By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Do you see Greendale as a collective fantasy that we all might have about small-town life? Or is it based more on your own background?
It’s based on a family, and it’s just any town — this town happens to be a coastal town in the USA, probably in California. And it has to do with just one family that doesn’t even live in town. They live outside of town, although one character, Sun Green, goes to school in town. So it’s the Greendale experience, basically, with all these characters. All I did was fill in the characters as I thought they were, you know, and I just went along. I wasn’t trying to create anything political. But these are my views, and these were things that I was seeing, and when I get inside Grandpa’s head, I’m like, you know, “This is screwed up,” you know, “Everything that I thought that America stood for is being dismantled here.” He’s reading about all these things in the newspaper and seeing them on TV and freaking out. So his life takes quite a twist.
Grandpa is the core of conscience in the film. Obviously people are going to say he’s in some sense you.
Yeah, and I have a character with Sun Green who is completely idealistic, although she’s realistic in some ways, and very calculating in some ways. So I can take that on too, but that’s Sun Green. It doesn’t have to be Neil Young. All of these characters give me a lot more freedom to express all the different parts of things than my previous records, which were very personal, one-on-one kinda records. Greendale is almost like I’ve abandoned that completely and moved it into a bunch of people and made it family.
You portray the bucolic aspects of small-town life, and this idealized family, then slowly reveal the dark underside of such a life. As I watched this film, I thought of David Lynch, someone who’s way beyond irony — he believes in what he’s expressing about a more innocent way of life, but recognizes that it just can’t be, and probably never was. As your story unfolded, were you aware of this sort of viewpoint creeping in?
Well, it’s funny, when we took the film to Europe in April last year, these people come in and they have all of these questions about the politics, and the underlying sensibilities of all of these things, and I realized, “What’s going on here?” I was really happy that people are asking me these questions, but it was almost like I was learning about the film by the questions people were asking. The characters and their development just kinda oozed out. The people in Europe, they’re looking at me like, “This is really what rural America is like? Are people in rural America really that out of touch with reality?” And I’m going, “I don’t know. I’m not sure if they are or if they aren’t.”
You made the film with an old 8mm camera — and much of it’s hand-held. It’s interesting how the shakiness, or when you’ve got some fuzz on the lens . . . you adjust after a while, it becomes a nonissue.
Right. That’s the medium — it’s a funky view.
So about 10 minutes into it, “It is what it is.”
I didn’t make it to be a film, I made it to develop a record, and it was just like, we just threw it together ’cause we didn’t want to spend a lot of money — it’s not worth it. There was nothing about the film that demanded we spend a lot of money on it. The cheaper it was, and the faster it was and the dirtier it was, the better it was. That was our theme.
Were you very hands-on in postproduction
Pretty much, yeah. I worked with the editor. But the structure was there already, so it was really just a matter of choosing the angles that seemed to convey the feelings the best.
Were there any whole scenes that you
Well, we couldn’t discard anything, because the songs already existed, and we just built around them, and they were in a certain order, so there was nothing to think about there. The music was always playing while we were shooting.
You surprised people by supporting Reagan back in the ’80s, or by expressing sympathy with some of Reagan’s policies. And now you seem to be a very anti-Bush guy. And you seem to be largely — in fact, entirely — concerned with individual beliefs, personal freedoms. But obviously, many expect you to toe some kind of party line.
What happens to me is, whenever anybody gets elected to office, my first inclination is to get behind them, because they’re in a position to win, to do something good. My natural thing is I’ll get behind it, and I’m hoping they’ll do well. I hesitate to say anything, but I’m rootin’ for ’em. So I’m taking up things that are on a personal level, on a human level, you know. Reagan said people in their communities have a responsibility to try to handle things in a grassroots way — community organizations and working together to ensure things that happen right in communities, and it has to be happening there or government isn’t going to work, nothing’s gonna change it if that’s not there. So I agreed with some of those things that he said.