Give us your tired, your broke, your starving artists yearning to create freely, the wretched refuse of your corporate culture. We'll show them filmmaker Michael Dean's new documentary, D.I.Y. or DIE: How to Survive As an Independent Artist, for inspiration.
Two dozen underground icons and unknowns are given equal time in interviews where they share their thoughts on the things that motivate them to take photos, perform, draw, paint, make music and make a living outside of the mainstream entertainment machine.
Dean says he made the movie, his first feature-length project, because he wanted to see it and it didn't exist. "I had a definite idea for a story and then quickly learned filmmaking to tell that story," he says. "And the story filled a need for a lot of people."
Rather than making a literal how-to guide for people to press their own records, publish their own writing or book their own gigs, Dean explores how an independent artist survives through a defiant spirit, an insistence on creative freedom and an unstoppable desire for self-expression.
Dean downplays the celebrity of some of his subjects, although many of the people he interviews are cultural revolutionaries.
"I've heard it said, Not many people bought the Velvet Underground's album, but everyone who did started a band.' I was going after people like that, but even less known," says Dean. "J. Mascis is who Kurt Cobain wanted to be when he grew up. Ron Asheton is broke, but invented the punk guitar sound that's on every record you listen to. Lydia Lunch is the reason young girls still wear black. Richard Kern is the reason that hand-held camera work is so big in Hollywood and on MTV, and he's never worked for either. Jim Thirlwell invented industrial rock. A lot of people haven't heard of these people, but we've certainly heard their influence."
This film gives them credit that's long overdue.