Dan Stockman - 'NOISE' Director Q&A
Visability Film Festival were thrilled to offer this snapshot into the Indonesian music scene, and loved hearing more about the film from main maestro, Dan Stockmann.
VFF: How did you find this story, and at what point did you realise you were going to make a film about it?
DS: It was a really organic process – I’d been working as a runner on a reality TV show and it wasn’t really for me. I found myself becoming pretty disheartened with filmmaking, so I spent the money earned from that job on a second-hand camera (Sony A7) and a one-way ticket to Jogjakarta, mainly just in the hope that I would stumble into some inspiration (and enough work to pay for my flight home...!) Initially, I had a loose idea to make a film about the Indonesian punk scene, which I’d heard was really lively. But a local friend that I was developing another film with took me to a Noise show one evening, and I was instantly blown away! I’d never really seen such public and open creative experimentation, and such genuine support from strangers in the audience. The majority of sounds were pretty uneasy on the ears, the equipment kept breaking down, wires were dangling around all over the place, but they were really inviting us to find our own meanings inside each sound, and it was such a welcoming, strangely meditative, and completely unpretentious experience. I hung around afterwards and found the guy that was running it, Indra Menus, and told him I’d really like to make a film about this. He introduced me to so many other Noise artists, who introduced me to even more, and it just kept growing until I really felt a part of their world. It felt like such a privilege to be surrounded by so much genuine support, collaboration and creativity - there really isn’t enough I can say about how much I’ve been inspired by that mindset going forward. I didn’t approach any commissioners until I’d already shot enough to edit together a teaser.
VFF: If you were commissioned to create another documentary about a music genre or scene, from any time and any country, where would you want your camera to take us?
DS: Tough question! There’s sort of an endless list of intriguing scenes and local sounds all over the place once you start looking. I’ve never really personally attached to any sort of scene, so I feel like I should always just wait for these ideas to present themselves to me, rather than delving into one through research. I suppose as a filmmaker I’m just interested in anything that feels genuine, unpretentious, meaningful outside of the music, and like a reflection of a society through a slightly warped mirror. Saying this, I do keep finding myself tuning in to hospital radios lately for some reason, and feel like there might be an interesting world going on there...Also, not that I think I’ll ever make a film about it, but I was on holiday in Morocco in February 2020 and kept hearing about Gnawa music, which seems to have a fascinating history and a beautiful sound- so I hope somebody makes a doc about that one day if there isn’t one out there already.
VFF: For many people, NOISE may be one of their few insights into the Indonesian political landscape. How important was it for your film to capture this aspect of the music?
It definitely wasn’t the plan as I went into it, but it seemed like such a huge creative motivation for some of the artists that it became important for me to include. I also felt that I needed to be careful when bringing it into the film though, as it was my first insight into the (very complicated) landscape too, so I didn’t feel qualified to speak about it too much. I think Noise is an interesting entry point into the politics of the country though. Their scene seems to be split into 3 groups, which I tried to portray evenly in the film – those that see making Noise as a form of performance art, those that find it a spiritual practice, and those that make noise as a form of protest, and use it to fight back against various forms of political silencing. Also, as a side note – if you don’t want people to have a loud voice, it’s probably not a good idea to keep easily accessible plug sockets dotted around the city that frustrated artists can plug their amps into!
VFF: What was the most surprising thing you saw being used to create NOISE during your journey?
DS: Struggling to think of a time that I wasn’t surprised to be honest! Always a bit shocking when someone pulls out a saw in the middle of the street I suppose. I also watched someone get tattooed at a show once, but honestly still not sure if that was part of the performance or they just had a sudden urge to get one... Always a lot of blurred lines during those performances. But most surprising was probably somebody eating a packet of crisps, more because of the effect it seemed to have on the audience. Hearing somebody chew their food can normally be kind of unappealing, but to hear the sound magnified, distorted in various ways and going back into the ears of hundreds of people felt like it really summed up what ‘d learnt about Noise so far – every sound is worthy of listening closely to, and it’s the audiences responsibility to find the beauty in each of them, even if it takes a bit of patience.
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