By Chris Gallagher
Independent Filmmaker Scott Crawford is the man behind one of the most interesting documentaries of 2014, SALAD DAYS: A DECADE OF PUNK IN WASHINGTON, DC (1980-90).
Salad Days is a film that examines the early DIY punk scene in Washington DC, exploring the musical and cultural legacy that it forged. A host of interesting contributors allows the audience to get a full understanding of what was going on in Washington at the time.
Scott wrote and directed Salad Days which was critically acclaimed and well received by fans. We had the chance to speak to Scott about his experience making the film, the legacy of it all and what he has in store moving forward.
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak to us Scott, Salad Days is one of the best documentaries that we at Warped Footage have ever enjoyed.
Salad Days is one of the most detailed documentaries we can remember. What was your process of piecing together a full decade worth of information from such a powerful movement?
Much of it had been in my head since experiencing it in the 1980s. It really took me until I hit about 40 to properly process everything and put things in the proper context. Age will do that to you. But it was difficult at times trying to tell the larger story while keeping many of the detail that I thought were important intact. I didn’t want it to come off too much like an insiders version that might exclude some from fully understand and enjoying the film.
You were part of the scene as a youngster, producing your own zine Metrozine, how much did that help you develop the overall narrative arc of the documentary?
It helped in that I was able to ask questions based on things that I witnessed and remembered. It was fascinating to me to so many different takes on the same events. The fanzine was like a journal for me. I was documenting things as they were happening.
How supportive was the community in contributing to the documentary? Was there any pressure to make changes to the final edit of the film?
The local community has been extremely supportive of the film. The opening week at the AFI Theater here sold out months in advance. I didn’t feel any real pressure to change the film. That said, some people have offered their own versions of how they would’ve liked the film to unfold, but ultimately that’s their story to tell.
The tonal shifts throughout the documentary, in dealing with the music and then politics of the scene and time, were masterfully done in my opinion. Is there any specific part of the film you are particularly proud of?
Thanks so much! One of my favorite parts of the film is when it explores the city in the 1980s and the environmental factors that led to the DC scene thriving at that point. The urban blight, crime and political climate of the city was the perfect storm in a lot of ways.
As an independent filmmaker what were the biggest struggles you faced in developing Salad Days from initial concept to release?
I think there’s a general lack of interest among film distributors and film festivals about music documentaries—particularly punk or underground subject matter. Initially I think some weren’t interested in the subject matter. But once the film started playing around and selling theaters out all over the country, they stood up and took notice.
It’s an election year in the US, do you see many parallels between the world of 1980s America and the America of contemporary times?
We’ve certainly come a long way. But as I watch the poll results of Donald Trump and his overall popularity in America, it reminds me a bit of the conservative tidal wave that took over in the 80s. Although at this point, Trump makes Ronald Reagan look like Mickey Mouse. I can guarantee you this: if we somehow end up Trump as our next president, we’re going to end up with some incredible protest music!
What bands did you enjoy most from the time and are there any contemporary bands that you could have seen fitting into the DC scene of the 1980s?
That’s a tough question. I loved so much of that music—and still do. I think my favorites from the 80s would have to Marginal Man, Rites of Spring, Government Issue, Scream, Soulside and Kingface. Lots of great music still happening here. The one band I’d say reminds me most of that period now would be Give, Coke Bust, and Priests.
Do you think a movement will ever develop similar to the DC scene of the time and what do you think the overall legacy of the DC scene is as a whole?
Sure, but in a different way. The DC scene started with nothing—there was no infrastructure, no internet, etc. I think there continues to be that sense of DIY pride in the city and you see that today with so many house shows taking place and no lack of bands vying for shows.
Do you see yourself as solely a documentary filmmaker or would you like to delve into the world of feature films?
I’m really interested in telling stories and exploring the past, so documentary filmmaking suits me pretty well. That said, if the right feature film came along I’d certainly be interested.
You recently tweeted that you have written a book, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I just finished a coffee table book that Akashic Books will be publishing next year. It’s primarily a photo book but it’s filled with anecdotes from “Salad Days” that didn’t make the final cut. Many of the photos have never been seen before. I think it’s a pretty great companion to the film.
What’s next for Scott Crawford?
I’m working on my next documentary film about the heyday of Creem magazine in the 1970s—that was a magazine that featured writers like Patti Smith, Lester Bangs, Cameron Crowe, Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus and others. It was irreverent, ballsy, and covered rocknroll unlike anybody else in America at the time. It was also responsible for coining the term “punk rock” and was always supportive of bands like the Clash, Ramones, Sex Pistols, New York Dolls, Television, Iggy and the Stooges and others.
Thanks for taking the time Scott, we really appreciate it.