Interview by Ama Reeves
Hardcore is serious business. It's about how hard you mosh, what you've done for animal rights, and how straight you draw your X's. Just ask Issa Diao, vocalist for Good Clean Fun and the director of Good Clean Fun The Movie. If you are too young to remember the antagonists of hardcore, Good Clean Fun brought a new spin to the late 90s with songs poking fun at people who take hardcore far too seriously, X'd up teddy bears, and songs girls could mosh to. Many have tried to do it since (just think ISHC), and many will try to do it after but no one "saves the scene from forces of evil" like Issa Diao and Good Clean Fun. Now he's taking his creativity and channeling the ghosts of John Hughes and Kevin Smith's discarded elastic waist pants to create a teen romance for our generation.
So Good Clean Fun The Movie. How did this idea come to be?
It is hard to recall exactly, but I think the idea started being thrown around back in 2000. There was no plot idea yet, except we knew that the band should be in it as little as possible since we are terrible actors.
What went into the making of this film?
Everything. I cannot even begin to describe how much work it was. It sort of reminded me of the first day of tour…there are a hundred things to coordinate, you have to figure out how to fit everything in the van, everyone has to be somewhere at a certain time, unforeseen problems arise everywhere, the drummer forgot to bring sticks, and everything is always behind schedule. But shooting the movie felt like that every day!
You wrote and directed right? Is this your first feature? Is film making something that has always appealed to you?
This was not only my first feature, but it was my first anything. My previous experience with film involved making the video for The MySpace Song. I’ve always been a huge fan of film… so much so that my daughter is named Ferris… it would be fair to say that my childhood was defined by movies more than anything else (except maybe music which explains why I saw Footloose so many times in the theaters!).
Living in LA, I know a lot of people slaving away in the film industry. From what I understand, making films costs a lot of money. How did you guys raise funds?
The movie ended up costing a lot more money that I initially thought it would. The words “complete financial disaster” come to mind. Two investors backed out the first week of shooting, and that caused a lot of problems. By the time we were done, I was broke and I owed just about everyone I knew money. A guy who had really helped me out in the beginning ended up getting stuck with a pretty big bill, and I’ve been slowly paying him back…it sucked, because it completely ruined our friendship. But I’m pretty confident that it should break even…I don’t mind eating a loss myself (I had the time of my life and would never consider it a “loss” no matter what!) but I’m very anxious to make sure everyone who contributed gets reimbursed. For the most part, the people who paid for this to happen were just friends who believed in the project. It was really amazing.
Thats all that matters at the end of the day. I believe I once heard Kevin Smith had to sell all his comics to make Clerks.
I hadn’t heard that. That’s hilarious, because I’ve been trying to sell mine to help pay for this movie. It’s been hard to find anyone buying recently though. If anyone reading this wants to pick up about 2,500 comics (mostly Marvel from the 70s and 80s) drop me a line!
Are the members of the cast friends or hired actors?
There is a mix of both. The two main characters are professional actors, and I hired Bronson Pinchot (True Romance, Beverly Hills Cop, Perfect Strangers) to play a role. But the rest of the cast is a mix of friends and actors who are just starting out in their careers. A lot of musician friends were in the movie, and they made it a lot of fun. You will definitely see a lot of familiar faces.
Oh Wow! How did you happen to get him to play a role? Rumor is you had asked Henry Rollins to play a role. What ever happened to that?
I wrote the script with the idea of getting someone famous to play the school Dean. My first choice was Ian MacKaye. I have no idea if he can act, but it would have been pretty cool. Ian said no, but suggested Henry Rollins for the part. Henry also said no. So I put out a casting call for a “name actor” and got some interesting responses from agents. The short list included Dustin “Screech” Diamond, Gary Busey, Vanilla Ice, and Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver). I was flirting with the idea of spending more money and trying to get Joey McIntyre (NKOTB, Boston Public), but then I got a call from Bronson’s agent, and I instantly knew I had my guy. Bronson had perfect comedic timing and could play it with just the right amount of smugness.
What's the plot? Should we be expecting something epically ground shattering to hardcore? ha ha
The easiest and most accurate way to describe the movie to hardcore kids is this:
“Good Clean Fun the movie rips off John Hughes the way that Good Clean Fun the band rips off Gorilla Biscuits”.
The plot will not be unfamiliar to anyone who has seen the classic 80s movies that I grew up on. There is a girl in love with her best friend, a college dean who is her arch-nemesis, and a band who aren’t quite what they seem.
So a mix of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles?
Both those movies are much better than mine! But I think Good Clean Fun compares decently to “Some Kind Of Wonderful”, which I am very happy with!
A little off topic- but how did you feel about the recent passing of John Hughes?
It was actually pretty devastating. Just to give you an idea of how much his movies meant to my childhood (and my adulthood), my daughter’s name is Ferris. I had a daydream fantasy of someday getting to meet John and introducing her. John Hughes is definitely at the top of my list for both writers and directors that I aspire to be like. James Cameron, Cameron Crowe and Ivan Reitman round out the list. It always amazes me that those 4 people fill so many spots on my favorite all-time movie lists.
What kind of reaction have you received so far?
The overwhelming reaction from the people who have seen the final product has been “it’s like a real movie”. I guess when someone says “I’m going to make a movie” you expect something that looks like it was filmed on a video camera and edited in iMovie. This was shot on actual film, and if you were flipping through the channels, it would fit right in with any other movie you’ve ever seen. That is definitely a big surprise to people.
Will there be a sequel?
