Sex, drugs and documentaries

By October 18, 2014 Blog

Filmmaker Peter Ireland talks about his short animated documentary ‘Chip” which screened at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival.

He MC’d the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. He refurbished a restaurant, overnight, after The Rolling Stones trashed it on tour. Bob Dylan stayed in his apartment. The Doors. Jimi Hendrix. The Who. He’s worked with them all.

And now Chip Monck sits across from me.

His impressive grey moustache, flicked upward at each end, twitches slightly. His booming Massachusetts voice fills the small room: “Well, are we going to get started or what?”

And so began the journey of my short, animated documentary ‘Chip’. Through two months of animation production, and a handful of slightly unbalanced illustrators. Through a 2300 person screening at the Opera House for TEDxSydney 2014. And now, to an in-competition screening at the 2014 Antenna Documentary Film Festival.

To use the words of the great man himself, ‘It’s been a trip’.

But, to the man who delivered the famous “bad acid” warning at Woodstock,  what does it mean to have his story on the big screen at The Antenna Documentary Film Festival? What does it mean to have any film screen in a festival, really?

In truth, it depends on the festival. These days every town, hamlet and village has a film festival, for reasons important only to them. The result is a wildly variable festival experience, depending on local culture, local audience interest, and (to be blunt) the competency of the people running it.

But for a documentary filmmaker, there is one thing a good festival experience delivers that we all crave: audience engagement.  The thrill of sitting in a darkened theatre, with a community of filmgoers, who are going to experience, and hopefully be moved by, your work.

And this is the experience at The Antenna Film Festival.

The organisers are very capable, thank goodness, but more than anything they have cultivated a community of documentary lovers, who will actively engage with the program. They’ll watch films. Discuss them for hours. Share word of the films with their friends.

And they’ll come back next year.

To the documentary makers, this is why we make films. To tell a great story, express our perspective on the human condition, and then share it with an enraptured audience. For Chip, the man who has led a life so varied it seems almost concocted, it is no small event to see his life on the big screen. The ride has been wild, with plenty of road left, but even a rock god like Chip ages. And as we age, there is a common theme to the questions we ask ourselves.

How will he be remembered? More importantly, will anyone feel compelled to recount his story at all? It’s a tough question we all ask ourselves at some point. Some sooner than others. In Chip’s case, the world is markedly quieter now. It’s as good a time as any to tell his tale.

And so, there I sit. Across from the great man himself. He finishes a cigarette, a respectful deliberation, and observes while I recheck the camera and sound equipment.

“Well, are we going to get started or what?”

Yes. And thanks to the amazing work of The Antenna Documentary Film Festival, and their respect for filmmakers and films like ‘Chip’, we haven’t finished yet.

Pete Ireland is a filmmaker and works at Metro Screen designing short courses to meet the needs of emerging and early career filmmakers, like the upcoming Production Intensive Documentary course. You can read more of Pete’s insights as an independent filmmaker at his blog Tales from the Opening Act