Nerdcore Rising is an upcoming documentary chronicling the 2006 tour by rapper MC Frontalot, while at the same time showing the world the rise of the style of music he excells in, Nerdcore rap. According to Wikipedia, Nerdcore is "a subgenre of hip hop music that is performed by nerds or geeks, and is characterized by themes and subject matter considered to be of general interest to nerds." With their documentary, filmmakers Negin Farsad and Kimmy Gatewood, give us a small peek at Frontalot's world. I was able to e-mail with Negin, who is also a standup comedian, about her movie, why she was interested in doing it, and what fans can expect from it.
Rise, Nerdcore, Rise!
Q: How did you come up with the idea of making this movie? Did you already listen to the music yourself?
A: I had never listened to Nerdcore music. What happened was that I had actually written a musical called The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Romantic Comedy. The music and some of the lyrics for the show were written by Gaby Alter – MC Frontalot’s keyboardist and collaborator. (When Gaby’s not working for Front, he’s a well-respected musical theatre writer in New York.) We were in the middle of rehearsals one day when he asked if we could take a break and listen to Front who was being interviewed on an NPR radio show. I was intrigued and after listening to the interview I said, “Someone should make a documentary about this guy” – I didn’t realize at the time that the “someone” would be me but you know, famous last words…
Q: Was it easy to convince MC Frontalot to participate in the movie?
A: I got to meet Front organically because I had already been working with his keyboardist/collaborator. We all kinda just met up for beers one night. I mentioned the documentary idea to him and he seemed amenable to it. I’d say in this instance, the two degrees of separation really helped make him feel comfortable with the idea. Once I heard he was going on tour, that sealed the deal. Tours are great opportunities to catch people at their most interesting moment: tired – happy – energetic – vulnerable – you name it.
Q: What do you think is the appeal of nerdcore rap. I'm pretty sure that there are many people out there that think Nerdcore is just for the geeks (which, I think, would be a wrong assumption), do you hope to 'convert' those people with this movie?
A: MC Frontalot was my first entrée into the genre and continues to be my main conduit into the movement. The thing with Front is that he puts on a great live show. (MC Chris and MC Lars also put on really great live shows.) If, like me, that’s how you were indoctrinated into the music then the appeal is kind of automatic. You just end up thinking, “these are great songs – they’re catchy and enjoyable.” I think that’s all we can hope for from potential converts – they’ll hear a tune, see the movie, or catch a show and decide that they like it. If you have some nerdy interests, then you’ll get an extra laugh out of nerdcore. If not, you might just like the tunes.
Q: Did making this documentary change the view you had of nerdcore music, or did it just confirm what you already thought?
A: In the beginning I feared that some nerdcore acts would have a limited shelf-life – that they were no more than novelty acts parodying hip hop and making light of nerd culture. But, I was wrong. Like any genre, there are some really strong nerdcore artists that really have a future and then there’s the hobbyist rappers who are in it for fun, and that’s okay. My view of nerdcore has changed in that I think a lot of these acts are definitely for real and they’re in it for the long haul. And, as I said before, the listening public will support good nerdcore as long as it’s entertaining to listen to.
Q: You are self-distributing this movie, and appealing to fans to request a showing of the movie. How is this going?
A: Self-distribution is in the lead as a means of getting the film seen. There are a lot of horror stories out there of really great independent films getting raw deals from distributors and self-distribution is a way to mitigate that. However, if a really awesome deal comes our way from one of the big guys, we’d definitely consider it. The good news is that our drive to “Request Our Film in Your Area” has been really great at helping us target where the fans are. And these aren’t just regular fans – these are fans of nerdcore, lovers of geek culture, and genuine supporters of independent film – so it really matters to us to know where they live and make sure the film gets to them.
Q: Have there been many showings of the movie already?
A: The movie isn’t out yet. In the interest of sounding mysterious, I won’t put a date on when that will be. But it will be very soon – and oh-so-unforgettable. I promise!
