Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Marq Evans talks CLAYDREAM which opens Friday

I discovered Marq Evan when I saw his film THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR about DJ Marco Collins who was the guy who broke Nirvana, Beck Garbage and Weezer. It appeared to be a typical bio but Evans turned in such a way that it was something special. It was a film I showed/recommended to friends who grew up living and dying by the radio. Everyone fell in love with it.

Then his next film CLAYDREAM about animator was announced for this last year's Tribeca and I saw his name attached and I knew I not only had to see it but I also I had to talk to him. An interview during Tribeca didn't work but we still manages to connect. The result is one of my favorite interviews I've ever Done. Mr Evans was just a great person to talk to and if I didn't have to go back to the day job I could have spoken to him all day.

I want to thank  Marq Evans for taking the time to do this.  I can't wait until your next film.

CLAYDREAM opens Friday at the Quad Cinemas in New York and theaters around the country.

Hey, Steve. How you doing?

Steve: I'm all right. You, you able to talk now?

Marq: Yeah, sure.

Steve: If you don't mind, I'm going to not just ask you questions about, CLAYDREAM but also THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR because I loved that. When I found out that you had done the Will Vinton film, it became even more of a priority to see it and to talk to you.

Marq: Oh, that's very cool. I appreciate that.

Steve: One of the things I loved about THE GLMOUR AND THE SQUALOR was the way you did it  came across differently than every other documentary I've seen. Actually both of your films are unique.  The two films are are their own animals, but there's a definite voice. There's a definite reason for everything, and I absolutely love that.

Marq: I really appreciate you saying that. I mean, there's so many decisions with every little second of a film. That's true for all filmmakers, but it's nice to hear you say that the decisions are paying off.

I think there are similarities, certainly, between the two films, although they're made quite differently. With CLAYDREAM other than the interviews, we didn't shoot a ton. We didn't have to because we had so much of Will's work and so much behind-the-scenes works. With THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR, there wasn't a lot of footage that existed. So, not just the interviews, the recreation, the B roll, we shot most of that movie. As far as structurally and how we went about the edit, there's definitely a lot of similarities.

Steve: I'm curious about the origins of both films. How did you come to make THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR? How did you come to make the Will Vinton film? They are completely different. One's a DJ most people never have heard of. The other one is somebody, everybody has seen his work.

Marq: Yeah, what's interesting about Will, though, and I've certainly come to realize this even more since the movie premiered and reading what some people have said about it, most people I don't think are familiar with Wills name. Certainly, they've seen something of his -- whether it's the Raisin's, the M&M's, or the Mark Twain MYSTERIOUS STRANGER -- when they were kids. But I was a little bit surprised to realize how unknown he is as a name.

As far as how they both came together, THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR started when I was listening to the radio station that he used to be on, which was 107.7 The End in Seattle. And this is back in like 2011, 13 years ago, I guess now,  for the idea. I don't normally listen to radio much, but I happened to be somewhere out of range of serious ... or anything. I had the radio on, and that was the one station that was coming through in a thick snowstorm. And I had to go to the grocery store to get the groceries to stock up before the storm, and this radio show was on. They were celebrating their 20-year anniversary of the radio station The End, and they were counting down the 107 songs of all time. In between the songs they would have these, but the radio DJs come back and tell their best stories from their time, you know, in Seattle working with The End. Every time Marko came on, I was really wanting his voice to kind of wrap through the radio. The stories that he told, and the access that he had with all these rock stars was really just fascinating to me. At the time I think I had just seen -- or it had just come out – MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the Woody Allen movie where Owen Wilson is in Paris. At the time, we get sucked into the 1920s, and it reminded me a bit about that of like going back in time, in this case just to the 1990s, about all these rock stars there in Seattle at the exact same time, and there's Marko in the radio station kind of being right in the middle of it. It started with that radio show that I heard, and then I thought this could be a good idea for a film.

Originally, I started thinking I might write it as a script, but as I started doing research I came across a great article in the Seattle Weekly by a guy called Chris Cornell, who turned out to be a good friend of my next-door neighbor --but I didn't know him at the time. He had just written this feature article about Marko's rise and fall and re-invention. That was a big piece. When I read that, I thought, "Maybe I should do this as a documentary." Anyway, that's how that all started. I reached out to Marco, and, you know, he was interested. But it probably took months before he finally came on board and decided that he would do it.

And it was a little bit similar with Will Vinton for CLAYDREAM.  In this case I'd read an article. I can't remember what the publication was, but it was a blog-type thing. And then I did the same thing. It outlined his rise and fall. And I was familiar with Will's work. I did know the name, I knew the mustache, but I didn't know much about the story. When I read this article, it felt like a movie the way that this article was written.

I had just put out GLAMOUR or maybe it wasn't even done yet. I was finishing GLAMOUR, so I was looking for the next project. When I came across this article, I thought this could be it.

I see the two similarities there are the nostalgia for me. I grew up listening to the music that Marco helped break, the grunge scene in the '90s. Right about that same time, you've got the California Raisins and all those characters. Both of those stories hit me at this coming-of-age time in my life, so that meant something.

