‘Songs About F—ing’ Director James Gallagher on Capturing the Sex-Fueled Grandeur of Marc RebilletJune 10, 2023
Half an hour into “Songs About Fucking,” James Gallagher’s music documentary premiering at Tribeca on Saturday, Marc Rebillet points the microphone at a burly, bearded gentleman standing in the front row of his concert and asks, “Sir, how are you?”
“I’m great,” says the man, dressed in only his underwear and a bathrobe. “I’m pregnant and it’s yours.”
“I didn’t expect you to be here, if I’m being honest,” replies Rebillet, also robe-clad, weighing his options. “You wanna come up here and deliver this baby?”
Rebillet then invites three women — one of them actually carrying a child — up onstage to assist with the procedure, before the so-called pregnant man grabs the mic and starts rapping over a techno beat. Then, he sits down so Rebillet can thrust himself from between his legs — an infant, crying on the floor.
In the world of Rebillet, a musician and performance artist also known as “Loop Daddy,” this interaction is hardly out of the ordinary. In fact, it was completely improvised, as is the rest of Rebillet’s show.
When, in September 2021, Rebillet embarked on his Third Dose Tour — a reference to the then newly available COVID booster shot — he invited Gallagher, whom he’d met only once, to join him on the road. So, for 46 days, Gallagher rode — without a film crew — on Rebillet’s tour bus, capturing the sex-fueled theatrics, little epiphanies and unbridled joy of live music after lockdown.
“One of the lessons I learned very early on in the process is to stay open and pay attention,” Gallagher tells Variety, “because life ended up being a lot more interesting than any of my preconceived notions about it.”
Below, the filmmaker elaborates on his relationship with Rebillet, the biggest challenges of shooting a movie by himself and what he’ll miss most about tour life.
What was the most challenging part of being alone, without a crew?
All the small jobs. Of course, you have to shoot the movie. And that’s hard. I was running three different cameras, and making sure my sound is recorded on its own is really difficult. But what I found really exhausting was having to download all our footage at the end of each night, which would take a couple hours after the boys went to bed. And when they had a day off in between shows, that was when favorite moments from the tour would happen. So those days would actually be oftentimes more intense for me. When you have a camera on your shoulder, the world pulls you along and fills you with energy in a way, but it got especially exhausting when I’d have to make sure the batteries were charged at the end of every night or every couple of days find a FedEx in a brand new city to send the footage back to the assistant editor. Oftentimes I’d be walking down a street in the city I’d never been to before and just burst into tears out of sheer exhaustion.
How much access did Marc give you, and why was it important to include archival footage from his childhood and from his live streams?
Marc was a wonderful collaborator. Across the board, he trusted me implicitly. On our last day of shooting, the last interview question I asked him was, “What would you like this movie to be?” And he said, “I want this movie to be whatever you see in it.” That was such a sincere blessing for a filmmaker to receive from an artist. I showed him a fairly early cut of the movie, and he had 27 notes — 25 of them were about music timing, which is something that, of course, he’s going to do a lot better than me or my editors. But he was open. It was a real testament to the friendship we built on the road.
Marc’s onstage persona is incredibly raunchy. Did anything surprise you about what he’s like off-stage?
In so many ways, there’s very little difference between who he is onstage and who he is off-stage. I thought that might be one of the obvious narratives for the documentary, as you expect there to be kind of a tension between who they are publicly and who they are privately. But Marc is essentially who he is onstage in a lot of ways. He’s bigger onstage, but beyond the grandeur of who he is as a performer and the raunch, so to speak, everything underneath that is really love and humor and compassion. And that was true on the bus too. I would say the bigger surprise was how much he was who he seemed to be, as opposed to the surprise that he was somebody other than that.
How does the show being completely improvised affect your filmmaking?
It affects the filmmaking entirely. What helped me a lot was I went in with really strict rules about how I’d shoot the movie, how I’d use different cameras in different situations and what I wanted the perspective of the film to be. Bizarrely, the intensity of the rules I made for myself helped me to make quick decisions about improvised moments. So, when you’re onstage and he’s all of a sudden giving birth to himself, you can react quickly and find an image you like and an angle that tells the story.
Was it always the plan to get Marc to open up about his dad?
I had always planned to do that. In our very first meeting, which was only about two hours long, before we went on tour, he mentioned his dad and I thought, “Oh, this feels like something really central to this guy.” I always knew that was something we’d want to talk about. I just waited and waited and waited for the right moment. And that day in Asheville, it felt like there was a melancholy in the air as the tour was coming to a close, and there’s a lot of love and trust. I was waiting for a little bit of encouragement from the universe.
What was Marc’s reaction when he first saw the film?
Stunned, I think. It’s an intense experience to watch something that personal about yourself. When I go back and watch old home videos, I find myself stunned by the little boy I was, and often embarrassed. After Marc saw the movie, he and I went for a long walk around the block and sat for a little while. He kept saying it was good, but I could tell he was processing a lot. It was probably 1 in the morning, and he said, “I’m gonna go home, will you send me a link to the movie?” And he watched it again that night. I hope he’ll be okay with me sharing this, but he cried through most of it, and found it to be a really emotional experience to watch it again.
Marc says in the film, “We can’t be trusted to know if anything we’ve made is good or not,” a quote that stuck out to me. Do you agree?
It’s very hard to deal in art objectively. My hope every time I make anything is to express the thing as truthfully for myself as I can. If you try to predict whether other people are going to like what you make, you will do a disservice to them and to yourself. It’s always about trying to be as honest to the initial impulse — or maybe the deepest impulse — of the film. If you can do that, there’s a good chance other people will come along for it. You hamstring yourself if you don’t trust that impulse — I don’t think you have any other choice.
What will you miss most about being on tour?
The boys. That wonderful group of guys — our tour manager Matt, our photographer Shane, our merch manager Taylor, and Marc. You live together on this bus and are forced to form a little family. I made this movie without a crew, but in so many moments, the boys helped out in one way or another. Taylor saved my life a number of times by running the mic to the board to record sound, or helping me carry the gear. Bizarrely, the biggest lesson I learned in making a movie largely alone is that you are never entirely alone. We’re all strung together in this universal web.
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