We’ve covered Rosetta quite a bit on this website as of late. The band did, after all, release one of the best albums this year with Quintessential Ephemera [review], and many of us here all agree that it’s one of the best albums in the genre as a whole. However, we really did not discuss their documentary as much, and I think it comes down to time constraints. However, I recently had the chance to talk with Justin Jackson, the film’s mastermind, and talk to him about why he made the film, the band’s reaction to it, and if he’d do it again. Read more below!
First off, how did you come to meet the band, and what made you take particular interest in chronicling their partnership and dissolution of that partnership with Translation Loss?
Without any expectations, without any preconceived notions, I approached the band about a documentary. I told them I was a huge fan, and they seemed interested. The first time I heard about Rosetta’s relationship with Translation Loss was during an interview with Mike Armine, Rosetta’s lead singer. Later, when Rosetta divulged that their future hinged on leaving their label and independently releasing their music, I knew that they had given me the plot of the film. There simply was no other story to tell.
Do you think Indiegogo really helped facilitate the quality of the documentary?
Yes. The indiegogo campaign for the film was amazing. It absolutely made Rosetta: Audio/Visual a better documentary. There were numerous sources of third-party audio that ran the gamut from beautifully recorded studio masters to onboard camera audio in a live setting. We had to make everything sound like it came from the same source. The funds from Indiegogo allowed us to mix the documentary in 7.1 on a stage in Burbank where multi-million dollar films receive audio mixes. Our sound designer, J.M. Davey, did a fantastic job creating a three dimensional and cinematic mix of Rosetta music. Additionally, we were able to get beautiful artwork (which will see a limited pressing soon) from Michael Wohlberg. The whole experience with indiegogo was a positive experience, and I am forever grateful to everyone who contributed their hard-earned money to make this film a reality.
How was it working with the band members? Were they all becoming or more reserved than you thought?
Rosetta accommodated us during the making of the film. The band gave us complete access to their lives, and they were very generous, granting us permission to remix/remaster stems from “The Anaesthete,” inviting us out to dinner after interviews, etc. We had complete access to the band while they were in the studio, which was amazing. From an interview standpoint, it took some members more time than others to get used to the process, which is to be expected. A documentary can be disruptive, and there’s a feeling-out period that occurs between the filmmaker and the subjects. In the end, the production process was enjoyable and rewarding. I am deeply grateful to all of the members of the band, as well as Translation Loss, for their cooperation.
Would you consider covering different bands in documentaries like this, or was this purely a one-off affair?
Yes. I love music as much as I love cinema. Making a film about musicians allows me to incorporate my two biggest passions into one project. While my next film, a documentary about neuroscientist Sokol Todi and his lab at Wayne State, is not a music documentary, I would love to make another film about musicians.
Do you think the band’s original score adds to the film’s overall tone in any way?
The band’ score — moody, ambient, and evocative — definitely adds to the film’s overall tone. It was also essential because Translation Loss and I could not come to an agreed upon music license. Therefore, I could not use anything from the first three Rosetta albums. I knew the film would need more Rosetta music, so I asked the band if they’d compose and record music specifically for the film. Thankfully, they agreed. The material they provided was beautiful. Usually when scoring a film, the filmmakers and composers supervise scoring sessions, and the music has already been composed; the musicians play portions of their score while watching corresponding scenes. However, we did things a little differently on Rosetta: Audio/Visual. I provided Matt and Armine with specific scenes that needed music, and I briefly described what I wanted. They took my notes and delivered everything in a finished state. As a filmmaker, as a fan of the band, the scoring process for the documentary was incredibly rewarding.
Did you listen to the band’s record before, during, or after filming at all?
Absolutely. My love of their music was the motivating factor to reach out to them for this project. During production, and especially in post, I essentially became a Rosetta scholar; the film required it. I obtained everything I could — demos, live video recordings, mastered stems, unmastered stems. I knew the set lists for each recording, and I knew how long each song ran. As a fan, I loved listening to the music as the band created it. As a filmmaker, I had a hands-on relationship with Rosetta’s music.
Do you want to do more band documentaries in the future, and if so, who would you like to work with?
I would love to do more band documentaries in the future. My favorite band of all-time is Alice In Chains, so working with them would be a dream project. I’d also love to work with Deftones, Mad Season, Pygmy Lush, Pelican, Neurosis, High On Fire, Isis, and Baroness. There’s way more to that list, of course. Musicians make captivating subjects because the very nature of what they do is active and cinematic. There’s a spiritual component to music, and I believe a musician’s soul can be glimpsed while they perform live onstage.
How does the band feel about it?
Overall, the band’s reaction to the film has been mixed. Armine and BJ voiced some misgivings about the documentary on their podcast, “The More Better Narrative Podcast.” Matt promoted the film upon request, for which I am grateful. And Dave sent me a text message thanking me for all of my hard work on the project, which meant a lot. However the band feels, whatever misgivings they may harbor, my impression is that Rosetta believes their relationship with Translation Loss should not have been part of the documentary. They are entitled to their opinion, of course. But the reality is that the relationship between Rosetta and Translation Loss is a specific story that transcends the individuals involved and, as such, reflects much larger human truths. And I believe that’s the goal of any story, regardless of the medium, regardless of the storyteller, regardless of the subjects.
How has the general reception to the documentary been?
The reception to the film has been wonderful. All of the posts on Facebook and on other websites have been warm and positive. The film has reached five continents. I’m very fortunate to have been able to communicate with customers who live in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia. The film has received very minimal press – everything has been word of mouth. Something I’m struggling with is getting the film out there and giving it its own life. That being said, people have been really fantastic, and I can’t thank them enough for their support.
Do you think the Indiegogo avenue is smartest for yourself as an independent filmmaker?
Sometimes crowd-sourcing isn’t the best option for a project. However, for Rosetta: Audio/Visual, it was absolutely the right platform. We put a lot of time into our pitch, determining what our perks should be. In the end, fans responded and were really generous. Our goal was $6,000. We raised over $7,500. Our supporters were very good to us. This is an exciting time to be an artist. Music is going digital, and I’m hoping the transition carries over to the film industry. While I love physical product and occasionally go to the theater to see a movie, I think it’s time we re-examine how films are distributed and sold. Crowd-sourcing websites like Indiegogo will play a part in that because they remove the need for a studio, at least on the front end.
What do you think the band has in store for them in the future?
I hope Rosetta’s DIY business model continues to sustain them. They’re a very brave and courageous band. Rosetta isn’t afraid to try new things. I’m sure whatever direction they take will be interesting and 100% true to who they are.