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Photo by ZU33 Pictures
It's hard to imagine Phoenix being the world premiere destination for any film, but such is the case for the documentary The Heart is a Drum Machine. Director Chris Pomerenke and Co-Producer Ryan Page have spent the last two years developing the documentary with ZU33 Pictures. Pomerenke may be recognizable from the Phoenix-based band Runaway Diamonds and Page is a long-time Valley-native, running ZU33 Pictures out of Phoenix and Los Angeles. Phoenix Art Space recently sat down with both about their latest project. Premiering at the Phoenix Art Museum on February 6, The Heart is a Drum Machine aims to answer the thought-provoking question: what relationship humans have with music?
PHOENIX ART SPACE: When did you start this project?
CHRIS POMERENKE: We've been talking about it for a couple of years. We went into production about a year ago.
RYAN PAGE: It was about the end of 2006. We shot for a year and cut the whole time.
How did you come up with idea that music is connected to humans?
CP: Well, its funny. We started talking about this concept of all the phenomenons with music and people who enjoy music. We started putting together a list of strange things about music and peoples' reaction to it. Things politically, emotionally, spiritually, racially, sexually. All these fascinating things that music combines. Before we knew it we had 60 subtopics. We said, let's ask people we respect and like; how would they respond to these questions?
RP: Do you know about the golden record? The golden record was sent into space on the Voyager mission in '77. Carl Sagan was asked to program a record made of gold of human music that aliens would ultimately discover. And it's just recently left our solar system. He and his wife, Ann Druyan programmed this record that was composed of music from all over the world. They made this record to show aliens what kind of music we make on this planet. That opens the movie and then we get into talking about what is music. And then we end with a big bang, too. CP: As we got deeper into this project and we talked to over 100 people about what is music and how does music affect them, and it kept getting deeper and deeper and so sacred and profound.
You talk to a wide range of musicians in the film. How did you choose who to interview for the film?
RP: We talked to everyone from Elijah Wood to John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to George Clinton. We tried to cast this as wide a net as possible. We have jazz cats and blues men, all across the board. We got very lucky with a lot of these interviews. People were very generous with their time. Some of our bigger people were some of the most enthusiastic, too, and supporting it.
CP: Yeah, Juliette Lewis she had done one interview with us, for maybe an hour and a half. She went home and then reached out to us again and said, 'Next time you do more interviews, can I come back because I thought of other things I want to talk about.' For us as the filmmakers, the conversations got so touching. I think people walked away from the interviews pleasantly stunned by the conversations.
Was there one common thing everyone said in the interviews?
CP: One thing that seems to resonate, that I hadn't really thought of, when we asked people, what do you look for in music, why do you think you turn it on? We know why you do your laundry. We know why you put food in your mouth. We know why you put clothes on. But why do hit play? A lot of people kept getting back to honesty. To hear good music is to hear something that's honest. I didn't anticipate that to be something to come up over and over again.
What does it mean to have the world premier at the Phoenix Art Museum?
CP: I'm honored by it. It's a great place. We're excited to show the film there. We're from Phoenix. We shot most of the film in LA, Phoenix, Portland and Austin, as well. We're from Arizona, a lot of our investors and producers are from Arizona, so we thought, let's give Phoenix a gift and do [the world premier] here.
RP: That's the way we've been talking about it. We had an offer to do it in L.A., we had an offer to do it in New York. We thought let's give a gift to Phoenix.
It sounds like it's going to be a very touching film. Will people cry in the end?
CP: I won't say his name, but an uber famous person in our movie shot back a thing saying he cried several times already. He didn't even watch any of the parts he was in.
RP: He just watched the opening 11 minutes and he said he cried three times ... he wept. Especially the golden record stuff; it seems to just nail people. Ann Druyan says [in the film] it's hard to believe all the music comes from this little thing; earth. It gets people. You really realize how insignificant we are, really. Yet we're doing these things that are significant.
Find out more information about the world premiere at www.phxart.org
Clockwise from top left: John Frusciante, Professor Milford Graves, Billy Morrision and Ann Druyan.