Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Documentary Dude revisits the Dicks From Texas and the record, too!

An Interview with Cindy Marabito, Director – The Dicks from Texas

The people behind Cindy Marabito's film 'The Dicks from Texas'
The people behind Cindy Marabito’s film ‘The Dicks from Texas’
“…just get your story out there. It might not be on 35mm and have a Hollywood deal, but if it takes one person someplace he’s never been before, then you’ve done your job, for yourself and for your audience and your subject.” – Cindy Marabito

Something I love about the Documentary genre is that the films are often made by independent film-makers without the backing and the political correctness of big studios. Just a person with a passion for a subject and a desire to share it with a wider audience. ‘The Dicks from Texas’ is one such movie, put together over a period of 16 years by a fan wanting  to document a band that was quite influential on the music and culture of it’s time. I am very fortunate to have been able to interview Cindy Marabito, the driving force behind the movie and get a deeper insight into the film and how it was made

Documentary Dude Firstly, congratulations on finishing your documentary. I understand you have been working on it for 16 years so it is quite an achievement. What made you decide to make a documentary about “The Dicks”?

Cindy Marabito I was working at Monaco Film Lab in San Francisco when I started actual shooting. At the time, I had access to 16mm stock and processing, so I thought it would be a slam dunk. Was I wrong? I wound up 16 years later on mini-dv and finally my IPhone, but I got my story told and out there for the world to see. I really felt like it was a story that needed to be told. You hear that a lot when people are trying to sell their films, but I must have really believed in ‘The Dicks from Texas’. Making it was a lot of things, but slam dunk wasn’t one of them.

DD I understand you were a film student but I believe your current ‘day job’ is running an animal rescue centre. Had you made any films before this one or was this your first?

CM I did a bunch of stuff in school and some super 8 stuff, but this was my first formal film project. I really wanted to finish on 16 and while at Monaco, down the road from a great organization Film Arts Foundation, I had a great concept. It was the start of online linear editing and my idea was to shoot on 16, transfer to mini-dv, edit and then transfer back to 16mm. It was a great idea and would have given young and poor artists the opportunity to tell their story in the medium of film.

However, life has other plans. I found a pit bull and got involved in rescue work. I shelved my film (periodically) and saved about a million pit bulls and other animals in the meantime. I’ve written a book about my work in rescue, Pit Bull Nation, along with five scripts and two other books ready for publication. I also write the column American Pit Bull Examiner and a blog Pit Bulls and Other Animals. Whenever money was too tight to work on the film, I always had my writing….which I do love.

DD Why did it take the time that it did and how did you keep the motivation going to complete the film?

CM Mainly the money and the rescue. You wouldn’t think pit bulls and filmmaking would intersect, but in my life they actually have. I went through six hard drives in the process of completing ‘The Dicks from Texas’. Imagine your external hard drive crashing and having to re-upload all those hundreds of hours of interviews and footage…again and again. What a downer, right? Well, I learned something years ago at UT Austin where I worked in the film studio. The man who ran the department told me the best piece of advice for a filmmaker, know your footage. That is so true. I look at what happens to me in life as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to be strong. Those hard drive crashes, like other life experiences, taught me to ‘know my footage.’

I also went through nearly 10 versions of Final Cut Pro, backed up back to FCP7 after dabbling with FCP10 for about a minute, and learned how to stumble around on my mac with ‘The Dicks’. I love this band. They’ve guided me through my life and those songs have provided me with the strength to get back up and try again….like a pit bull.

Finally, my work with animals has led me on a holistic path. Reunion Rescue operates the world’s only holistic raw-feeding no-kill pit bull refuge. I want to share this work with others so that more animals can be helped and we can put a stop to epidemic killing. A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea to build a world-class shopping and training centre for dogs out of shipping containers, Doglandia. With my share of the proceeds from the film and The Dicks from Texas and Friends Tribute CD, I plan to build Doglandia.

DD Given the time that it took to make the film and the fact that most of the events surrounding the band took place 30 years ago were there any difficulties that you faced in finding the people and the material and putting it all together?

CM The hardest part was the loss of our dear friends who passed away. Glen Taylor was the brilliant Dicks guitar player who is very much loved and respected by the Dicks followers left behind. We lost Dolores Aguirre of the Torn Panties and Toby Mauldin and Philip Guilbeau along with Biscuit, all close friends who made up the fabric of our close-knit scene back in Austin, Texas. Luckily, I was able to get wonderful interviews with Do, Toby, Philip and Biscuit, but there were other special people like Robbie Jacks and Dixon Coulbourn who passed away before I could interview them.

One thing I learned from ‘The Dicks from Texas’ is to not waste time or postpone contacting a friend when you think about them. You might not have that opportunity again.

DD Looking back over the whole process, if you could do it again would there be anything you would have done differently?

CM Looking back, I don’t think I should have done anything differently. Had I finished earlier, I probably would have made a more slick film which I know would have alienated the Dicks. They are not a slick band and have really always done things their way.

