Director Ari Gold’s comedy “Adventures of Power” revolves around a small copper town that has hit hard times. Mineworker, Power, only wishes one thing – that he’d learned to play drums. But his father could never afford to buy him a set, so Power has embraced the next best thing – air drumming. Tired of the constant ridicule from his father and the other mine workers and with nothing but a few dollars, some cereal, and the support of his Aunt Joanie, Power sets off across the country to the “paradise” of Newark, where an underground air drumming crew has invited him to join their team. But as the big air drumming competition looms, so does a rival – multi-millionaire drummer Dallas H., who thinks air drumming in a abomination and seeks to destroy Power and his crew. “Adventures of Power” stars Gold as well as Michael McKean (“This is Spinal Tap”), Chiu Chi Ling (“Kung Fu Hustle”), Soshannah Stern (“Jericho”) and Adrian Grenier (“Entourage”). The film opened via Variance Films October 9 in New York and will next open in L.A. October 16, with a national roll out to follow.
iW: What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that evolved?
AG: I wrote a short novel called “The Giant Snail from Brazil” when I was ten. I was in the middle of the last chapter, about the hero leading the monstrous snail into a salt mine, when a friend told me that a girl named Emily, whom I adored, finally wanted to go steady with me. The chapter blew away in a gust of classroom wind, and I’ve been looking for it ever since. Then I spent my teenage years trying to be a writer, never dreaming I could ever make movies, even though I wanted to.
I had a friend with a super-8 camera that I was able to use twice because his mom paid for the film processing. But it wasn’t until the end of college when I realize I really wanted to make movies instead of being alone with my stories. Plus, stories have no soundtrack.
iW: How did the idea for “Adventures Of Power” came about?
AG: After my mom died, I ended up living in my aunt’s basement in a copper-mining town in the Southwest. I loved this town, though I was in bad shape while living there. One of the ideas I took notes about was a character who loved air-drumming – based on some version of myself as an adult, and at age 10. I forgot about this character until my brother Ethan and his friend Dan Crane invited me to an air-guitar competition in Los Angeles. I went as Power the air-drummer, won over the crowd, confused the judges, and re-ignited my interest in this lost soul from the copper-mining town. After shooting some test videos in New Jersey, I got more excited, and then, thinking maybe the story could be launched by a labor battle in the town, I went back to the Southwest. The day I arrived, the real-life miners went on strike, and I knew that this story was going to consume my life until it became a movie.
iW: How did you approach the film?
AG: I wanted to make a movie that was funny, without having to throw the things I cared about (spiritually and politically) out the window. At the same time, loving movies like “Repo Man” that bend a supposedly gritty reality to its own fantastical purposes, I knew it was possible to create a parallel world where sublime and the ridiculous could co-exist.
iW: And what were the project’s greatest challenges?
AG: Because I refused to shoot anywhere but real locations – real industrial towns and real post-industrial ghettoes – the movie took 13 months to shoot. It was like making five short films in a row. This was an insane decision, which I hope pays off visually, but certainly made my life and the lives of those around me very hard. All in all, from the first draft to the release, it’s been four years. Even though I know I might have made this film easier to make – and, with some tonal changes, easier to sell – I don’t regret anything, because those who love the movie are fanatical about it. It takes them somewhere they’ve never been before. And those that don’t like it really hate me for making it, which is a very good sign!
iW: What other genres or stories would like to explore, and what is your next project?
AG: “Adventures of Power” is really a musical, where the players air-drum instead of singing. I love the heightened melodrama of musicals, and I’d love to make a full-on musical with my brother Ethan Gold, who composed all the original songs and score for this movie. But I’ve also got a script I wrote in Serbia, that’s more of a traditional drama, that I’d love to make too. We’ll see what takes shape first.
iW: How do you define “independent film?”
AG: Independent film, I think, is a film of any budget where the director has creative control. But with the distribution market having shifted radically while I was making this movie, I think more and more filmmakers will have to remain independent all the way through distribution, as I have. The days of getting rich off of film may be over. Welcome to the 21st century! People talk about an “indie crisis,” but I think it’s more like a forest fire: those with the strength to poke their heads up from the scorched earth might grow into pretty trees. Or maybe it’ll be like a traveling circus again – tents and clowns, but also Twitter. We are reconnecting with the idea that movies must speak directly to an audience.
iW What general advice would you give to fellow filmmakers?
AG: If you’re broke, you can be sure that the team around you is in it for the right reasons. That’s the beauty of being independent.
iW: What is a proud moment or achievement you’re most proud of?
AG: I’m hugely proud of “Adventures of Power” and my short film “Helicopter,” both of which took on massive adversaries and then found their way to audiences who say the movies have improved their lives. If a movie can do that, I’m happy.