Haha…I’ve actually got my next 4 movies mapped out. If all goes according to plan, movie number 5 will be a GCF sequel. I really liked how Kevin Smith took his time getting back to Clerks. I would have been sad if he had made Clerks 2 instead of Mallrats, or his next few movies.
Making a GCF movie was very restricting (for lack of a better word). There were certain guidelines that I just had to follow to make it fit with the band. This isn’t a bad thing…I think I came up with a film that strikes the perfect chord for the band…but it will be fun to make my next movie without having to fit that mold.
So this is something that you are going to actively persue? Are you thinking total career change?
Definitely. When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a director. And I can usually keep a straight face for 3 or 4 seconds before I add “aspiring”.
It seems that you have alot of the same influences as Kevin Smith. Is he also someone that really inspires you? I've heard he's pretty easy
I am definitely a big fan of Kevin Smith. One of the things I like so much about his movies is the way the dialog flows. Clerks was definitely a benchmark in my head for a lot of things about this production…it was a great example of a good script overcoming financial and acting shortfalls. There were a few scenes in Clerks where you just could tell that Randall was reading his lines. Haha…it is actually part of the movie’s charm. In Good Clean Fun, the lead performances are really strong and that makes up for the few lines delivered by non-actors that could have been better with more time and money. I think it is another situation where the strong story makes up for any shortcomings.
As far as Good Clean Fun goes as a band, will their be more tours to promote the movie?
We are figuring out exactly what we will be doing for 2010, but we will definitely be doing something.
From what I've been told, and correct me if I'm wrong but GCF was formed in order to poke fun at the serious and "tough" image that hardcore portrayed in the late 90s. That being said even though you're fueled with sarcasm and humor, you actually practice what you preach, right? You're a practicing vegan and you're straight edge right
I’ve been vegan for over 15 years now and straightedge my whole life. That is a pretty accurate description of why GCF formed but there is a bit more personal story to it. I’d ALWAYS wanted to be in a hardcore band. And since the time I was 15 I had been in one or another---and they were all terrible. The biggest problem was that I didn’t have anything new to say. What made Minor Threat or Youth of Today or Earth Crisis such great bands is that they took the scene that we were used to and moved it in a new direction. I’ll be the first to admit that I had no such illusions about any of my projects. But with the concept of GCF, I got to say the same things that had been said before, but say them in a new way. For instance, a lot of kids were turned off to animal rights by Earth Crisis’ militant attitude, but were willing to listen to our “funny” take on why they should be vegan. At the end of the day, it certainly isn’t groundbreaking, but it gets the job of spreading the message done, and I’m happy with that.
How do you feel when kids take you super seriously?
There have been people who haven’t quite realized that we’re joking about certain things. My personal favorite was when Maximum Rock-N-Roll criticized us for “not being punk” because we had Legal Representation listed on our album cover. Of course, if you read the name of the law firm, you might realize that it was a joke: Chandler, McNamara and Duke. Granted, if you haven’t seen Heathers, it might not be the best joke. But anyone with half a brain should have known that GCF did not have legal representation!
Oh! I completely forgot about that! I had to work at Daniel Waters' house once! If it ever happens again I'm going to bring it to show him! Ha ha
Awesome. And tell him I am a huge fan of Demolition Man! A totally underrated story!
How do you respond to negative criticism from people who just don't "get it"?
I generally find negative criticism to be pretty entertaining. GCF was one of those bands who were instantly “cool”. And then, a little later, we were just as instantly “uncool”. It was hilarious. But, trendiness aside, there are a lot of people who take themselves (and hardcore) way too seriously. The trick with GCF is that we poke fun of everyone, ourselves most of all. What matters to me is that some people “get it” and that makes it all worthwhile.
You've said several times that you've accomplished what you set out to do with Good Clean Fun, and yet you've recorded more albums. Did you find more fuel for the fire or boredom, or has it just people pressing for new records?
The entire “Between Christian Rock and a Hard Place” record came about when I played some old Fugazi for a young emo friend of mine and she said “what is this? It sounds like Bear vs. Shark”? This is a true story.
But seriously, the decision to do another record after the band had pretty much achieved its goals was a pretty easy one. I had some songs written, and I had enough free time to do a few tours.
Let's talk about the Myspace Song and Video. I heard a rumor you actually met your wife on myspace. ha ha. Confirm or deny?
Confirmed. We started talking on MySpace, met a week later, and got married 6 weeks after that. Love at first site.
Wow! That's pretty amazing. So did the song derive inspiration from that or is just a coincidence?
Actually, the song was written six months before we met. Total coincidence. And it wasn’t even released yet when we met, so she had never heard it. It was like secret irony.
I know you teamed up with Joseph Pattisall of Wraith Films to create the video. Was this something that inspired you for more film projects?
Joseph and his partner Daryl Pittman were very inspiring for the movie. Joseph was originally going to co-direct it with me, but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise, and Daryl was actually the Director of Photography---the guy who makes it all look good!
It looks great! Did they have any input on the GCF Movie?
Daryl helped me through some first time director mistakes…simple things like “if we move this shot indoors it will look a lot better”. Or, “don’t touch that, it’s hot”. Mostly the first one.
More importantly, did Tom ever see it and if so what was his reaction?
I’ve heard he “liked it” but cannot officially confirm that he ever saw it.
So after this mountain of a project what's next- with the band, you, and other projects?
I’ve actually already begun working on my next movie. All I can tell you is that it is a superhero film. My goal is to have the screenplay written by the end of 2009 and film it in 2010. I have definitely fallen in love with making movies!
Get more information on ordering Good Clean Fun The Movie at http://www.posihq.com/