Interview with Nick Calpakdjian
Creator of Metal Down Under
A documentary film about the Australian Metal scene
I’ve been living and working in East Timor and other parts of SE Asia for the last 3 years or so and in the middle of 2012 we had just finished shooting our feature film “A Guerra da Beatriz.” We had a few weeks off before getting stuck into the edit and I started thinking about ideas for the next film. I saw on Pozible that a film was being made on the Cosmic Psychos and I thought that was a great idea. And then that got me thinking about all the other great bands in Australia that have interesting stories to tell and I started thinking about bands like Allegiance and Blood Duster and what their stories might be. So it really came from there. I also wanted to combine my passion for filmmaking and my passion for music and this seemed like the perfect vehicle for that.
Do you personally have any technical experience in the film industry or are acting more as a producer/founder?
I’ve been working in the film industry since 2002. I am predominantly an editor and have edited many broadcast documentaries for Australian television. Recently I completed editing “A Guerra Da Beatriz” (I also worked as a co-producer on this film) which has screened at film festivals internationally (winning the top prize at the India International Film Festival) and will be released in Australian cinema’s later this year. I’m now editing an action feature film set in the Thousand Islands and Jakarta which is a lot of fun.
How long has METAL DOWN UNDER been in pre-production?
So the germ of the idea came in July 2012 and we started filming in January 2013. Every 3 or 4 months as we got some cash together we would set off for 1 or 2 weeks of filming which culminated in the (what should be) final shoot in late January / early February this year. We are now in the final stages of post production.
What are your biggest challenges in making the film?
The biggest challenge is just trying to condense 35 odd years of history into the one documentary series. There are so many great bands, interesting people and important moments in our metal history that trying to fit it all in and keep everyone happy is definitely the biggest challenge. But that is also what will make the film so great. The fact that we have such a great story to tell and no one has told it yet is awesome and quite rare.
I know that your nation is utterly massive. Have you been able to get across to Perth or up to Darwin?
We’ve gotten as far and wide as we can. So far we’ve hit Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and Ballarat. We even filmed interviews in London and Jakarta and had one done in New Zealand too.
Did you have any negative reception due to the fact that you don’t currently live in Australia?
Not really. I’m an Australian filmmaker working and living abroad as need be. In the last 4 years I’ve been involved in films based in East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Australia. Being a documentary filmmaker means you need to get out and about. Being abroad has offered me a unique ability to stay objective and try not to focus on one particular scene or area. If I was living in Melbourne it would be all too easy to focus more heavily on the Melbourne scene as it would be cheaper to get it done. So no, no negativity there.
Were there any bands who did not want to participate?
Only 1 or 2 that I’m aware of. There were a few bands or people early on that were a bit hesitant as i think many people have started projects like this before and not followed through so i think a few people were reluctant to get involved again. I actually had a bloke tell me i was wasting my time as he already had the film in the can… all he had to do was film the interviews and overlay material. Not sure what part he had done though so anyways.
Did you have a chance to talk to Brian Giffin, author of the Guide to Australian Heavy Metal?
Yeah, I caught up with Brian last July in the Blue Mountains which was great. He has a wealth of knowledge on the Australian heavy scene and provided some really good insights into the early thrash scene in Sydney as well as some of the long running bands in Australia. He’s a really passionate guy that has done a lot to promote the Australian metal scene through his book, the radio, zines and his online zine now.
Do you have any interviews or segments on the big names of Australian Power Metal like Black Majesty, Dungeon/Lord, Eyefear, Illium, Pegazus or Vanishing Point?
Yep. We caught up with Lord Tim (Dungeon / Lord) on our last shoot which was really great. He has a nice little studio in Wollongong and we spent the afternoon chatting to him there and getting a bit of footage of him working on a few tracks. We also caught up with Johnny Stoj from Pegazus who was really interesting to chat too and although they might not be the most popular band at home in Australia, like many Aussie bands, they have a considerable following overseas.
Conversely, are you covering /interviewing some or any of the new wave of Australian Power Metal like Bane Of Winterstorm or Dragonsclaw?
No, we haven’t chatted to either of these bands at this stage. With so many great bands in Australia and with trying to cover such a long history, there’s going to be bands that many people feel are more than worthy of being included that we just can’t possibly fit in. I know we’ll cop criticism for this but its just not possible to fit everything in.
Are planning to take the film to a theatrical release or visit some local or international film festivals?
At this stage I am structuring the film as 3 episodes that run for about 55 minutes each. It’s possible that I will produce a feature length version that comes in at around 85 minutes for release into festivals and for television broadcast if some networks would prefer it as a one-off rather than a series. However, like i mentioned above, if the film is shorter, more bands will not be included so i don’t know if the film will be as good a representation of the history of metal down under. We’ll see how we go.
I noticed you can now pre-order the DVD. Will there be any bonus features?
Yep, we’ll include some extended interviews, some live footage and possibly some music videos. There are many interesting stories that don’t really fit in to the narrative of the whole documentary but would be great just as a vignette or stand alone segment that i think people would really like to see. And being 3 x 1 hour episodes, we’ll probably press 2 DVD’s or a dual layer disc so there will be plenty of room for bonus materials.
What do you feel is one of the largest misconceptions about the Australian Metal scene?
I think the largest misconceptions about the Australian metal scene come from within and that seems to be that international bands are somehow better than homegrown. Perhaps this happens world wide – the grass is always greener on the other side. But i think there is enormous talent in Australia and there seems to be more bands busting out both nationally and internationally and its great to see.
Tell our readers about how they can contribute to the last stages of the fundraising campaign.
The best ways to contribute to the last stages of our production is to either pre-order the DVD or become a member. For $30 we’ll deliver the DVD to your doorstep on completion. For $100 you can become a member and receive the DVD, t-shirt, stubby holder, your name in the credits as a member, a double digital album of Aussie metal and a bonus DVD of music videos. You can check this all out on our online store:
You can also buy individual merchandise like t-shirts and stubby holders so please check it out and help the production.
Lastly, when do you expect METAL DOWN UNDER to be released?
I’m looking for a release at the end of April 2014. I’m doing the final edit now and securing all the rights to the music and archive so hopefully, if all goes well, it’ll be out really soon.
For more information see the official trailer below: