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Greg W. Locke Talks The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Independent Filmmaking
By John Hubner
Fort Wayne Reader
I've known Greg W. Locke for close to 10 years now. Granted I've never met the man to his face or shared a beer with him, but we've discussed music and cinema via this thing called the internet on several occasions. I was probably aware of the guy before 2006, but only through his album reviews in the pages of Whatzup. He was usually telling me through his well-written prose to love Pavement, Lou Reed, Mount Eerie, and Thunderhawk. Our first email encounter was when I sent my first album in to Whatzup for review. He told me it was great and that I should look into other local guys like Kevin Hambrick and Mark Hutchins. When I told him "Thank you, sir", he replied "I'm not a sir. I'm only 23 year old." Thank for making me feel old, Greg.
Anyways, Greg was a musicophile, but he was also a cinephile as well. He loved film. He made films on his own. I admired the guy for that. I've never had the patience, gumption, and stubbornness required for that field. Songs are easy, and recording them isn't that bad either. But making a film? Man, that's a lot of work(and a lot of money.) But Locke didn't let that stop him. He packed up his vinyl and a couple pairs of pants and moved to New York to do something with that desire to make films. Forever Into Space was the result of a year of running around New York guerilla-style and shooting with a handful of like-minded guys and gals. He made his first foray into independent film (not counting his music doc Holler and the Moan) for less than the price of a beat up 1996 Honda Civic.
So how is he doing now? Where's the film at? How did it do? I got a hold of Greg and we discussed these things. Things could be better, but they could be a hell of a lot worse.
J. Hubner: We talked a year ago about the making of Forever Into Space. How has the last year been?
Greg W. Locke: It has simultaneously been the worst and most exciting year of my life. A lot of things factor into that, Forever Into Space being one of those things. Maybe THE thing. I don't know what it's like for other people; for me making art is fun. But trying to make something of your art is torture. I guess I sound like an insufferable sissy, but that's just how it is for me. I realized only recently that while making Forever Into Space I never once considered trying to make something people would like. I just wanted to make something I thought was interesting. Something that fit within the standards of modern film, but was also definitively odd for any era.
J. Hubner: Something people would like? I guess you have to take people, other than yourself, into consideration when making art at the level of a feature film. But without some of that odd stuff -that quirkiness- you're just making something we've already seen. I think you put across something unique in Forever Into Space. Anyways, go on.
Greg W. Locke: So I guess that's my long way of saying that the movie isn't setting the world on fire. And that was never the plan, so okay. The plan was to make a thing, have fun making the thing, and maybe have that thing afford me and my collaborators future opportunities. But I guess it ended up being just good enough that there were expectations placed upon it that were not originally a consideration. The goals changed somewhere along the way. But I think that, in retrospect, it's a time in my life - and a project - I will proudly look back on. I had to have a lot of courage and that's not very easy for me. And here's this thing I did that I can't believe I did that I wish I could do full-time. Of course that's the case.
J. Hubner: That always is the case. Even if you're barely getting by, at least you're getting by doing something you love. So how did the film do festival-wise?
Greg W. Locke: As far as an update goes, we have played at several festivals. We premiered at Cinequest Film Festival in Cali. We opened the New Jersey International Film Festival and were runners up or something for whatever that festival's top prize is. We played at a fest in Brazil. We screened at three festivals in Indiana. We were nominated for seven Maverick Movie Awards. All these tiny accomplishments. Are those even accomplishments? Oh, and I suppose there are still a few outstanding festival submissions. And some hilariously evil distribution offers. I'm not sure what will become of the whole thing. Holler and the Moan sits on my hard drive; I hope that's not the case with Forever Into Space because I owe my collaborators - especially Kelly and Andrew - a lot more than that.
J. Hubner: How do you feel about the process? Is it as disappointing as I would imagine? Not so much the process of creating, but once that thing is done and you're trying to get people to notice.
Greg W. Locke: Yeah, it's the worst. You spend three years making this small thing and then you just get crushed and crushed and crushed. That's three times the crush. Art has never been easy and hopefully it never will be easy.
I feel like I'm being very negative. Saying bummer things. I know that I'm supposed to say things that will make people love me and my work and care about what I'm doing, but I'm not good at that. And I know that I'm lucky to have good friends and live in a time and place that allows even big idiots like myself the space to make ambitious things. Where I can dream big and make art. So yes, it's been difficult, but no, I'm not crushed. I'm better than ever I guess. Maybe still not good enough to be The Next PT Anderson, but strong enough to keep trying. I'm healthy, I have ideas and I'm crazy enough to go for big things. These things make me feel very lucky. I wish more people would go for it.
Also, we're doing this interview by e-mail, so I'm sitting at my desk typing my answers. Some of them I wrote down in a legal pad on the F train, then typed out. So I read back over my responses and it reads like writing, not conversation. It doesn't sound like me, but is reads of my voice. It's just funny to read back over my responses and be like, "… Yo, I don't sound like that ever ever ever when I talk! I talk like Audrey from the movie. Maybe less dramatic." But I digress ...
J. Hubner: For the record, I don't think you're being negative. You're just being honest. You headed out into the great unknown while most stay behind in what they know. I don't believe you have to move away and struggle and be malnourished and hope your key will unlock your apartment door in order to make art that matters. I think you can make it wherever you are, and it can be amazing whether you're in Goshen, Indiana or Chicago, Illinois. But I think what you’re trying to, which is tell stories in film, it takes a step into the darkness and hoping something at the bottom of that existential ravine catches you.
But back to it, despite those difficulties in the post-creation process, did the movie turn out like you'd hoped it would?
