Cleveland is a tough place. Always has been. It’s a city built on industry with dirty hands. From Carnegie to the Cleveland Cavalier’s, it’s always been a gritty place founded on sweat and work ethic. We like being the underdogs. It’s motivating. Maybe it’s the carrot in front of the donkey, but I’ve always favored being the underdog myself. I’m from Cleveland. And I like grit. I like getting dirty. I like working for what I have.
Now, being a young director living in Los Angeles, I keep reminding myself that grit is important. I don’t want to lose that muscle. Especially in a city like LA which is built on “make believe” and is filled with people looking for someone to “discover them”. It’s easy to lose yourself in the fantasy and bite hook, line, and sinker into the illusion. I prefer to keep my nose to the grindstone and keep working on my craft. Because that’s what all great things have in common: Craftsmanship.
That is what drew me to Gotta Groove Records. Vince and Matt are Ohio boys with Ohio work ethic. They are also extremely passionate about the craft and it shows in each record they make, and the infrastructure they have built for the people who work for them.
Their story begins in 2009 when Vince and Matt simultaneously decided to both open a record plant. Matt in Columbus, and Vince in Cleveland. Unknown to Matt, Vince had purchased the last available 1970’s press from a manufacturer in New Jersey. Their paths crossed here and this is the birth of Gotta Groove Records. The first few years were rough for them. They had a hard time getting people interested in trusting the new pressing plant. But over the years (through the grit I was talking about) they learned the craft and are building upon that today.
November 2010, in wanders an aspiring filmmaker, still wet behind the ears from his college education, buried in debt, looking to sharpen his craft. Vince and Matt were nice enough to give this kid a chance. The kid made a short film on the process of making a record and the video did moderately well. Fast forward six years later, and that kid is a relatively well established director living in LA paying his bills on his craft. Something he never thought possible at the time. That’s what’s great about Cleveland. We help each other out. We have a kinship. The throughline being struggle, adversity, and in this case, craft.
I know very little in comparison to the people at GG (Gotta Groove) about how to make records, so I’ll just let the video do the talking.
I’d love to sit here and wax poetic (pun intended) about the philosophies of making the new film on Gotta Groove, but the reality is we just wanted to make something interesting to watch. Gotta Groove gave me complete creative control, which is a luxury in my field.
Documentary filmmaking is not a science. There is no measure twice, cut once. It’s free form, and it’s loose. So we did our best to structure an outline and we dove right into the making.
It was important to me that it be beautiful and fun to watch. It needed to show (not tell) anybody and everybody how records are made, but it also couldn’t be a PBS style info driven documentary. That tends to be boring. So we walked the line with a procedural documentary that also showcases philosophies and tells the story of Matt and Vince. This, in my opinion, is the future of docu-driven content for brands. Nobody wants to be “marketed” to. But everyone wants to learn.
The focus Gotta Groove has on quality needed to be reflected with the quality of the video, so my crew and I cranked up the production value. I enlisted my friend and talented cinematographer John Pope (Almost Holy, Blood Brother) and his assistant camera operator and now friend Mike Bacanu. It was down and dirty guerilla style doc shooting. John is a master of his craft and was able to use found light to shoot everything you see in the video except for the interviews with Vince and Matt. We shot for two days, following the whole process. With something like this only about 60% of what was shot gets used. The rest gets cut. So coverage is important.
Music is obviously a huge part of the piece, and my music supervisor Michael Seifert made sure we crossed genres and moved through different eras of music. He also made sure we incorporated lots of independent and local artists since the core of what GG does is press for independent artists, and we wanted the video to speak to those people, not force Justin Bieber into their ears.
The icing on the cake was the color correction. I was lucky enough to convince Allan Stallard of Animal VFX to take a color pass on the film. Allan is a vinyl lover and is also another master in his craft. We decided to give the film a retro feel to it, given that vinyl is sort of a throwback for most people. I wanted the images to look like 1970’s 35MM stock. He absolutely nailed that aesthetic.
Very rarely do you love a project completely when you make anything. You always find parts you cringe at, the audience may never find them, but they eat away at you slowly and make you come back to the next project stronger. This piece is the first piece I’ve made as a commission where I could lose myself in it in the same way the viewer does. I feel that’s a good testament to what we built here. I hope you all enjoy the piece, and can appreciate the craft of what goes into making something like this, and what goes into making high quality records.
Please continue to support people like Gotta Groove. I feel it’s not only important for music, but important to the economic health of our country. This place was built on grit, and like my grandpa used to say “It’s good for you, that builds character” and lately, America could use a bit more character.