Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Peverett Phile Interviews: Ari Gold

Hi there, so, are you watching the Super Bowl? I have no intention of watching it as the Giants are not in it this year. Anyway, welcome to another Peverett Phile Interview. Today we have an American filmmaker, actor, and musician. His short film Helicopter about the aftermath of his mother's death won him a Student Oscar. His feature debut Adventures of Power premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and made its European debut at the 2008 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. He is also a member of the band The Honey Brothers along with his brother Ethan Gold, Andrew Vladeck, and Adrian Grenier. Please give a welcome to Ari Gold.

Me: Hello, Ari, how are you, sir? Welcome to the Phile. Did you have a good Christmas?

Ari: Yes, I got to open presents with my brother, father, sister, brother-in-law, and my niece Ella, who is trying to teach me to chew more slowly.

Me: Okay, is this a coincidence, but there's Jeremy Piven's character in "Entourage" is named Ari Gold. Was he named after you?

Ari: There are a lot of lawyers who have told me it's obvious that he was and encouraged me to sue the show. I didn't want to create any bad blood so that wasn't really an interest of mine. The producers of the show deny it, of course. I don't know the real answer, but I played in a band with Adrian for years before the show was created, and met the people involved in creating the show, before it was written. The character was inspired by Ari Emmanuel and somehow they seem to have decided they liked the name Ari Gold, due to an unknown joke that was cut from the first episode. Adrian says I should see it as an homage, which is a good attitude. When I'm denied medical care because a doctor thinks I'm a prank caller (this happened when I broke my arm shooting Adventures of Power) the fate of my name becomes less funny, though, and I have to answer the question so often I've considered printing cards with an answer.

Me: What can you tell me about Adventures of Power? It seems like it has a big cast. Are they all friends of yours?

Ari: It's got a cast of thousands (almost). Well, all the actors become my friends, at least during the shoot, because when you're making something for no money, everyone cool enough to be involved is a friend. But I didn't know my cast before making the movie, other than Adrian. Michael McKean was a hero since This is Spinal Tap was one of my favorite movies; I loved Jane Lynch in several of her movies, I loved Chiu Chi Ling from Kung Fu Hustle, and two actors I found during the search process, Shoshannah Stern (from "Jericho") and Steven Williams, were miracles to discover. Adventures of Power is an epic rock'n'roll comedy about finding your own heartbeat. The story is about the toughest of times, and a small-town mine worker named Power who only wishes he played drums. After his father calls for a strike at the mine, Power heads out across America, discovering an underground subculture of “air-drummers” who just might hold the key to changing the world. People ask me why I spent 3 years making a movie about air-drumming. There are two answers: one, I think it looks funny; and two, I think air-drumming is a great metaphor for the human spirit trying to communicate. The story for me is spiritual and political, and it's all told through this ridiculous adventure, like a fable.

Me: Who wrote and directed and star in it I believe. Is this your first full length film? When can we see it out?

Ari: Yes, I wrote it and I act in it too, which is a crazy endeavor. It's my first full-length film. We plan to have it out in 2009. I encourage people to become a fan on my Facebook and Myspace sites, or email my list, all through my website,, so they can get news. We may not have the $40 million marketing campaigns of a Hollywood movie, so stuff has to be built by willing fans, and word-of-mouth. Fortunately there's a nice buzz developing after a slow start--our fans quadrupled in the past three weeks alone. The film won a bunch of prizes and audiences (choosing it as their favorite film a few times) seem to really understand both the humor and the underlying heart of the movie--which I can't say has been true of many of the blog "critics" who saw the movie at Sundance and wanted it to be Napoleon Dynamite.

Me: Congratulations on being a 3-time Sundance filmmaker. What did you win the rewards for?

Ari: Sundance has never given me a prize, but they keep showing my movies (4 times). I won a Student Oscar and many other prizes internationally for my short film Helicopter, and other prizes for my short Culture. Prizes are good for the ego, and bad for the creative process.

Me: Tell me about Helicopter. It's about the death of your mom, right? How did she die?

Ari: Well, you should watch the movie, my friend! But: she died in a helicopter crash with her boyfriend, the rock music promoter Bill Graham. It was a terrible, life-changing event, but also a strange story, and the movie distills the emotions of going through a shock like that. I'm really proud of the movie--so many people have told me that it's changed their relationships with their own families. That's more powerful than the awards, to hear that someone (for example) called his sister for the first time in 10 years because of my 20 minute movie. It seems to really affect people. My twin brother Ethan Gold (who also wrote all the score and a bunch of songs in Adventures of Power) did an amazing job with the score of the film, and I used re-enactments, animation, models, and a little bit of documentary footage, so the movie has a tone that's pretty unusual.

Me: You made a really cool short called Culture. It follows the Dogma Rules, I think. For those that don't know what that is, wanna tell the Phile readers? Who made that rule up?

Ari: The rules were influenced by the Danish filmmakers' Dogme 95. My ten rules were a play on their code. My rules were:
I actually wrote the rules after making the movie, as a joke, and also to make myself feel better for the conditions I'd had to deal with (particularly rule #7). But some other filmmakers around the world decided to try to use the rules to make their own movies, including some people in Serbia who were in the process of getting bombed.

