One of our best friends and GDD familiars John Dadzie aka 12th planet has been on a wild ride over the past few years, paying his dues while subsequently laying the foundation for the emergence of dubstep in the US. All the while, creative visionary directors Mollie Tarlow and Adam Leao have been capturing his life through his experiences as an EDM producer, DJ, and respected friend to all in the industry. With the documentary “SMOG CITY” premiering today on MTV.com, we sat down for an exclusive interview with the directors on their own experiences making the film…
INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE (after the jump)
GDD: What gave you the initial idea to make this film? Did the finished product end up being what you had envisioned? Or did it turn into something more?
M: In it’s simplest form, I wanted to tell a story about someone with a dream. I saw the film Man on Wire, and became enchanted by the notion that no matter what you’re dream might be – you have the power to make it tangible. Applying that tone to the backdrop of electronic music, and specifically dubstep…that was the initial idea. I don’t think it would have been possible without an artist like 12th Planet and the Smog Team (Danny United & Drew Best) because that is their story. They fight for their dream everyday. Whether or not dubstep is your cup of tea, it’s impossible to not respect and admire that.
A: I jumped on the project a few weeks after it began as Mollie’s Senior thesis film. She asked me to help her produce and then eventually co-direct. I knew right away the potential this project had to tell a really awesome story, but I had know idea how many artist would get involved or how popular the music and the scene would grow in just two years.
M: Smog City, the finished project, is both what I had envisioned initially and much, much more. While 12th Planet is constantly evolving, and SMOG shows no signs of slowing down, the dream is more or less the same. Working with people that driven inspired us as well, and hopefully that comes through in the film.
GDD: What were some of the challenges in centering this film around a DJ? We’re you able to overcome them and meet your overall goals?
A: These last two years were tough. The hours were long and late, but we had so many amazing people helping us along the way that we were able to create something I believe really captures the life of a Los Angeles DJ/Producer. It started as a documentary about John, then it became about his music, then the record label, and eventually about how all these amazing guys stomped out the music scene with their sound. It became something big, bigger than us, and that was insanely cool to be a part of.
M: The biggest challenge, especially in documentary, is taking hundreds of hours of footage and coming out with a one-hour movie. Centering a film on a producer like 12th Planet makes this even more difficult – because all of the footage is amazing. We were lucky to have the full involvement of the SMOG team, and definitely picked all of the best stuff.
GDD: What was one of the best, funniest, or most outrageous moments that happened in filming?
M: Coachella 2011 – it falls into all three of those categories. We got to the Sahara tent a good 45 minutes early, filmed from shoulders, and 12th Planet stage dived on us. Watch closely – you’ll see that clip in the movie.
A: There were so many funny and ridiculous moments that happened during filming, some I can’t mention ha. However, I do remember one of the first nights I saw 12th Planet perform a little over two years ago. It was during a Control event at The Avalon and he and Skrillex had like the 2AM and 3AM slots. I remember looking at people’s faces as if they were hearing this type of music for the first time and they were enjoying it. In fact i’m pretty sure they let Skrillex play an extra hour and cut back Bones’ set who I was really there to see!
GDD: Why do you think it was important for this film to center around 12th planet and not any other dubstep producer/dj?
M: On the surface, he’s extremely talented, entertaining, and vibrant, but it is the person behind that alias that makes the story special. It wasn’t always easy; and it wasn’t always dubstep. He didn’t give up. He believed in himself and in his dream. That message is important to communicate, and he does so in such an unassuming way that hopefully he’ll inspire other kids out there with similar goals to keep grinding.
A: I think it was important that this film is centered around 12th Planet and not any other dubstep producer/Dj because of who John is and who he surrounds himself with. He was so nice and open to us from the start and it seems like that’s how he is with everyone. He has so many generous and talented friends that once he opened up his world to us everyone else seemed to let us in too. He really offered us the opportunity to capture his world and interview everyone and anyone that he came in contact with- which from a filmmaker’s perspective is as good as it gets in terms of storytelling.
GDD: What has making this film done for your outlook on electronic music, and the future of the edm scene?
M: Better question – what has making this film done for my neighbor’s outlook on electronic music. Just kidding. Spending time with someone perfecting his or her craft will obviously lead you to a greater appreciation of it. EDM is gaining momentum, rapidly. With a powerhouse like 12th Planet and ambitious, inventive people alongside him like Danny & Drew, I would say the future looks pretty bright.
A: This film has taught me so much about electronic music and the electronic music scene. I feel like I know what’s going on now and when I pay attention I can almost see what’s coming next. Watching these artists for almost two years showed me the progression and the circular revolution of music. It’s really intriguing to me how all the genres are beginning to mix together. I also really like the mixture of digital and analog instruments together. I think my favorite new blend is electronic and rap. Definitely feeling the new BoysNoize and Snoop Lion track. I think the future of EDM has only just begun.