You know that game where you say what you’d be if you could be anything? With the exception of my pre-teen years when I wanted to be Julie McCoy, cruise director on “Love Boat,” my answer has long been “rock star.” And now, along comes Kate Perotti’s documentary, “MOMz Hot ROCKs,” to show me that it may not be too late!! (watch the trailer below)
The narrative is hugely entertaining and full of every emotion — it’s very clear why “MOMz Hot ROCKs” won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Rhode Island International Film Festival!
The film, a compelling exploration of the lives of moms and their rock bands, culminates in the music fest Mamapalooza. Though I haven’t bought my amp yet, watching the women in “MOMz Hot ROCKs” ignites my courage to pursue all the things I’m passionate about.
Kate, a mom living in California and New York, is a creative powerhouse. She’s got some interesting new projects on the horizon (as you’ll read in the q&a) — and if any of you can sing on a surf board she’s interested in doing a surf musical!
The MOMz Hot ROCKs trailer above has surely left you yearning for more. At the MOMz Hot ROCKs website you can buy a DVD of the film to do your own viewing party – or keep an eye out for the film as it travels around the country (at film fests in Naples and Tampa, FL in November.)
For immediate gratification, the Kate-directed videos for the Mydols and Housewives on Prozac in the interview will give you a shot of adrenaline and a laugh for your day.
How did you decide to do a documentary on mom rock bands?
One morning in June 2004, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal called “Mommy Loudest” about mom rock bands. I started writing notes all over the newspaper and called my best friend and former “punk air-band bandmate” in Ohio to tell her about the article. I thought, “Wow, these women actually exist!”
When I got home I googled everybody mentioned in the article and sent an email to Joy Rose of the band Housewives on Prozac. Joy also founded Mamapalooza and had put on the first Mamapalooza in 2002 in New York (Mamapalooza has since become a multi-platform business.) She called me back within 10 minutes and we talked for two hours.
While we were talking, I told her I was coming to New York for the Avon Walk in October and we agreed to meet. Although I’d been working on writing a fictional comic account of a group of women friends who accidentally create a mass hit on the internet, I decided I just had to do a documentary on these rocker women because I had never heard of anything like it. The excitement was mutual – Joy said “I’ve been vibing the universe for a filmmaker to come my way!”
Did you set out with a certain goal in mind when you started this project or did that goal evolve as you got to know the mom rockers?
From the beginning, I did plan “MOMz Hot ROCKs” pretty much as it turned out. The goal was to follow the women and their music, build awareness of this social/cultural phenomenon and end with the Mamapalooza concerts in May in New York.
Within the first month (July 2004), I knew the bands I wanted to concentrate on. I figured I’d go into production (shooting) for a year. During that time, I’d follow bands in various cities and follow Joy as she got Mamapalooza ready for the May 2005 concert.
As I met the bands around the country, it became a goal of mine to introduce and gather them in one spot – New York. Some had emailed or seen each other in the news, but they really didn’t know each other. By February 2005, the Mydols and CandyBand from Detroit, Placenta and Tiffany Petrossi from Oakland and San Jose respectively, Frump from Dallas and Sue Fabisch from Nashville were all on board to meet the New York bands – Housewives on Prozac, Black Flamingo (now Rew) and Alyson Palmer of Betty. Their first gathering at Mamapalooza in May 2005 is in the film.
My production timeframe did change. Though I got most of the story in the first year, I continued to follow the subjects for another 3 years to fill in pieces of the narrative. I was following real lives, so as things came up I wanted to include them in the film. I finished editing October 9, 2008 and sent the film the next day to the Jacob Burns Film Center in New York for a preview screening on October 20, 2008 at the Celebrating Women Filmmakers Series.
In terms of structure, the film did basically hold what was intended. I’d written a plan early on and when I dug it up after the 3+ years of shooting I found that it was surprisingly similar to the result.
So Mamapalooza factored big into your plans when you began shooting?
Yes. The idea was always that “MOMz Hot ROCKs” would build towards the Mamapalooza events that Joy Rose was planning for May 2005 at the Cutting Room and Riverside Park in New York. As I went around the country and met the moms in the other bands, I encouraged them to do their own Mamapalooza’s in their local cities, as well. They ended up doing these local festivals (under Joy’s Mamapalooza umbrella.)
Mamapalooza has taken off in New York, around the U.S., Canada, England and Australia.
As a documentary filmmaker do you have to be a disconnected observer of your subjects or do you naturally form a bond and get emotionally connected because you’re getting people to open up in front of you?
I don’t know about everyone, but for me, I find a way to connect with people. In general, I like stories with an empathetic/compassionate view. I think film is the only medium that has the capacity to truly put the viewer in someone else’s shoes by incorporating all of the other art forms.
I became friends with the women in the film and was inspired by them. It was a breath of fresh air to work on a film with women, most of them mothers I could relate to and vice versa…at any moment the phone could ring and one of us would have to go pick up a kid or field some sort of a “crisis.”
What were some of the best and worst moments while shooting?
Some of the best were when I was shooting and knew exactly where the material would go in the film. For example, I knew that the scene with Gillian Crane and Kyleann Burtt from Housewives on Prozac goofing at the piano would end the film. I thought that moment was just hilarious.