Q: What problems do you run into when you take on a big project like this anyway. It must have been hectic to have to arrange everything, while also having to worry about making a good movie?
A: Producing a movie is one of the most stressful things you could ever do – er, that can’t be right, I think war and like, surgery are more stressful. So, scratch that, let me try again: Producing a movie is one of the most stressful parts of the entertainment industry. (There’s the right sentence.) There are about 8 kajillion aspects to every production and you can never have any of them fully operational at once. So you’re constantly disappointed. What I’ve learned is – suddenly this sounds like an “after school special” – but what I’ve learned is that you have to just make due with what you got. If you’re trying to film something and suddenly all your lights blow out, just decide that the scene will have a “cool-but-barely-visible-dark-look” because that’s all you can do.
With that, I apologize for all the moments in the film that look less than stellar. Remember, it’s the “cool-but-barely-visible-dark-look!”
Q: How long have you been working on Nerdcore Rising?
A: I met Front September of 2005 – so it’s been about a year and a half of a glorious geeks-perience.
Q: What has been the reaction of people who have seen the movie, so far?
A: Ehem, well, again, no one has really seen the movie. But plenty of folks have seen the trailer and Episode 1 of Nerd of the Week (the film’s companion web series) and the response has been great and super supportive. The blogosphere has also been stellar in getting the word out. All the response makes my nerdlove stronger by the day.
Making the movie
Q: When you make a documentary, you shoot a lot of footage. How do you decide what to use, and what to leave out?
A: Please forgive me for the touchy-feely-douchebag comment I’m about to make, but: You just have to feel it. I know, I know, it sounds cliché but you look at the footage and you realize that either something is a) funny, b) insightful, or c) moving the story along in some way. It’s just a feeling… ugh, I better move onto the next question before I break out into an 80’s power ballad.
Q: A lot of people contributed to this movie. Was it easy to get their participation?
A: “Easy” is not a word I would use to describe any aspect of this experience – BUT, I can say that everyone who has participated in the film has been ridiculously pleasant. For some of the well-known peeps, there was some begging involved. And rightly so, their management teams don’t know us and want to make sure their artist isn’t being interviewed for a crackpot movie. But all the interviewees were downright delightful and smart and I am forever indebted to them for their willingness to participate.
Q: Will there be a soundtrack to tie in with the movie? If so, how do you select the music you use on this soundtrack? If not, then how did you at least choose which music to use in the movie? There are so many good artists out there in the genre, it must have been almost impossible?
A: A lot of the music you’ll see in the film was recorded live from Frontalot’s shows. Outside of that, Frontalot has got an amazing body of work to choose from. And beyond that, a lot of the nerdcore artists have been sending us music throughout the process and, like you said, because there’s so much awesomeness to choose from, determining the final soundtrack will be difficult. And it’s not final yet!
Q: What is your most memorable moment that happened during the shooting of the movie?
A: Most memorable moment? Where to begin?!! A lock picking seminar? The unironic use of Seques as a mode of transportation? The heartfelt online trials of dressing an avatar? An inspired but wildly boring lesson on Magic-the-Gathering? There’s too many options! I think you’ll just have to see the movie to get the highlights!
Q: You're very versatile; performing, acting, producing, directing... Which of these things do you enjoy doing the most? And do you see yourself making another movie in the future?
A: The team of folks who are working on this film have varied backgrounds and do a lot of interesting things in their off time. I do a lot standup comedy and write a lot of sketch. My fellow colleagues Kimmy Gatewood and Andrew Mendelson are, respectively, an accomplished improv comedy actor and a critically acclaimed sitar player (that’s right, I said sitar! Unbelievable, no?). I don’t think anyone’s going to abandon any of those activities. I for one see myself doing more film but also TV. There’s a TV show in the works so we’ll see how that goes but nothing can really take the place of performing live comedy, that’s for sure!