Like the band members it profiles, “FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL” is a fairly animated movie, thanks in part to some wonderful animated segments. When reached by phone for an interview, co-director Deedle LaCour said those clips are very much in the spirit of the band.
“An animation company in Belgium actually worked with us on that stuff,” LaCour explained. “It was very much in the spirit of the band, and I loved having those aids in telling the story. All these crazy stories, and there’s no footage, no photos. But they are these key elements that we really wanted to highlight in some way.”
Frank Navetta: Clinically insane?
Formed in the late 1970’s, the Descendents were a new voice in the burgeoning punk rock world. As shown in the documentary, guitarist Frank Navetta brought a certain intensity and rage to their music.
“Karl Alvarez, the current bass player, mentioned that [Frank is] clinically insane. That’s not in the film, but it’s part of [his] interview,” LaCour added. “In the bonus materials, we get a little bit more into Frank. He’s kind of a crazy guy, and that drives a lot of creative people.”
Joining LaCour on the call, co-director Matt Riggle said that craziness was the part of Navetta that inspired drummer Bill Stevenson. “Which I found pretty awesome,” Riggle explained. “That [Stevenson] was inspired by his anger and moments of rage. It gave synergy to everything.”
Tracking the Descendents on film
“The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL” contains some amazing archival footage documenting the evolution of the band and its members, especially Bill Stevenson.
“We turned the world upside-down trying to find that stuff. There’s very little archival stuff of these guys,” LaCour said. “Historically, Bill wouldn’t let people shoot video cameras at their shows. They would send their roadie out to make people turn cameras off. There’s very little of it. We found some great stuff, stuff nobody had ever seen.”
As it turned out, LaCour added, fans would send Stevenson their only copy of footage that they managed to shoot: “Bill shoved it in a box and it sat there for 25 years. The fact that he opened all that up to us is pretty great.”
Not self-promoters at all
As influential as the Descendents were, it took a long time for this movie to come out.
“One of the reasons it took so long is that it would never even cross their minds,” Riggle explained. “They don’t even promote their records, with the exception of touring. They are not self-promoters at all. That’s why they are so hard-working and creative. It’s all about the music for them. Literally.”
LaCour and Riggle also are musicians themselves, playing in 41 Gorgeous Blocks for almost 15 years. LaCour said that the Descendents were a big influence on them.
“We actually met Stephen Egerton, the guitar player for the Descendents, and he produces records too. We recorded with Stephen; he produced some of our band’s records. The friendship grew there,” LaCour said. “That’s where the idea of the film started, in the studio. We’re in the studio paying for studio time with Stephen. And me and Matt the whole time are asking questions about Descendents/All”
“FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL” is playing at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles through October 2. It also is available for pre-order on iTunes.