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The Fort Wayne Rock Documentary
Greg Locke talks filmmaking and fundraising as he launches documentary project
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
For such a seemingly unassuming guy, Greg Locke is pretty ambitious.
Many people probably know Locke as a perceptive critic and an enthusiastic chronicler of Fort Wayne’s music scene as a writer and editor for Whatz Up. Those who have read his columns recognize the voice of a passionate connoisseur of film, music, and popular culture.
Now, he is venturing into filmmaking.
Locke is developing an as yet untitled documentary that takes a look at Fort Wayne’s music scene and how it reflects trends in the current music industry. Earlier this month he launched a website — www.FortWayneRockDoc.com — to keep people up-to-date on the status of the project and provide an overview of his ideas and inspirations.
As we said above, Locke hopes to not only document the Fort Wayne music scene, but to offer a picture of what is currently happening in the music industry and what might be its future. “For example, Lee Miles is recording an album,” Locke explains. “So I can film him recording the album — seeing how he does it at home, what he uses, things like that — and then I can talk to him about what he’s going to with it. I can ask ‘what are your plans for this album, what are your hopes?’”
“I think people’s goals are a lot different than they were just three or four years ago,” Locke continues. “People used to want to get signed to a label, and I don’t even know if that’s the case any more. People used to want to sell albums and I don’t know if they even care about that anymore. Maybe they care more about touring. It used to be there were 20 national magazines you could maybe get in. Now there’s hundreds of blogs…”
“But so many things have changed,” Locke adds. “I haven’t seen the movie yet that sums all these things up and documents this weird transitional period. Whether I can give any answers or predictions, I don’t know. But I love the idea of asking a musician ‘well, what are you going to do? What do you hope comes of this? Have you become a hobbyist, or is this still something you’re working towards?’”
Lee Miles, a Fort Wayne-based singer-songwriter who released the album Heathen Blux in 2008, was immediately excited about the idea. “This project in particular interests me in that it will feature the Fort Wayne music scene as a microcosm of the music industry as a whole,” he says.
When Locke talks about his love of movies, he often uses the words “fan” and “student” interchangeably, and indeed, Locke has done his homework in all the different elements of filmmaking, both technical and artistic. He’s been involved in film projects before, studying Studio Art at IU where he had a hand in a few student productions, and recently he was a part of a still-in-progress independent short film being made in the area.
Mostly, though, he’s learned by studying the methods of his artistic heroes — the indie filmmakers he cites as inspiration — gathering as much information as possible on how those people got their movies made. “I’ve always studied music and film kind of on my own,” he says. “It’s been said that ever since laser disc technology came out, film school has become less important because there’s audio commentary and bonus features and those kinds of extras. You’ve been able to research in a much different way than you could a few years ago. There’re also endless books out there about film-making.”
“So I’ve researched how other people have done this. It’s become really affordable to make a quality movie lately, just in the last few years.” Locke mentions Francis Ford Coppola’s recent film Tetro, which was edited on a Mac in Coppola’s home, and Paranormal Activity, both professional films made for the big screen that were produced relatively inexpensively.
But Locke says he realized early on that the kind of film he had in mind — a feature-length documentary that could be shown on the big screen, one that might have a shot at being shown at festivals eventually — would need what’s euphemistically called “resources.” Basically, a film that looked “great on YouTube and crappy everywhere else” didn’t seem like a film worth making, and was going to require a little money.
Locke had read about many of his cinematic heroes encountering the same thing. Before filmmaker Richard Linklater became an icon with the independently made Slacker, for example, he made what Locke calls a “terrible” film that was hampered by Linklater’s limited resources. Though Locke hardly puts himself in the same category as Linklater (or Gus Van Sant, another filmmaker Locke has studied and admires), he decided that if they could do it…
So Locke set about learning how to write business proposals and craft budgets with the same focus that he brought to studying his heroes and researching the technical aspects of filmmaking, even though “fundraiser” is not a role he particularly likes. “Going around and asking people for money has been hard for me, and a real learning experience,” Locke says. “I’m looking forward to starting the actual artistic part of the whole thing. But Richard Linklater and Gus Van Sant went out and did it; I’m sure they were uncomfortable, but it worked out for them.”
One place that was impressed with Locke’s efforts was Sweetwater, Inc. Locke sent a proposal to Sweetwater President Chuck Surack, who was interested enough by what he read that he asked Christopher Guerin, Sweetwater’s Director of Program Development, to meet with Locke. Guerin says Sweetwater’s involvement with the project was a natural. “We’re always interested in being involved in the local music community in ways that make sense to us, and something like this, which is literally about the local music community, is just very appealing,” says Guerin.
