Avant-garde filmmaker John Roecker offers an underground alternative to It's a Wonderful Life this Christmas Eve, when he debuts his latest short film Jesus of Suburbia Loves Whatsername. The 30-minute short featuring the music of Green Day launches the director's Vimeo channel on December 24. The guerrilla release utilizes footage originally intended for Heart Like a Hand Grenade, his documentary on the making of the band's seminal, Grammy Award-winning hit album American Idiot. Roecker explained to me:
The characters meet when the album is recorded. I wanted that Godard moment in Sympathy for the Devil, and Heart Like A Hand Grenade was turning out really long. I cut footage from 3 hours and stashed it, and forgot where it was. When our basement flooded, I found a lunch box and opened it up and there was the footage, so I cut it up and made the short.
Though Jesus of Suburbia Loves Whatsername, which stars Mikey Brannon and Ashleigh Darkbloom, showcases four songs by Green Day with the band's blessing, the music hasn't been authorized by Warner Bros., the band's label.
Roecker says he doesn't like the money part or legal part, he just wants to do art. But he also knows there might be ramifications of releasing a film with music that hasn't been licensed. He's cautiously optimistic about boldly going forth:
Earlier this year, I lost forty-five percent of the vision in my right eye, and they can't repair it. At the hospital I said to myself, "You know fuck it, I'm gonna release it if they sue me, they sue me." Green Day is okay with it. And I would rather have five people see my work who like it, and how it was meant to be, than a million see it cut to pieces. I don't want to have any problems with Warner Bros. And record labels have their own problems to deal with. They might not even care. But it's nerve wracking, and it's a big decision.
Roecker has completed a documentary on Harlow Cuadra, and has garnered attention for his documentary Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars But were Afraid to Ask and Svengali, his goofy high camp-meets punk rock send up of 70s detective television series. Live Freaky, Die Freaky, his stop action animated feature about the post-apocalyptic, futuristic Manson Family is a cult favorite, with the likes of Jane Weidlin, Kelly Osbourne,Travis Barker, Tim Armstrong, Billie Joe Armstrong, Asia Argento and John Doe voicing various characters.
People who I respect like my work, and that's what's important, that and having a community where you can create together. I don't care where you live, what town you're in. In the middle of nowhere, guaranteed there's another cool person out there, find them and work together. Make art.