This documentary dives into the fight between underground and mainstream in a post-Nirvana world

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Filmmaker Bill Perrine has six films under his belt, but his latest It’s Gonna Blow!!! was his first crowdfunded project. In this Q&A he discusses his film and his experience running a crowdfunding campaign for the very first time.

It’s Gonna Blow!!! takes a look back at underground music in San Diego from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s and it’s one of several movies about underground music to see success with crowdfunding recently.

Green Blah!, another documentary about the history of punk rock in Green Bay, Wis., is halfway to its $16,000 goal. Earlier this year, a film about female grunge punk pioneers L7 brought in more than $130,000.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Through the Cracks: Tell me about your documentary.

Bill Perrine: It’s called It’s Gonna Blow!!! and it’s about a period in the early ‘90’s when a lot of bands that had started out as DIY kind of underground community bands. A bunch of friends who got together and just started making music just for something to do.

Through the Cracks: Like rock bands?

Perrine: Yeah, rock bands. Punk bands usually, that’s kind of how they started out. It’s really about how the music industry took notice of them and tried to make them into something that maybe they weren’t. After Nirvana came and went, they [the music industry] tried to turn bands who maybe shouldn’t have been mainstream bands into mainstream bands. And so it’s kind of like the collision of values and cultures between those two cultures. The punk rock culture and the mainstream record industry.

Through the Cracks: Is the project complete yet?

Perrine: It’s essentially completed. The crowdfunding we did was mostly for distribution and post production things. The film itself was more or less finished six months ago. We’ve shown it about 20-something times around the United States, Mexico as well. At this point, we’re doing some minor fixes to it and trying to get it out to more people.

Through the Cracks: How long did it take to make It’s Gonna Blow!!!?

Perrine: I don’t know. We probably worked on it for two and a half years or something like that.

Through the Cracks: Why did you specifically focus on the San Diego underground scene?

Perrine: After Nirvana and grunge got big, they [the music industry] were looking for the next Seattle. That was kind of the phrase, the next Seattle. And San Diego was briefly the next Seattle.

A lot of record people came down here and started signing bands at a really kind of fast and furious clip. And they signed a lot of for these bands that either had been around since the late ‘80s, early ‘90s or had musicians who came from that community and had gone on to do other things. And it really never really happened.

San Diego was never the next Seattle. It just didn’t worked out that way for a lot of reasons. And that’s what the film is about. In the long run, San Diego was never the next Seattle, it was never the next big commercial hot spot but for kind of music nerds, San Diego is a big place for a certain kind of music. Like a lot of the bands, their cult bands I guess you could say, and they’re a lot of them. So that’s what the film is about. That kind tension between the two ideas and the partial success.

Through the Cracks: So I take it you’re a big underground fan?

Perrine: Yes and no. I like some of the bands a lot. I wasn’t really part of the scene, I went to some shows and things like that. I do like some of the bands a lot but it also just seemed like a really interesting story and that’s what you’re looking for. I think that’s what I’m looking for as a filmmaker. I mean there are a lot of things I love, but that doesn’t mean I want to make a film about them. It has to have a story, and it has to have a beginning, a middle and an end and conflict and all those good things. Ever since really it happened, I always felt it was something that really needed to be explored one way or another and it just sort of fell on me to do it.

Through the Cracks: Who are some of the bands featured in this film?

Perrine: There’s Rocket from the Crypt, who were kind of really one of the big hopes at the time. Heavy Vegetable, which had one of the guys from Pin Back In It. Three Mile Pilot, which has one of the other guys from Pin Back In It. Blink 182, who were probably one of the ones who really made it big. There are so many bands.

Through the Cracks: Blink 182 was one of the groups to make it out of that underground scene?

Perrine: They were a little younger than a lot of the bands that were really picked to be big. They came from a slightly different scene and a different kind of ethos. Nobody expected that they were going to be the ones to commercially surpass everyone else and become this huge, huge band. That’s part of the story too. These people that nobody was really looking at got big.

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Through the Cracks: After watching your documentary, what do you think might surprise people about the San Diego underground music scene?

Perrine: It might surprise a lot of people that there is a San Diego underground scene. It might be the biggest surprise for some people who live in San Diego because they have no idea, they really don’t know that any of this stuff happened. Whereas for me, it was a big part of what it means to be a San Diegan.

Through the Cracks: What about you, what did you specifically learn about the San Diego underground scene as you made this film?

Perrine: I don’t know if it necessarily surprised me but it was kind of driven home is how nice and how genuinely all these people were. They kind of had to get together and do things communally and help each other out. It really hasn’t changed at all. All those people are still the same way, even the ones who made it fairly big. For the most part, they still kind of had the same attitudes that they had when they were teenagers where it’s just supposed to be about community and about helping people out and making a cool experience for everyone.

