The Punk Aesthetic on Filmmaking

February 22, 2024
I moved to NYC in 1976 just as the Punk scene was erupting. It was the first cultural movement I experienced firsthand, and it completely turned me on. Although the initial blast was music, the sensibility quickly spread to all the other arts. There was an intoxicating feeling that anything was possible. There were no rules. All you needed was some guitars and a drummer, and you had a band. And maybe it was good, and maybe it sounded like shit, but that wasn't the point. The thrill was all in the act of doing it.
Handmade flyers for new bands were everywhere. One of my favorites was The Cramps. They had a great, dark Psychobilly sound, with Lux Interior as the lead singer and Poison Ivy on guitar. When she played the guitar riff from Elvis' "Little Sister" in her leopard skin mini dress, it was intense.
One morning on my way to film school, I saw a junky dressed in a lime-green sharkskin suit, pointy white shoes and a foot-high pompadour. He was trying to step off the curb, but he couldn't make it, and he just hung there swaying softly long after I passed.
The effect of the Punk aesthetic on filmmaking was profound. At that time, there was no such thing as Independent Film. There were filmmakers who were subversively pushing the boundaries, like John Cassavetes and John Waters, but the concept of making a successful feature film outside of Hollywood without stars was inconceivable.
Until Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise.
When I shot that film, I barely knew how to take a light reading. But, the funny thing is I don't remember ever worrying about it.
Polaroid by Otto Grokenberger behind the scenes on Stranger Than Paradise. We were shooting the Florida sequence. It's me trying to figure out how to mount a camera on the hood of a car.

No Comments.

Leave a replyReply to


Independent Filmmaker & Musician