New film documents the rise of East Bay punk rock
Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street music collective served as a home for a number of East Bay musicians much in the same fashion the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma did for the North Bay.
The venue was a stomping ground for music legends like Green Day, Rancid, Operation Ivy, Dead Kennedys and many others.
So naturally, when the members of Green Day decided to produce a movie to chronicle the band’s early days and the history of the East Bay Punk scene, it was fitting the film featured the emergence of Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street.
“Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk,” playing at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol tonight, not only chronicles the band’s roots but also as tells the history of the musical colleagues who sprouted from that region. Among some of the other artists featured in the film are Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, Matt Freeman and Lars Fredricksen, Neurosis members Dave Edwardson, Scott Kelly, as well as Noah Landis and AFI’s Davey Havok, just to name a few.
The project came together in 2013 after Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong was looking for old footage of a backyard Green Day concert in Oakland and reached out to director Corbett Redford for help. Redford met the group while attending school together at Pinole Valley High School and the early Do It Your Self (DIY) music scene in the ’90s.
“I’ve known them over the years. I’ve always been a big fan and lucky to call them friends,” Redford said.
As a long standing member of the Easy Bay punk community, Redford not only knew where to find the exact clip Armstrong was referring to but he also knew where to find more than 20 other old live clips.
“I brought it all back to him and he said they were looking to make a movie about their early days,” Redford said.
“He asked if I knew anybody who could do it (direct) and I volunteered myself.”
However, it was clear early on that the project wouldn’t just focus on Green Day. “When you speak of Green Day’s early days, you can’t help but speak about all of their creative peers,” Redford said.
Redford quickly set off to work on the project with Anthony Marchitello, who co-wrote the script for the film. Marchitello said the two met nearly 25 years ago while working at Roundtable Pizza and recalled their first conversation being about “Living in Oblivion,” a movie about a filmmaker trying to make a small independent film.
From there the two became close and worked on a number of projects of their own. “This job was a little bit bigger and it wasn’t necessarily his (Redford’s) project to bring me onto,” Marchitello said.
“Both of us probably wouldn’t know what to do without each other, so he called me and somehow he made it happen and we were working on it together.”
Though Redford initially thought the project would only take around six months to complete, the pair found more and more people who wanted to be a part of it and once interviews started, the duo found more and more important bits of information they needed to include in the story line.
“We had a really broad outline before we started the interviews,” Marchitello said. “We’d be shooting and then every once in a while we’d look at each other like ‘Oh, there’s a point,’ just sort of this silent communication.”
The project ended up taking four years to finish and included 185 interviewees and 500 hours of footage because of how much input the pair received from their local community. “Most of our crew were East Bay punks who helped originally create the scene,” Redford said.
Marchitello noted that the most common problems filmmakers run into while making a documentary are not having enough interviewees or material to help tell the story, but with this project, it was exactly the opposite.
“We had so much stuff it was kind overwhelming,” Marchitello said.
Redford even thought of releasing the film as a series because he didn’t want to leave out any important details.
“Every story, every memory is sacred,” Redford said. “That responsibility weighed heavy on us, to make sure we treated these sacred stories with as much honor and respect as we could.”
This respect for the storyline came from the duo’s time as part of their local music scene. “This film was about a community that really took us under its wings,” Marchitello said. “It’s almost like a love letter back to this place that gave us so much, so it was easy to give it back.”
Now, after years of working on “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk,” the pair are finally ready to release it to the world.
“I hope that it might inspire people to come together and create bands and a community of their own,” Redford said.
The film opens nationwide today.Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol will host the North Bay premiere of the documentary.
The screening will include a question-and-answer session with Redford and a panel of special guests such as Phoenix Theater building manager Tom Gaffey, KWTF Radio station manager Ben Saari and local musician Dominic Davi.