Through the Cracks: What’s the meaning of the title It’s Gonna Blow!!!?

Perrine: It comes from two things. It comes from a Trumans Water’s song, which one of their lyrics is “…your plastic culture sucks and it’s gonna blow.” And it sort of about kind of trying to maybe destroy the old order and build a new one. But it is also a bit of a pun because it’s “gonna blow” can be taken to mean it’s gonna suck. And that’s definitely like part of that scene.

Through the Cracks:  Did you ever join a band?

Perrine: I wasn’t in a band. I went to some shows. And I had friends who were much more involved in the scene than I was. I was one of those guys who showed up to the show every once in a while and bought a record every now and then and that sort of thing. I don’t know if I would have made the film is I was part of it. I wouldn’t have made the same film. I prefer to be a little outside of something if I’m going to try to have a perspective on it.

Through the Cracks: What was your experience when crowdfunding this project?

Perrine: We did the crowdfunding very late in the proces to fund post production and distribution stuff. I didn’t do it in the beginning for a lot of reasons. One of which is a personal reason. I wanted to prove myself in a way.

I wanted people to see the movie and understand what I was trying to do and be able to make a judgement then as to whether it was worth funding, which from a financial standpoint wasn’t the best idea but I felt good about it because I thought anybody could make a movie about this and do a bad job. I wanted people to be able to look at it and kind of vote with their pocket books.

One of the main reasons I did crowdfunding is that I was encouraged very strongly by George Smalls whose over at Kickstarter. George was part of the scene in one way or another and a really great guy. He took a certain personal interest in the movie and kind of checked in with me all throughout the production process.

I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to things like fundraising and business stuff and he kind of pushed me a little bit to do it because he said it would make the film better and he was right. It turned out to be a really good experience. We met our goal pretty easily and a lot of people came out to support the film.

Through the Cracks: Was this the first time you crowdfunded a project?

Perrine: It is, and I was scared about it to be honest. You’re really putting yourself out there when you do it. You’re kind of saying to people ‘Do you like me?’ And it turned out really well. This is my first real go at it.

Through the Cracks: Would you do it again?

I absolutely would. And I think with maybe my next film I’ll do it a little earlier in the process. It’s been a good experience. It was a bit of a mystery to me going into it with how it was going to go. It’s pretty daunting.

If you want to do it right it’s a lot of work. But I feel like it turned out really well and I feel like I’ve made a lot of connections with fans and cool people that I can continue to crowdfund things and get support and hopefully I can help people do the same on the other end.

 Through the Cracks: Where you amazed with the amount of support you got?

Perrine: Yes and no. I set a really modest goal of $8,500 to be honest. It was the bare minimum of what I needed and I know I didn’t do a lot of things that you’re supposed to do when you crowdfund, which I think is a testament to how cool people were because I didn’t ask people in the film to publicize it at all, which is really rule number one.

You’re supposed to ask people in the film to share on Facebook and Twitter and all that kind of stuff. Some did it on their own but I really didn’t ask anybody to do it. It was all just compelety grassroots, I kind of let it take its course. I would do my Facebook blasts and my email things and all that. I didn’t push all that hard on it, which maybe for a different documentary you really have to. The film has done really well in terms of people who really liked it, people in the scene and outside of it.

So I think I really banked a lot of goodwill from it and people who just wanted to see the movie get out there more and wanted to help me personally because they know how much I put into it. That was really touching.

Through the Cracks: Were your donors mostly family and friends and people in the industry or where they complete strangers?

Perrine: It’s mostly people I don’t know to be honest. A lot of people I don’t know at all and a lot of names that I’ve seen that they liked Facebook posts or whatever. It is a real mixture and I was glad about that. I wouldn’t have been happy in a way if it had been if it would have been just people in the movie. I have people from England, Japan, the Netherlands, all these places I haven’t been yet.

Through the Cracks: In terms of crowdfunding, is there anything you would do differently for your next project?

 Perrine: Depending on the movie and what the project is, I would start it much earlier in the process. I would probably shoot like a teaser, trailer type of thing and then go and attempt to crowdfund after that and I would probably be more aggressive about bugging people on my behalf and publicize it.

On a purely practical level I would probably offer fewer physical prizes if that’s possible. I get a lot of records and things like that for this one and the shipping costs and the effort to ship it is quite substantial. But that’s all minor stuff. I think every project has its different way to do it. I wouldn’t be scared of it next time.

 

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Robert Moreno
Robert is a full-time reporter for the Chula Vista Star-News covering local government and education beats and writing human interest stories. He is a believer in nonprofit journalism.