With last week’s news that Fred Durst will have his own sitcom on CBS, the relationship between musician and directors must be examined. I never would have expected this roster of rock stars-turned filmmakers to read like the lineup from the 2000 Family Values tour, but here we are. OK, David Byrne probably wouldn’t have graced that bill, but how cool would it have been if he did?
What is it about mass-market rap, metal, and rap-metal stars that grants them the talent to direct a feature better than those indie darlings? Perhaps it’s the fact that mass-marketed media exists to span platforms. While The Shins or Yo La Tengo are all about the music, the MTV video stars are decidedly NOT all about the music. They’re about the videos, short films, webisodes, and co-branding, all of which puts them around cameras a lot more than those shaggy kids from Williamsburg, Austin, and Silver Lake.
Here are the lonely, lonely examples of musicians making the trip from behind the mike to behind the camera.
David Byrne has made a musical career, both fronting the Talking Heads and in other projects, blending styles as disparate as punk, new wave, Afro-pop, and jazz. So it should be little surprise that this geek-chic icon branched out into film writing and directing with 1986’s True Stories, a collection of interwoven vignettes about a fictional Texas town on the cusp of its anniversary celebration.
True Stories is certainly not your standard theater fare, but it serves as a refreshing exercise in absurd, snarky, and charm for those willing to take it for what it is. Unfortunately, in 1986, its wide release by Warner Bros. demonstrated that there were very few of those people around, so it came and went without much fanfare, relegating Byrne back to his day job of making awesome, awesome music.
That crazy motherf#cker named Ice Cube may have squandered much of his Boyz in the Hood and N.W.A. credibility with his turns in a recent streak of family fare and mindless action films, but 1998’s The Players Club, while a bit of a mess, at least served as one of his last connections to the world from which he came. The film followed Diana and Ebony, two cousins that get involved in the seedy world of strip clubs, only to find their way out on the other side.
It came and went with little fanfare despite grossing $24 million bucks domestically.
12 years later, Ice Cube stepped back behind the camera for a project that was quintessentially Ice Cube. He directed the “Straight Outta Los Angeles” entry in ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 canon. The doc discussed the Oakland/L.A. Raiders ties to both the LA sports and gang communities. He goes so far as to tie the birth of gangster rap to the Raiders’ Los Angeles arrival in 1982.
Not that it makes up for Are We Done Yet? but it’s a step in the right direction.