David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption Draws Us Inside the Filmmaker’s Head

The unconventional convention celebrating music, art and film was curated by the director of "Twin Peaks," but took attendees beyond that.
David Lynch at the Festival of Disruption.
David Lynch at the Festival of Disruption.
Justin Staple

On any other day, on any other block, it might be absurd to hear this random complain from a passerby: “I cannot meditate the sun away.” But in front of the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, on the warm opening day of David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption, it somehow fit.

It wasn’t immediately clear what to expect from this two-day event, which raised funds for The David Lynch Foundation; the nonprofit organization aims to bring transcendental meditation to those struggling with PTSD and other ailments.”The Individual is Cosmic” said prominent signs outside as well as the event program. “Unity in the Midst of Diversity” was another.

What was known going into last weekend was Lynch curated an eclectic collection of creators for talks, exhibits, screenings, and performances. Attendees could experience demos by virtual reality company Within, or explore artwork by Lynch and others.

READ MORE: The Best Movie of the 21st Century: Why Critics Keep Voting for David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’

As it turned out, that added up to a celebration of creativity soaked in Lynchian qualities that went beyond just the legendary director’s filmography. And perhaps that was for the best: Said filmmaker Sandro Miller, “It’s dangerous to get inside the mind of David Lynch.”

One of the people behind the festival is someone who lives inside the mind of David Lynch on a regular basis. Erik Martin joined the David Lynch Foundation as Chief Creative Officer about three and a half years ago with his partner, Jessica Harris.

Festival of DisruptionMartin said that planning began about 18 months ago, after the success of The Music of David Lynch concert. Literally the day after the event, the DLF team began brainstorming multidisciplinary artists who fit within Lynch’s perspective.

“He gets a certain feeling about an artist, where they have an essence about them,” Martin said. “So it doesn’t matter what they’re like stylistically. He likes super-modern, super-clean design, he likes super-organic sculpture, he likes really dark, naughty blues music but also ethereal beautiful soundtrack. It’s less about a style and more about a feeling. And that’s just the way David’s work is … I think there’s something he sees in each of these artists that is authentic.”

One of those artists was Chris Stein, the co-founder of Blondie and a photographer whose work was featured in the art exhibit. Stein first met Lynch in the 1970s, and was happy to support the cause, he told IndieWire. “David has a very distinct signature, and there’s a quality here, I think.”

Taking the stage Saturday afternoon was the legendary Mel Brooks, who appeared for a 45-minute talk ostensibly moderated by Kevin Salter. But the lively and joyous writer/director of “Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers,” and more required no moderation, commanding the audience’s attention with incredible stories of his early life in Hollywood and how exactly he came to facilitate the development of “The Elephant Man” (which he produced without his name attached, since he worried that people would expect a comedy if they saw he was involved).

Mel Brooks at the Festival of Disruption.
Mel Brooks at the Festival of Disruption.Justin Staple

“We need people like David,” Brooks said. “He makes it okay for weird people to be accepted in society.”

Also screening that afternoon was “Psychogenic Fugue,” Sandro Miller’s tribute to classic Lynch characters starring John Malkovich. During the Q&A that followed, Malkovich said Lynch originally asked him to play the iconic role of Frank in “Blue Velvet,” but that he was happy he turned down the part, expressing his admiration for Dennis Hopper’s performance.

(“Psychogenic Fugue” is now available for digital purchase, if you want to discover for yourself just how good Malkovich’s impression of Agent Dale Cooper is. The proceeds, like the Festival of Disruption itself, are going to benefit the David Lynch Foundation.)

Right now, the final total of how much was raised by the fest is unknown, due to a few ongoing fundraising efforts like the “Twin Peaks” pop-up store and some online auctions. But Martin was confident in saying that the event was both an artistic and financial success, creating the foundation for an annual event, perhaps eventually expanding to stretch city-wide.

Festival of Disruption
Festival of DisruptionJustin Staple

Martin said he saw Lynch at the festival Sunday night, sitting with his son and enjoying the concert. “He had that smile on his face that I’ve seen before, that indicated to me that we had done well.”

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