Another favorite moment is when Joy and the Housewives rehearsed a stripped down version of “Chemo” — that was emotional and I knew where it needed to be placed in the film. That’s one of the first songs I heard and it still makes me cry. It’s quietly powerful and affects people in different ways.
A least favorite moment would be missing Christmas 2005 with my family because I decided to fly to New York on December 23, 2004 to shoot the Housewives and Black Flamingo at CBGB’s. I didn’t even know then that CBGB’s would soon close for good – I just thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a band promoted as a “momband” play there. Unfortunately, a snowstorm arrived and there was an United Airlines baggage strike. I was rerouted all day and arrived at my dad’s house late Christmas night. In general, though, making the film was a great experience.
There’s a lot of focus on punk bands. I’m assuming you love music — especially punk?
Yes, I love music and I love punk. In “MOMz Hot ROCKs,” I do feature a few different kinds of music, including Sue Fabisch, a country singer/comedian mom in Nashville. Also, Housewives on Prozac is more theatrical rock, always great energy, both a crack up and poignant. I consider Placenta, Black Flamingo (now Rew), Frump, CandyBand and the Mydols to have the punk vibe.
Part of what draws me to the mom punk bands is the juxtaposition of the kind of music they play against the life they lead outside of their music (e.g., a mom in the suburbs trying to hold together family, work, life, music passion.)
I personally love the guts and attitude of punk — that’s what it takes to be a mom sometimes.
(watch Housewives on Prozac video directed by Kate)
What’s one of the most important things to figure out before you begin shooting a documentary?
It’s really vital to determine what you want to cover and in what amount of time…and to allow for the unexpected. Sometimes it takes time to let the story unfold, as was the case with “MOMz Hot ROCKs.” There are some stories that you can shoot in 3 weeks, but this film didn’t happen like that.
Were your conversations with your subjects spontaneous or did you tell them ahead of time what you’ll talk about?
I did not let my subjects know questions ahead of time. There was no crew – just me – so we all felt free and at ease. The camera was intentionally small so it wouldn’t seem so disarming after a while. There was also a lot of trust from the beginning — I was a mom like them and I just wanted to tell their story.
Everyone was very busy and I actually had to bust in on people’s lives, so that also made it very spontaneous. There were definitely moments when I had to film as I ran alongside them or as I sat next to them in the car as they did errands. I just had to insert myself into their lives — it was very real and un-staged. And most of these women were unaccustomed to being on camera so they just talked very normally and honestly about their lives and their music.
How do you get people to see “MOMz Hot ROCKs?”
I’ve entered as many film festivals as possible. The film has screened at Dances with Film in Los Angeles, the Muskegon Film Festival, the Reno Film Festival, the Philadelphia Idependent Film Festival, the Ventura Film Festival, the USA Indie Fest at Disneyland, the LandLocked Film Festival in Iowa, the Naperville Independent Film Festival and the Rhode Island International Film Festival where “MOMz Hot ROCKs” won the Viola M. Marshall Audience award for Best Documentary.
In November, the film will screen at the Tampa Independent Film Festival and the Naples International Film Festival where they are planning a special Saturday evening “Ladies Night Out” screening.
Festivals are great not only because people come see the film, but also because sometimes the press covers the film. In Rhode Island, I was on the front page of the Warwick Beacon and got a review in the Newport Mercury. Philadelphia had good listings, as well. I’ve done my own pr and marketing, but I’m still looking for interns for social networking (and would welcome any help!)
There have been some random fun things that come out of festivals that also help with exposure. For example, in Philadelphia some kids put my film in a skateshop because they liked it. I thought that was cool.
What’s the deal with the title and the “Z” in momz?
It’s a reference to the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks album…I love the Rolling Stones. The “z” came about because way back in 2004 when I first read that Wall Street Journal piece and was making notes on the newspaper, I scribbled Momz with a “z.” It was kind of an homage to the Beastie Boys – a band I also love – who early on sometimes used a “z” instead of an “s” in Boyz.
What advice do you have for aspiring documentary filmmakers?
Tell the story you want to tell and one you’ll stay interested in. When I started making films, the advice I took to heart was “wake up each day and be thinking about it.” You also want to ask yourself if you can maintain your life and still shoot your film.
Any advice to shoot home movies of the kids?
Think of the energy of the moment and don’t interfere with your subjects.
What would you like to do next?
I’d like to direct commercials – I used to work on production for commercials. I’d also like to do a surf musical, several narratives, a documentary on George Clinton of P-Funk and short-form, stop motion films.
I also have an opportunity at the moment to Executive Produce an upcoming narrative feature with an amazing, well-known production team in place that has great promise.
Proust Questionnaire for Kate Perotti:
my favorite snack is: oranges and bananas (but when i need something stronger, I go for Doritos)
don’t ask me to: do the laundry
I would put in a time capsule my: pictures of my son
my favorite place is: on my surf board
when i have a creative block: I go on a walk or go surfing
my favorite mantra is: “if it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger”
(watch the Mydols video directed by Kate)