EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: SEAN DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN JUGGALO
Sean Dunne’s short documentary, American Juggalo (above), has become nothing short of a sensation. When readers first started sending us links to the doc, I thought it was great, but I also thought that it would be interest to a handful of music fans and pretty much no one else. I was dead wrong, though; suddenly movie blogs and the mainstream media starting giving Juggalo attention, comparing Dunne to some of the truly great legendary filmmakers like Frederick Wiseman and D.A. Pennebaker.
And Dunne deserves the acclaim. American Juggalo is insightful, even-handed, and even sympathetic to ICP fans. I know it’s good because it almost made me regret all the shit I’ve given Juggalos over the years… almost.
I reached out to Dunne via his website to see if he’d be game for an interview, and, happily, he was. Read our complete chat after the jump and find out the answer to the question: “Fucking American Juggalo, how does it work?”
It all started when I was a young black teenager. I had dreams of one day making movies, but at the time, I had no idea what that actually entailed. I applied to film schools but they didn’t give a fuck about me, so I studied film history and criticism in college. Learned what I liked and what sucked.
After school, no one would give me a job, so I worked at a deli for a year. Finally, someone gave me a chance to be a production assistant. I took it really seriously and worked my way up the ladder pretty quickly. Next thing you know, I’m working at History Channel as a writer/producer. That gave me the chance to develop my documentary filmmaking skills.
Then I started making short docs in my spare time. And here we are.
What was the impetus for doing American Juggalo? Are you yourself either a Juggalo or an ICP fan?
I’m not a Juggalo or an ICP fan. I’ve been asked that probably a hundred times in the past week. I guess I’m going to have to answer that question a lot moving forward, because this seems to be the thing I’m most known for.
I was just interested in Juggalos and their culture. I saw them get a bad rap from the rest of the media. Even reputable sources would look down on them and treat them like complete dicks. So I said, “Fuck it, let’s go the Gathering and give them a voice.”
So other aspiring filmmakers know, what equipment did you to shoot Juggalo? How large was your crew? Can you give us a sense of the approximate budget?
Everyone worked for free, so the main expense was renting the equipment and getting there. I probably spent a little over $5k on this. We shot with two Sony EX 3 cameras, a sound guy, myself and some friends that helped us get all the releases signed. Crew of seven people total. Lean and mean.
Did you have any preconceived notions about Juggalos going into the project? If so, did making the documentary in any way alter or confirm any of those notions?
I think the only preconceived notion that I personally had was that they couldn’t be half as bad as they were made out to be by the media. Turned out they weren’t, they were actually really fucking cool. I grew up as a punk rocker. That scene preaches unity and family and that shit, but most of the people in that scene will stab you in the back the second they get the chance. They will judge you for what you wear and how you do your hair and what shows you’ve been to. It’s really fucking lame. The Juggalos, though, they preach the same stuff and actually practice it. I really admired that about them.
Everyone in the documentary seems pretty happy to talk to you. Were you met with any hostility from any of the fans you encountered at the fest? Were there fans who were unwilling to speak with you?
We actually had the opposite problem. We had too many people lining up to talk to us. By the third day, we were turning ‘los and ‘lettes away. We didn’t run into any issues or catch any flack from them. Once they realized we were independent and making something that was going to give them a voice, they were super welcoming. My ninjas loved us.
Have you heard from any of the interview subjects since releasing the doc? If so, what were their reactions to the finished product?
Yeah, I’ve actually been emailing with one of the straight edge juggalos from the film. Nice kid, lots of time on his hands. He loves the film, as do all his Juggalo friends. Doc, the articulate guy in the red shirt at the beginning, wrote on my Facebook fan page that he really appreciated the film. That was nice. Some friends pointed out to me that Maniac has a facebook page. I’m so tempted to friend her, but I’m a bit hesitant to go down that path. Maniac, if you’re reading this, the ball is in your court home girl.
Honestly though, I haven’t heard a negative reaction from the Juggalo community. I’ve done some interviews with their blogs and suc,h and I was even on one of their radio shows for this crazy half hour interview. They’ve embraced me and my crew. We’ll be back next year just to have a great time, maybe give a filmmaking seminar to all my ninjas.
Have you heard from ICP about the doc? It’s hard to believe they haven’t seen it by now…
Nope, not a word. They are playing here in NYC later this month. I might go check it out. My friend is the promoter for the show, I think he wants me to meet them. I personally don’t give a fuck about them or their music, so it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I’m assuming you had considerably more footage than what ended up in the final doc. How much footage did you actually end up with? Is there anything you’re sorry you had to cut out? Are there any plans to make or release a longer version?
Yeah, we shot like five or six hours a day for four days. So there is copious amounts of great footage that didn’t make it in. I could probably cut another twenty-five minute film that would be equally as compelling out of just the scraps from this film. Great stuff, lots more nudity and drug use. But as of right now there are no plans to do something like that. Gotta keep it moving.
Have you been surprised by the reaction to the doc and all the attention it got? Music blogs and film blogs are both writing about it quite a bit…
Absolutely. I had a feeling it would be popular amongst certain segments, but I had no idea it would be thrust into the mainstream the way it has. I’m totally shocked that people sit there for twenty-three minutes and watch this. It’s really flattering though. People seem to be entertained by it, and thankfully some people are treating it with the seriousness in which we made it. The whole experience has been surreal. Seeing my name in legit publications for a film I’ve made is pretty amazing. I don’t take that kind of stuff for granted — you can’t. It doesn’t last and it won’t.
What’s next for you? American Juggalo 2?
Lots more on the horizon. I’m just starting to hit my stride with all this stuff. I’m not going to assume anyone gives two shits about what I’m doing next, so I’ll keep it to myself and maybe people will be pleasantly surprised next time one of my films pops up on their computers. And they’ll say, “Oh, that fucking Juggalo Sean Dunne made something new, let me check it out.” That’s the goal at least.
Check out the website for Sean Dunne’s Very Ape Productions to see more of his work and stay abreast of his upcoming projects.