Did the same thing with Will, reached out to him. [laughs] We got together right away, but it was the same thing where he wasn't really that interested or didn't know if he wanted to do it. It probably took another five, six months with him as well before he came around and decided to go for it. For Will, as soon as he decided he was in, he was all in, access whenever. I would spend hours and hours and hours in his basement. He would help a lot of the time, going through old archives. A lot of that had to be digitized. It was all analog in boxes, whether it was photos, things on old data tapes, or whatever it may be. That's the origin of both of those films.

Steve: I like your truthfulness in the films, one of the things I like about both GLAMOUR and CLAYDREAM, is that you didn't make straight happy films. You show the bad side, the good side. Did, did, did either Marco or Will want you not to deal with some of the failures?

Marq: I would say they differed in whereas Marco, from day one, was like, "We've got to show the darkness." He understood that. He was a big movie buff himself. He knew that in order to make an interesting movie, there has to be drama. There has to be conflict, and he had plenty of that in his life. He was totally game. That said, it took a while for us to get there with him. I think he was and felt like he was being really open and vulnerable. Then when the editor and I were looking to cut, it wasn't quite there. It wasn't quite coming across, so it took a while. There was a final interview where he really let it all out, and that was important for the film. He just needed to go even deeper than maybe he thought he possibly could. He was totally understood and up for it from the beginning, but we just had to get him to go further.

For Will, that was a gradual thing. I think he would have loved for the film to just be this celebration, not just him, but he wanted to celebrate all the work that was done by the studio and all of the animators, and the hundreds of people that worked on these projects. He would have loved probably if that were it. He also knows what good stories are, so that was a little bit more gradual. Just as time went on, for instance, even that footage with him and with Phil Knight, I didn't even know about that. It was about two years into the project before told me that he had that. That came from Will. I think it was part of this gradual process of trusting me and knowing, "OK, you know, we can have some of this, more of this conflict, and it's going OK. And it's going to make for the best film." If you don't have the conflict, if I just made this puff piece about Will and the work, nobody would watch this, just maybe the most diehard animation fans.

I definitely wanted to tell a true story, but as we were making it, we were thinking we wanted to do it in a cross between THE SOCAIL NETWORK, the David Fincher Facebook movie, and the Mr. Rogers documentary, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR combining those two moods.

It's like Will, at first I don't think he would have wanted it to be like that. As time went on, especially as he realized that he was getting more and more sick too. I didn't think at the beginning of this process that he ever would have thought that he would have allowed me to shoot while he's getting treatment, sitting in that chair getting cancer treatment, you know, sitting in, sitting in that chair getting cancer treatment. But I just think as the project evolved and just more and more conversations, he understood more what I was trying to do. He just became much more open to all of that.

Steve: Did he see the film before he, die-, a cut of the film before he died?

Marq: No. There was about a 15-minute edit that I showed him, I don't know if that changed that much. I'm sure it changed a lot as far as just like how, you know, shot selection and pacing and stuff like that, but he, he had at least seen kind of, what at the time, was the first 15 minutes of the movie and really was happy with it. I think you know, he, he had actually seen a movie about one of his animator friends that had just come out or was about to come out about a couple weeks earlier and he thought it was really not very good. He was like, "Oh crap," It really relieved him when I shared him this 15 minutes, and he saw everything that went into it, and at the end, he just smiled, and he said, "Well, I don't have to worry about there being anything lazy about this. This is, this is incredible, um, just all, all that's gone into it." I think felt that he was in good hands and, um, didn't have to worry about whether the film was going to negatively portray him. I think he'd be really happy with it. I wish he would have gotten to see it. I wish he would   have been a part of the Tribeca premiere and then, you know, we went out to Annecy, France. I got back just last week, and that's a place that he would always premiere his films. So, it was pretty special being out there, that hopefully, you know, take his spirit along with us.

Steve: What do his friends and family think of the film?

Marq: Uh, you know, we haven't actually spoke about it. I'm giving them a little bit more time. I guess at some point I'll have to follow up 'cause I'm sure it's just super heavy for them. You know? I've heard from some of his close friends that just how much they loved it and how much they think he would've loved it. So, that's, that's like given me comfort. I have not had the, uh, the conversation yet with the family, but definitely looking forward. Hoping that they feel that it represents him.

Steve: What is your favorite Will Vinton film?

Marq: My favorite Will Vinton film? I mean, the favorite of the shorts would probably be THE COGNITO  just because it's the standup comic with things coming out of his head. I just think it's so brilliant and creative and funny. But I also just have to go back to the Mark Twain film. You know, being the only feature film ever made out of a hundred percent clay. You know? It's all, it's all clay. The entire thing. Not a frame...Not an object or a frame. The bulk of it is. I just think from like a creative standpoint...I mean, the, the film's got its flaws, you know, mostly story related 'cause it's kind of like a bunch of different stories, and they try to tie it all together into one story, but, to me, that doesn't really matter. It's just, it's just an amazing piece of art  that I think should have had a better audience than it did and, you know. It got marketed towards kids, and it wasn't really a kid movie, but hopefully if our film has enough to, to get out there maybe that film will kind of have a bit of a new life.

Steve: Well, it's interesting you mentioned that film because  it has been starting to pop up again in on line animation discussions because a lot of people saw it as a very little kid but didn't know what it was. The images, and a lot of it just stuck with everybody. It's like everybody seems to be rediscovering it because now as older people they are rediscovering it.

Marq: There's a narrative that’s going through a lot of the darker stories that people didn't know that Twain wrote, like The Mysterious Stranger. It has a cult following, but it's not super known. And the Stranger scene kind of terrified a lot of kids when they watched it. That scene out of context has, you know, like a YouTube page, and it's got like millions of views and comments of people saying, "Oh, I remember this when a kid. When I was a kid." It scared a lot of them. Even for some of my crew members that's like the scene that they remember. They'd seen Mark Twain. They remembered The Mysterious Stranger scene that just terrified them [laughs] .And I can understand taken out the context, though when you watch the movie as a whole it definitely has a rhyme and a reason to it.

Steve:  I'm going to bounce back to GLAMOUR because something stayed with me from the film. There's a point in the film where  Marcos discussing talking to the kids sitting alone with the radio, the kids whose best friend growing up was that radio. The scene feels like it comes from some one who could be that kid who felt like the only person talking to him was the radio. Were you that sort of a kid who is alone with the best friend as the radio growing up?

Marq: Not as much with the radio 'cause I grew up in a small town in Washington, a smaller town and I didn't have  a radio stations or the DJ that I felt like were talking to me. But I know people that did. Many like my wife, who listened to Marcos show when she was growing up, and  got super excited when they found out that I was making this film. The DJ could be like almost like a best friend to people, you know. Especially that are growing up with maybe kids that, you know, feel like outsiders, or just feel, you know, lonely, don't feel like they've got, um, you know, the best friend. They've been expecting the support from their family members that they feel like they've been forgot. You know, like a stranger doesn't feel like a stranger, it literally feels like a friend talking to just them. I know Marco took that really, really seriously and I think...I've heard that from other some other DJs.

Pat O'Day, you know, was a legendary Seattle DJ in, like, '50s, '60s, '70s. He actually just recently passed away, but he had talked about that as well too. So, I think it's...it's not a trick but just something that great DJs have that ability to really make a connection, and it's. So, you just think about all the lives that they've been able to improve because of that ability to do that. It's pretty special and...But unfortunately, you know, I think mostly lost...

There's still some great voices that are out there, but it's never going to be this because, you know, radio was just such a unique thing, and radio will never be the same. It was like the one main thing that everyone was turning into.

Steve: I had to ask you about that because some of my friends mentioned that the radio was their friend. And then I had showed them THE GLAMOUR AND THE SQUALOR, and they were like, "That's it!" When they saw that scene, it was like, they were, they, it was like, "That's it. That's what it was like." That was, I mean, because it  just brought everything home for them. 

Marq: Cool.

Steve: Next question what is Cow by Bear?

Marq: I was friends with this Chef Bear. He's a bear that, that learned how to walk and talk and cook. He's a good friend of mine. So I kind of just help him out with his media. But he's got like a dining experience out in San Diego, in Seattle, and for a while in Savannah, Georgia.He asked me to not talk too much about that, but people should definitely check out cowbybear.com. If they're ever in San Diego, they can go get a really, really good five-course meal cooked by a Bear.

We did a couple episodes of a show that could have kept going, but it fizzled out a little bit. It was a web series.

Steve: Where are you going with CLAYDREAM next?

Marq: It's kind of interesting because, as of right this moment, it's not available anywhere in America. We had the Tribeca 10-day or whatever virtual run, so people could see it then. Then the Annecy, it was available in France, but once those things are done we're working on a sale right now. We're working on distribution. Hopefully, at some point this year it'll be available to a wide audience wherever that may be. As of, I think, yesterday, it's playing in Australia as part of the Melbourne Documentary Festival. We've got couple other festivals winding up, and we'll continue to do some festivals, but the focus is getting the distribution and figuring out a wider release for it.

Steve: That's cool. What are you doing next?

Marq: I've got a handful that are in different spots in development right now. There's a documentary that I've been making in Haiti with my brother for about 11 years now, ever since the 2010 earthquake. That's something we would like to finish. It's like a boyhood documentary where it's following this brilliant young Haitian kid. We met him when he was 12 years old. Now he's 23, living in Brooklyn. He's got this fascinating story, super interesting kid. We'd like to finish that.

Probably the two projects that are most far along that I've been working on for a while and developing and pitching, there's a true crime, murder mystery story in the '80s in Kodiak, Alaska that I got quite a bit into so far and we're pitching. And then also a series about stoicism, the Ancient Greek and Roman Empire philosophy from 2000 years ago that is really relevant today, just how, how this group of modern stoics, a lot of celebrities and a lot of athletes and business people are taking these methods from 2,000 years ago and using them to apply it to their situations today. Those are the two that are probably the furthest along, then there's a handful of other ones I've been poking around on too, but we'll just [laughs] see what goes.

Steve: Sounds good. Thank you for taking the time.

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