The only thing I really would like is to have the music more prominent. It was always my intention to make the music the star of the film. The little bit of live footage which has survived was shot on video equipment which doesn’t have the best sound quality, so although I’m so very grateful to have the footage, I’d really have loved to have been able to better share those wonderful songs with viewers.

DD How has the film been received by the Punk community?

CM The showing here in Austin sold out two weeks ahead of the event, so I’d say the punk crowd here was plenty receptive. It was a great night. People were talking about it for a couple of days after on The Dicks from Texas Facebook page and Janet Hammer wrote a piece about it in Punk Globe. It really was a night to remember, like she said, a class reunion of sorts. A lot of the night’s fabulousness included 14 of the wonderful bands who’ve contributed songs for The Dicks from Texas and Friends CD who performed at the event.

DD Has the Austin punk scene changed much since your early days as a fan?

CM Oh, yeah. But…in a good way. No scene could stay like that magic time in 1980 when Raul’s Club was happening and Patti Smith or Elvis Costello would drop in after their gigs. It was a special time and I tried to capture the flavour of it in ‘The Dicks from Texas’. However, that being said, when the covers CD was coming together, these incredible bands stepped up to the plate with incredible versions of Dicks songs.

Some of these bands are not what you’d call punk, but if you start dissecting the Dicks music, elements of blues, jazz, rock and even hip hop surface. What these young bands do with the Dicks library is showcase what really is going on in Austin music and even in American music currently.

We can talk about it for hours and I think they have forums at SXSW which do just that, but if you get tired of hearing people talk, listen to The Beaumonts do Shit Fool or Black Irish Texas cover Lifetime Problems, the Gay Sportscasters’ version of Little Boys Feet and Fuckemo’s’ No Nazi’s Friend.

You are hearing what is really great in Austin, Texas musically with a solid hard-core link to Austin punk during Raul’s’ days. These bands covered songs from 3 little records that have survived over 35 years pretty much without benefit of record deals, promo and social media enjoyed by the select few cherry-picked by the music industry for you to listen to.

DD You have said before that this film was a labour of love for you. What advice would you give others who may not be in the film industry but have a dream of one day making a movie?

CM Kind of like the comments on the Dicks’ music and those wonderful bands who covered songs on the record and other young people out there creating music and film, writing….just get your story out there. It might not be on 35mm and have a Hollywood deal, but if it takes one person someplace he’s never been before, then you’ve done your job, for yourself and for your audience and your subject.

DD If someone wanted to learn more about Texas Punk after watching ‘The Dicks from Texas’ are there any other films they can see?

CM Joe Salinas is finishing up his Big Boys doc, so keep an eye out for that. There are so many good films coming out. The Dicks from Texas is playing CIMMFEST in Chicago April 16 and there are so many films I wish I could afford to stay and see. Maybe not Texas punk films, but there’s a doc on Morphine, the band, and I’ve always been a sucker for a sax. Another doc on Jaco Pastorius is being premiered which I’d love to see. Again, maybe not Texas punk, but the pathos and brilliance of his music reminds me of the Dicks, both the times and the sadness.We Jam Econo, the Minutemen doc is really good to watch. Of course, they were a Cali band, but our heroes back in the day. To me, the Minutemen were a lot like the Dicks, not particularly in musical style, but in attitude, so individual and they were just so funny. Seeing D Boon dance across the stage in those funky-ass shoes is a crack up.

I didn’t say this before, but I’ve probably watched more movies than anybody. I’ve reviewed and written columns about film and could have gone the film snob route, but that really cuts you off. I tell people to watch everything, even those huge blockbusters that saturate the theatres during the summertime. There is always some really cool bit part that steals the show, so I watch for that. I watch films like I write stories and try not to miss anything. Don’t blink.

DD What next for your film? Are you looking for a distributor? How can people get to see it?
CM If it were the right distributor, I’d be interested. I’ve fought hard to keep it raw like the Dicks were and are. A lot of people would want to polish it up, but it’s dirty and jagged and you feel like you’ve been in a beer-soaked punk club when you get done watching it. So if I could find a messed up distributor that would be interested in keeping it messed up, then I’m all ears. For now, I’m DIY’ing it. Imagine it on a little good times van traveling around the world. If 100 people in any town anywhere want to see ‘The Dicks from Texas’, I’ll play it there. I even set up a Kickstarter for that purpose.

Kickstarter – Bring ‘The Dicks from Texas’ to a town near you
DD What next for Cindy Marabito?

CM I still have a houseful of dogs looking for homes. I’m putting the finishing touches on my memoir Fag Hag with some details that didn’t manage to make their way into the film. Still trying to build Doglandia and still trying to change the world, one dog at a time. In the meantime, I’m managing to learn some new things and hear some great new music from some amazing people right here in Austin, Texas U.S.A. In a weird way, I feel like they opened up the doors at Raul’s for a whole new generation and that is so cool.

You can read the review of ‘The Dicks from Texas’ here

You can follow Cindy Marabito on Twitter here

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