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Meet the 2011 SXSW Filmmakers | “Last Days Here” Directors Argott and Fenton

Meet the 2011 SXSW Filmmakers | "Last Days Here" Directors Argott and Fenton

“Last Days Here” tells the story of Bobby Liebling, lead singer of the cult hard rock/heavy metal band Pentagram. Frozen for decades in his parents’ basement, Bobby’s music is finally discovered by the heavy metal underground. With the help of Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, his friend and manager, Bobby attempts to overcome years of addiction, loneliness, and broken dreams. Intimate, raw, and unexpectedly funny, “Last Days Here” portrays the unbelievable journey of a man at the crossroads of life and death. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the SXSW Narrative, Documentary and Emerging Visions sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 SXSW Film Conference and Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

“Last Days Here”
Documentary Competition
Director: Don Argott, Demian Fenton
Producer: Sheena M. Joyce
Cast: Bobby Liebling, Sean “Pellet” Pelletier
Cinematographer: Don Argott, Demian Fenton
Editor: Demian Fenton

Responses courtesy of “Last Days Here” directors Don Argott and Demian Fenton.

Finding a “true” collaborator…

Argott: “Last Days Here” is our fourth feature length documentary together. 9.14 Pictures was born in 2003, when my partner Sheena Joyce and I decided to make our first documentary, “Rock School”. It was through that project that we came to meet Demian Fenton who edited “Rock School”. We collectively forged a bond that has gotten stronger with each project. It’s amazing when you can find true collaborators that are all invested in making the best film possible and I feel incredibly fortunate that we’ve been able to continue to make films together. I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface of what we’re capable of.

A fresh perspective…

Fenton: In terms of being lured into filmmaking – I saw a few docs that changed my perspective on the medium: “Harlan County USA,” “Brother’s Keeper,” and “Sherman’s March.”  Seeing these films at the perfect time in my life was completely inspiring. Somehow it made everything seem possible… You could put a small crew together and tell the most powerful story with the most amazing characters in whatever style you chose wished. In many ways docs seemed more liberating than fiction film, with huge budgets, large crews, actors, etc. After having worked on feature documentaries for a while, I realize it is naive to think that you just grab a camera and whip up a really powerful movie – but I think that the DIY spirit remains at the heart of many documentaries – definitely “Last Days Here.”

Documenting Bobby…

Fenton: I had discovered Pentagram’s music a while ago, and had also heard many of the infamous Bobby Liebling tales. After a few beers one night at a poorly attended metal show, I was introduced to Sean “Pellet” Pelletier. At that point Pellet had been helping Bobby with his career for a bit. I asked him if he’d introduce me to Bobby and pitched him the idea of a documentary. We went down and shot some tape of Bobby in his parent’s basement where he was living. We left thinking to ourselves that there was no way this guy was going live long enough to go on any type of journey. We weren’t interested in documenting Bobby simply destroying himself. Bobby slowly started making changes, he had a few musical opportunities early on that never really came to fruition, but kept us interested. Slowly but surely we all moved forward; Bobby with his life, and us with the film.

Crafting a “true character piece”…

Argott: This was a unique project for us because there was a period of time when we weren’t sure it was going to amount to anything. We had been busy making two other films, “Two Days in April” and “The Art of the Steal”, and when things would happen with Bobby that we felt we should capture, Dem usually would pick up the camera and shoot. This continued for three years and we had finally amassed an amazing amount of footage, and at that point were convinced that we actually had the makings of a really interesting story. Our goal all along was to make a true character piece and I believe we succeded in that.

Fenton: Yeah. We never set out to make a “rock doc.” Although the history of Pentagram plays a part in Bobby’s story, we were always interested in capturing a present day journey.

Self-funding…

Argott: The biggest challenge for this film was trying to dedicate the time to it that it deserved. Since we self-funded it, it became difficult to fit it in between other projects that had funding in place. Ultimately, I don’t think this project could have come together any other way.

Talk about intense…

Fenton: The first day we met Bobby he was in a really rough place. We arrived on an extremely hot day and he locked us in this small room as he proceeded to smoke crack for hours. The early scenes in the film are from that first day. Pellet was holding the couch for Bobby as he was digging around for crack and at one point he thought he may have gotten pricked by a stray needle. Bobby was grabbing destroyed cd-r’s off of the filthy floor and licking them profusely to try and clean them so they would play in his machine. It was a pretty intense experience for all of us. Every time I watch that footage, I can’t believe how things turned out.

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