The years 1977 to 1983 were very important for Vancouver’s punk rock music scene. In Susanne Tabata’s new documentary Bloodied But Unbowed she maps out those years in a way that will inspire both old and new punk rock fans alike.
Callander Girl: Bloodied But Unbowed includes some amazing vintage footage and I heard that one of the hardest parts of making this film was deciding what to leave out. How did you make the final choices on what to include in this film?
Susanne Tabata: I think what we had to do was look at the bones of the story that we wanted to tell. This documentary is not structured like a standard documentary, where you have Act 1, Act 2, Act 3. There aren’t these characters that you follow where you get inside their heads and stuff like that, it’s not like that. This documentary was created very much as a series of short stories. And those short stories stitch together to form an entire piece, an entire documentary. They can be seen on their own but together when you put them in a certain sequence it will hopefully take you on an emotional journey. I also really had to keep in mind which characters in particular were going to be able to drive that story in terms of their personality etc. and what bands they were with obviously makes a big difference. There’s the aspect of the music and what the overall survey of music that we want to encapsulate on this very finite linear time line known as a documentary where all we can use is sound and picture. We have music acting as a back drop to a story of the birth, the life and death of a music scene.
From what I read you were told to “fuck off ” a lot when approached by certain people to be in the film yet you had people like Henry Rollins and Duff McKagen who readily agreed to be in the film. Were you surprised by the reactions of people that you approached whether it was positive or negative?
There were people that wanted to lend their support to the project that don’t live in Vancouver, they are “high profile” in the music industry, they did it readily because they really wanted the movie to be made, the scene had touched their life experience, it touched their careers. And it was important to them. Some of the key characters in this film had really left this behind them. And when I was asking people relentlessly to be in the film I did hear “fuck off” a lot. I’m sure after a while, since we have been working on this film for 3 years, some must have thought the film would never get finished! But I just kept on plugging and plugging. I mean we have a small crew, I did 60% of the filming myself. I would show up in my pick up-truck with my SD camera. It certainly wasn’t an intimidating shooting environment.
You were a UBC student and during that time you had your own radio show. We actually have two people at Vanmusic who have radio shows at CiTR. The Morning After Show and Friday Sunrise. How important was CiTR for the underground scene back then?
It was very important, at the time CiTR had only a cable license, we didn’t have low power FM. We had a collection of people at CiTR that were very much into music. We would get records before they were popular, records from New York and London. We would go to concerts. We had the ear of Norman Perry who was a concert promoter, he would figure out what was going on at the radio station. We were very proactive about supporting the local scene. I believe the whole aspect of student participation is important.
I heard that funding for the film came together and fell apart 3 times. So it’s definitely been a roller coaster ride for you. I’m sure that you will agree that funding for the arts are very important and very much needed in this province. What are your thoughts about the government cuts to the arts in BC?
It’s terrible. My thoughts are that it’s wrong. Documentary film making is not a cheap process. You need people, this is a beast that cost money. You have to pay for your music licensing. It seems like nothing is supported. Nowadays you have to do it yourself or its not going to happen.
I’m really excited to see the movie, its received a great response already. How does it feel after 3 years and everything you have gone through to finally have it come out?
I’m curious to know what people are going to think. Its exciting. I’ve learned that if you believe in something you have to do it and don’t take no for an answer. Sometimes its hard to hold onto those ambitions but don’t let anything get in your way. Take it to the end cause you never know. I was told numerous times that this project was not relevant. Hearing that sparked more even more determination in myself. Young people should take risks, take the risks now while you can! You know sometimes in this city you are damned if you do or your damned if you don’t so might as well go for it… and just kill ’em!
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