Mostly, Guerin and Sweetwater were impressed by Locke’s professional approach to making the film. “Greg is very passionate about this and is willing to do whatever it takes,” Guerin says. “If Greg wants to make this happen, it’s not just a matter of shooting some footage and editing it. He realizes he’s got to find funding for it, he’s got to find public support for it. He gets all that, and he’s doing it.”
Guerin also offered Locke some advice, including the idea of starting the website. For his part, Locke says that Guerin keeps reminding him that, for better or worse, money and art often go hand-in-hand, especially when you’re talking about a project this ambitious. “Successful people in this world figure out how to get beyond their lack of comfort with stuff, and that’s what’s pretty impressive with what Greg has done so far,” Guerin says.
But Guerin stresses that this is not the Sweetwater show. They’ve lent their support to the project, but encouraged Locke to explore the community aspect by getting as many partners involved as possible for moral, financial, and promotional support.
In that aspect, Locke can count himself fortunate. He’s very well known and respected in the music community, and many people have already stepped forward to offer their support. Lee Miles, who organized a fundraising show for the project at the Brass Rail on March 5, sums it up: “Greg is a music guy. That's what he does. He is rarely off target, he's got a head full of great ideas and the ambition to follow through on them.”
“The first night I heard about the film, we talked for about an hour and I unloaded as many thoughts as I could on him,” Miles adds. “Most of my ideas, he already had covered.”
For the larger picture, Locke hopes to draw on connections he made during his long stint in music retail, where he was witness to many of the industry changes he talks about. He began working at a record store in 1997, when he was 17. He was eventually promoted to manager, and stayed in music retail throughout college.
When he started, mp3s were still a few years away from becoming a household name, and even the CD-R was relatively exotic to the general public. As we know, that all began to change very quickly as downloading music — often without paying — became increasingly popular. Locke watched as customers trickled away, labels folded or were consolidated, and the music industry tried to counter the trend with moves that seemed alternately tone-deaf, desperate, and fumbling. Worse yet, a lot of mid-level players in the record industry, the promoters, distributors, and label reps Locke used to deal with on a regular basis and considered friends and mentors, started to lose their jobs.
As a fan of popular music and part of that tech-savvy young demographic in the early ‘00s, Locke should have been the type of guy who was nabbing free music left and right. But Locke is pretty old school about some things, including the right of a musician to get paid for the music they make. If they want to give it to you, that’s fine; otherwise, it’s just stealing. He also regrets the decline of the record store. “I do have a really close bond with that whole world, and to see all these places close…” he says. “I have a real close connection to that, so it’s hard for me to be positive. I still wish people would pay for music. But people say ‘wake up, kid. Things are changing. You’ve got to get with the times.’ So I’ve definitely sort of given in to how things have changed. I still buy albums, but I understand people don’t, and the way you get paid now is to sell your song to a Doritos commercial or a movie or TV.”
But Locke points out that there are also plenty of positives. The same technological revolution that dealt such a blow to the traditional record industry’s business model has made it easier than ever for musicians to record their own material and get it out to the public; find other like-minded artists “out there” for inspiration and networking; and make fans in a whole other part of the country… or world.
Lee Miles agrees. “There is so much diversity in the world of music, so much confusion among labels, artists and fans, that it couldn't help but pervade the fabric of the smaller music scenes throughout the country,” he says. “I see a lot of confusion, a lot of people scrambling around trying to ‘make it,’ and that's fine. But I also see a great deal of genuine music being made.”
Locke hopes to tackle all these things in the film. “I’ve got a lot of resources to pull from, working with record labels and artists and distributors and music stores.”
Meanwhile, he’s focusing on raising money for the project.
Beyond that, Locke says, the best thing a documentary filmmaker can do is find a great subject, and right now, Fort Wayne’s music scene seems ripe source material. Growing up in the area, Locke always wished that Fort Wayne was just a little “weirder,” a little more interesting. And now, he sees that happening, especially in music. “I can’t say enough how much I love this album Lee Miles did, Heathen Blux. To me, that’s as good as any songwriter album I’ve heard in a really long time, and that was made by a guy who lived down the street from me. That’s just one example. If Jon Ross (Superhunk, Definitely Gary) had been born in Nashville he would have played on 30 hit records by now. And there are new bands popping up all the time.”
“I think there’s probably always been original music here, but right now, it seems there’s a lot more variety, a lot more quality.”
And hopefully, no better time to get it all down on film.
For more information and regular updates on the untitled Fort Wayne Rock Documentary project — including how to get involved — visit www.fortwaynerockdoc.com.
A fundraiser for the project happens Friday March 5 at the Brass Rail (1121 Broadway) at 9 pm sharp. Admission is $5 and all proceeds go to the Fort Wayne Rock Doc project. It’s hosted by Sankofa and features…
- Thundolah - Hutchins/Hall w/Jon Ross and Jon Keller
- Lee Miles & the Philistines
- Streetlamps for Spotlights
Additional donations accepted through the night by Lee Miles