscilloscope will continue to produce the eclectic range of quirky, poignant and insightful movies for which they have developed a reputation, despite the tragic loss of their enigmatic leader.
In conjunction with David Fenkel, the Vice President of THINKfilm, Yauch established the independent movie production company Oscilloscope in 2008, with a view to experimenting with something for which he had a real passion following his successful career in the music business. The company has produced fifty movies to date—one of which, the 2008 basketball documentary, Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot, was directed by Yauch himself. The movie follows the lives of eight high school basketball players as they compete in an all-star basketball game on the heralded Rucker Park court. Yauch was inspired by the unique unreality of the player’s lives and it is this sort of perspective which can be seen in many of the movies that Oscilloscope produced. At the time the movie was released he explained, “I liked the idea that these kids are still in high school, they weren’t known.” In some respects the progression into fame mirrored his own meteoric rise to stardom with the Beastie Boys. He added, “The age was interesting—it’s a transitional age of people going from being kids to being adults, and these guys are on this fast track to being superstars, household names.”
Not Genre Based
Explaining the motivation behind the range of movies that Oscilloscope produced in 2009, Yauch reflected on the approach to selection: “Well, there’s certainly not one specific genre type [we look for].” He went on to detail the array that the company was involved in. “We’re picking up documentaries, we’re picking up foreign language films, domestic films, American films, and some are smaller budget, some are larger budget, some mainstream casts, some are unknown casts. But, I’d say the common thread is really just films that I and other people at the company like for one reason or another. Films that make us laugh or that are informative, but it’s pretty all over the place.” This approach led to audiences experiencing movies which were not like anything that they had ever seen before. From their earliest releases like the haunting documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, to more recent releases like We Need To Talk About Kevin, the story of a boy involved in a high school massacre, Oscilloscope has tackled the widest range of topics imaginable and the resultant pictures are nothing short of stunning.
System for Selection
The system that the company employed to select their movies was not based on budget, director, cast or narrative, but far more on “gut instinct” felt by those in the company who were managing the projects. This goes some way to explain not just the diverse spread of movie types, but also how the movies have resonated with the film industry and with the general movie-going public. Yauch explained the instinct-based approach to choosing the projects: “You have to feel like the film has some redeeming quality, feel moved by it for some reason.” He added that in an industry which is so driven by finance, money was the least important factor in choosing their pictures. “We’re not going to pick up films that are just marketable because they’re marketable, if we don’t like them that much.”
This philanthropic approach is very rare in the movie industry today and for this kind of innovative thinking alone Yauch will be sadly missed.
Imogen Reed is a freelance writer from England. She writes on behalf of a leather furniture company after, strangely enough, purchasing one of their sofa’s to chill out on and listen to music with friends many years ago.