Sundance Features

January 23, 2008

Ari Gold, Adventures of Power

"It's about a person who wishes he had drums discovering the drums within himself. It's a spiritual story."

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

THE REELER: How would you describe Adventures of Power in your own words?

ARI GOLD: I should get better at this. It's about a person who wishes he had drums discovering the drums within himself. It's a spiritual story. It's a comedy about an air drummer, but in a larger sense it's a philosophical tale about finding the drums within your own heartbeat. That sounds heavier than it is, but I guess that's why I spent three years on it -- to make more than a visual joke.

R: What did those three years entail?

AG: I was developing and writing and forming my own company, which at that point was just a piece of paper. But I took the piece of paper around to start raising money. The second year was more raising money and preparing to shoot and putting a team together. We actually started shooting in September of 2006 and didn't finish until October of 2007. It was an extremely long and arduous shoot with a lot of downtime in between. We had to hire a new crew; we shot all over the country, basically -- a couple places in Utah, California, New Jersey, New York -- with a lot of searching in between to film this story that I'd written without any regard to sanity or budget. You can’t just hire a crew and fly somewhere. If Hollywood had made this movie it would have cost $50 million. But because we're making it for cheap, it took three years and I haven't had a day off since Aug. 2. It's a good argument for believing in what you're doing; as hard as it's been, I've never doubted there's something potentially good here. Whether I end up making it good, we'll see when I get it in front of an audience.

R: Obviously there is some precedent here with Air Guitar Nation, which highlights the catharsis of air musicianship. It was tongue-in-cheek, but also very sincere. Is that part of Adventures of Power's message as well?

AG: Absolutely. One of the first times I appeared in public as this character Power was at an air guitar competition a few years ago. I was completely seeing eye-to-eye with the air guitarists as well as [Air Guitar Nation director] Alexandra Lipsitz, who interviewed me for the movie. We were all on the same page with this same ridiculous belief in air music, but somehow we also all believed that what we were doing meant something. For me I think it has something to do with how modern life is very disassociated: People expressing themselves while listening to something else just feels very modern. Setting my film in Copper Country, where labor unions are struggling to hold on to some semblance of a proud working-class life somehow for me felt like a dramatic counterpart to air-drumming. You're holding on to something that may not exist anymore.

R: You've got some Sundance experience, but this is your first feature. Does this change things in terms of expectations, nerves and the like?

AG: My only nerves right now are that my film's not done and we're premiering in less than a week. We're playing a volunteer screening, and the film's not mixed. As of 45 minutes ago there were five major shots that were missing. Like major, irreplaceable, one-take shots. Having shot all over the country, we had the dailies, and I put them into the movie, but I couldn't find the negative. The post-production supervisor told me to find alternate shots; I was sad about it, but I could find an alternate shot. For a couple of them, there are no alternate shots. They're essential to tell the story that we have.

R: Wait. Where's the negative?

AG: One camera roll is in New York, and there's another one that was logged incorrectly. Another one is at a different lab in Burbank. That was also left behind somewhere. We had people in the middle of the night going into the vaults and yelling at them: "Search again! There's something missing from our batch!" Stuff seems to be turning up. Hopefully it's covering the shots that are in the movie. So I haven't had time to worry about what's happening at Sundance. But in the back of my mind I'm happy to be going back; I came back with my band, and the few people who remembered my shorts said, "When are you coming with a feature?" "But I'm playing with my band down the street!" It was a little weird. But an air-drumming movie isn't what people were expecting from me anyway.

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