Greg W. Locke: For what we had to work with I am happy enough I guess. Not satisfied but happy. I hate to contextualize a piece of art too much, but time and money are important considerations within certain mediums. Especially money when you're talking about film. So one goal was to be as smart about money - and resources in general - as possible. That simple. Anyone I've come across who really understands film production seems to think we are fibbing about our budget and process. That's the compliment I wanted. "Your stuff is too good to be have been made for eight-hundred bucks."
As for the film itself, outside of the context of resources, I think it has some good things going for it. I think there's some really good stuff on the screen. Bt are there things I'd change? Yeah, most of it. I think that's just how it works for me though. I wish I could make everything twice, then break it into two running collections: (1) The Good Ones; and (2) The Crap Ones. Okay I'm rambling because I haven't slept in two days.
J. Hubner: I think that's with every creative person, both the two running collections and the lack of sleep. When you're not plotting out the next project, what are you doing?
Greg W. Locke: I've been working this new job at The Strand Book Store, in their design department. They want me to eventually do some video production work for the store. So whoa, maybe I'll get paid to do some commercial film work. So I guess the movie helped me with that opportunity. They seem stoked about my work.
J. Hubner: Hey, that beats a factory job or serving burgers. Do you still keep in touch with any of the FIS crew?
Greg W. Locke: Sorta. Maybe. I don't know. You mean like since when? Kelly and I were very close for a long time, but life in New York is pretty crazy. You have to keep busy or else you feel like you're wasting an opportunity. So she's doing her thing and I'm doing mine. I definitely keep in touch with our sound guy, Andrew, who is probably one of my best friends at this point. Kind, talented, funny, smart. Incredible guy, and he's also from Fort Wayne - a classic Raised Right Man.
J. Hubner: I get it. You stopped moving and you sink. Life doesn't wait around for sitting around and reminiscing.
Greg W. Locke: So I like everyone I worked with a whole lot but we're all out there hustling, trying to do our individual things. I'd do whatever I could for them if they asked and I consider everyone a friend. Beyond that, there's not much to say. We're still hoping to do a New York City screening, which hopefully everyone would get excited about. Would be nice to make a big deal of that. Kelly would work herself sick trying to make it huge.
J. Hubner: I know you're an incredibly talented painter, and a great storyteller. What is it about film that drives you to want to make art that way, as opposed to something like the solitude of paint and canvas or words on paper?
Greg W. Locke: Film involves all of these different mediums. Writing is writing and painting is painting, but film is writing and photography and editing and sound and acting and choreography and design and fashion and so much more. For me everything starts with writing. That's the thing I've worked the hardest at and always turn to in my darkest hour. Even if everything is wrong, I can still write.
J. Hubner: So why New York? Is it more inspiring than being a Midwest artist? Why not Chicago or Austin?
Greg W. Locke: I do find New York to be a lot more inspiring than the Midwest, but that's just been my experience. It seems like people who are born and raised here think New York is boring and find other places more interesting. New York is so different from Fort Wayne, and I never get tired of taking it all in. Just being out and about for a while gives me so many ideas for stories and paintings and whatever. It winds me up. I like this place very much.
J. Hubner: Is it hard to come back to the Midwest after having lived in New York for a few years now?
Greg W. Locke: I wouldn't say it's hard for me to come back to Fort Wayne. I almost never leave the city, and when I do, it's for maybe a day at a time. So coming back to Fort Wayne is a nice escape. I get to see family and relax and have people drive me around and be nice to me. But yeah, I do feel like I belong in New York. I think a lot of people feel that way for a period of time after living here. I'm not sure how long that feeling lasts, but I really think it's a big thing for me. Sure, I hate all the gentrification and general spoiling of a great thing that's going on here, but that's just what America is now. The good things all get spoiled and exploited. But I think there are enough artists and art lovers in New York City that it will remain vital and interesting no matter how rich and ruined it gets. And I'd like to be a part of the crowd who will always see the city as the art hub of the world, even if that is no longer the reality.
J. Hubner: What do you want to work on next? Any of the FIS crew involved?
Greg W. Locke: I started shooting this experimental film called "Queen Roosevelt" a while ago. I was editing as I went. We were doing a lot of improv and having a lot of fun. It was mostly just me and a couple other people. It was very loose. We were shooting regularly and getting some good stuff. Then I got a new job that sort of took over my life. So that project has been on hold for a while now because I'm taking this new job really seriously and trying to make a go of it as a person who makes enough money to pay the rent on time. I'm not sure what will become of "Queen Roosevelt," but yes, there were plans to work with some of the people who acted in "Forever Into Space."
J. Hubner: Is there a dream project you'd love to make? Is there a script already written?
Greg W. Locke: I have scripts written. I guess maybe I'd like to make one of those. I have two dream projects for right now. The first one is a documentary about this experimental rapper and poet named Tim Holland. He releases music under the moniker "Sole" and his work has meant a lot to me for a long time now. I think he and I could make the best hip-hop film ever. So that's a dream - and one that will never happen. The second one, for now, is a film I've been writing forever that's set during the time period when the music industry was really changing quickly due to downloading and iPods and the Internet in general. I have the outline done but it doesn't feel good enough. I need to get that one perfect.
J. Hubner: So some 19 year old starry-eyed wannabe filmmaker living in some crappy apartment in Canton, Ohio with 10 screenplays already written and stored on his hard drive in a file titled "TBA" has a secondhand digital camera and a dream to make films. What's your advice to him?
Greg W. Locke: I like this question so much. First off, if you're 19 and have already written 10 screenplays, I'd suggest that you slow down and focus on making one thing as perfect as you can. Write around your resources. Find people who can do specific things better than you - people who are hungry to create - and cultivate relationships with them. Mostly, look at the world around you and what's available and find the best things and write around those things. And don't let anyone tell you to stop. Keep going. Most people just talk about doing something as big as a film, or they start and don't finish. Keep doing. It's worth it.