Me: Are there any other movie making rules? The Peverett Rules for making movies by the way is there has to be gratuitous nudity and a really cool shower scene.

Ari: I approve of those rules.

Me: Ari, is there a DVD available of all your past work? I would love to get a copy if there is.

Ari: Yes, "Collected Shorts by Ari Gold" is available on and, or on my website, I'd mail you one but I'm touring with my band in Australia for a bit. But I think it sells for 8 or 10 bucks, comes with a CD by my brother, and all in all people say it's worth it!

Me: Ari, what made you want to be a director? And what did you think of that TV show last year, "On The Lot"?

Ari: I grew up writing stories but never thought an outsider could become a director. I loved movies though--Nashville, Repo Man, Babe, The Year of Living Dangerously, Airplane!, Sleeper, The Terminator, Taxi Driver, This is Spinal Tap... these were some of the disparate movies that had big influences on me. I didn't see "On the Lot". Maybe I should have, because I know fuck-all about the studio system.

Me: Who is your favorite director?

Ari: That's hard to answer. I love different things about different directors. If you look at the list above, you'll see Robert Altman, Alex Cox, Woody Allen, Peter Weir... hard to say there's one director I love best.

Me: Did you study film at UCLA? Are you from California?

Ari: I'm from San Francisco, but no, I didn't study at UCLA. I've taken classes at various places, and got a degree at NYU.

Me: I heard you received a Stoner of the Year award. What the hell is that, and what did you get it for? Was Snoop Dogg in the running?

Ari: I won "Stoner of the Year" from High Times Magazine, which appreciated my performance as an ecstasy dealer in the movie Groove. The prize was a trophy bong and is awarded by the magazine to actors they like in movies about drugs. The bong was operational. I'm very proud to have it on my mantle. I apparently beat out Marlon Wayans but Snoop Dogg was not nominated that year. If he had been, it would have been a tough fight.

Me: One of your short films is about your trip to Serbia. Where is Serbia, and what was that like?

Ari: I never made a movie about Serbia (yet), but I've written a feature about it. Serbia was part of Yugoslavia. It's a beautiful country that's had a lot of problems--wars and bad leadership. (Sound familiar?) It was a fantastic experience to be invited there by some underground filmmakers and participate in their festival at a time when I was one of the only Americans in the country. Our embassy had been burned down by a mob. So I felt the pressure of being an envoy to the film-punk underground. A fascinating time in history, and a funny, idealistic, crazy group of people were running a film festival in the middle of all this, and they were making movies. I wrote about my experience, which you can read in the "writing" section of my website, It was one of the best times of my life.

Me: How do you choose the topics for your films?

Ari: Whatever has to come out, comes out. It erupts from me and I become obsessed. If I'm not obsessed, the idea usually dies out as soon as obstacles get in the way; if I'm obsessed, then I ignore the obstacles.

Me: I have to ask you about your band The Honey Brothers. What instrument do you play, and what kind of music is it? Do you do shows, or record?

Ari: Yeah, I'm on a plane to Australia right now for a tour, and we're playing a few shows in the states in late January. I play ukulele and keyboards, and I sing. The music is what we call "new wave folk", because it's upbeat, danceable rock that mixes in old-time instruments like banjo and ukulele. Our first album "Songs for Your Sister" is on iTunes, and that one was more folk-indie-rock, but we are getting more and more into our new wave side and planning to record a new album in the coming year.

Me: Wanna play Six Degrees of the Peverett Phile? You are in a band and movie with Adrian Grenier who was in a movie with Melissa Joan Hart who I interviewed. Crazy, eh? I sent a request to Adrian to interview him as I am a big "Entourage" fan but he never replied. Put a bug in his ear, will you, and tell him I want to interview him. ; )

Ari: He's got people.

Me: My friend Ron wants to make movies, Ari. What kind of advice can you give him?

Ari: Only do it if you absolutely have to, because it's a very hard life. The business is tough and being broke isn't that fun. So if you want to be broke but travel the world; if you want to work 3 years to make something that lasts for a few minutes, if all that makes sense... then just start doing it. These days you can get a ton of practice making movies using cheap equipment and a laptop. Make movies and write stories and take pictures and see where the day takes you.

Me: Finally, Ari, is there anything you would like to plug, or say? I cannot wait so see Adventures of Power, and I wish you luck with it.

Ari: Come watch clips from my movie and you air-drummers, upload your videos to my movie's Facebook page. We have entries from China, Japan, France, Canada, and the USA. We need you too! And thanks for getting the word out. Independent film doesn't have the money to buy ads, so it's all about people getting involved with movies they like. All the best to you too.

Man, that was great. I wish I could interview more filmmakers. And I still want to interview Adrian. The next interview will be posted next Saturday and it's with singer Sabrina Korva, then on Sunday it's Brian Ruhe from the band Daemon Familiar. And of course the regular weekly update will be on Phriday. So, spread the word, not the turd, and remember to e-mail the Phile at

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