Was Hitler the original rockstar?
Interview with Writer/Director Aidan Prewett
Writer/Co-Director: Aidan Prewett
Producer: Schy Peterson
Looking for: Australian Distributor
Made in association with: Devil Blue Films
Where can I watch it?
Congratulations! Why did you make this film?
A Venue for the End of the World began its long journey to the screen back in 2007 at a Roger Waters concert. The entire opening to the stadium show was staged as a kind of fascist rally, complete with red armbands and vertical banners among the Pink Floyd paraphernalia. The sequence ended with Mr. Waters machine-gunning the front row as a half-scale Messerschmitt exploded in flames behind him.
The entire stadium was on their feet cheering, and I was completely swept up in it. Many people, myself included, literally screamed for blood when prompted by the jack-booted bass player. It was only when the lights came up for an interval that I was hit by the gravity of what had just happened. 15,000 people in a room had just willingly taken part in a re-enactment of a Nuremberg rally. I had been so enamored by the presence on-stage of my hero, that I - and many others - had ecstatically bought into an experience that was quite sickening when examined under a non-theatrical light.
The point Mr. Waters was making is where Venue begins. How far can theatrics and a powerful personality take us? And is there any way to stand up to that kind of power when we realise it's being misused?
The project rattled around in between other films for several years, until I found myself interviewing Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson in 2012. I wanted to properly test the water with this project and so, as part of a routine junket-style interview, I began by asking Mr. Anderson about the feeling of power on stage. He immediately brought up the Nazis. What we were told would be a ‘maximum ten-minute interview’ quickly turned into 28 minutes of gold, covering everything from the Nuremberg rallies to the Occupy movement, and every rock concert that went sour in between. By the time the interview was over, I knew that this was a film that wanted to be made. And it was going to be quirkier and more personal than I first thought. We had started our journey into the bizarre, overlapping world of politics and performance.
Fascinating new stories came to light with every interview that followed and I found that the film was starting to lead me places I had never considered going. Suddenly we found ourselves being let in on trade secrets and uncovering incredible pieces of history that might get lost in projects of a more orthodox nature.
It’s now several years since that first interview and I’ve found that in many ways, my own life has been shaped by the film. Who knew that by the end of it I would find myself on-stage confronted by ten thousand people?
Why is it called A Venue For The End Of The World?
From the beginning the film was always about the power of a space. How can a person fill a space with a sense of awe and gravitas? And more importantly, how can they make sure their audience agrees with their message? So when I started researching how cults use a space, it's often a sense of creating their own mythical place, which seems familiar when I think of concert venues I know and love. And in the case of a doomsday cult, if they really believe what they're selling, they're really selecting a venue that they think will be their little vantage point on the end of the world.
Was it easy to access both the archival footage and talent including Chip Monck, DA Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus and Dick Cavett?
In the case of Chip Monck, we went halfway around the world only to realise that the real crux of our story was right here at home - in Fitzroy, in fact. But in meeting all of these wonderful people in America we managed to explore the topic in a much more holistic sense than I really thought possible. Making this film made me realise just how wonderfully aware most artists are of the history of their craft. And how much we all love talking about our heroes!
Everyone was very lovely and gave freely of their time, so once we were finally in the States, the interviews were nothing but joy. I guess the only difficult thing was tracking down agents and contact people for these wonderful artists.
In terms of the footage, I really have to thank Rick Prelinger and the Prelingr archive for opening their vast library of public domain films. I spent over a year editing this film, and a huge part of that time was going through hours of archive footage and finding so many gems. There were heaps of clips that I wish we could have included, and playing with that footage is something I've continued in a couple of short documentaries recently.
What type of feedback have you received so far about the film?
I've been thrilled with our feedback. Our first review was from FakeShemp.net after the Melbourne Underground Film Festival and I've saved a copy because I was quite overwhelmed with how much the film resonated with the reviewer, Glen Cochrane. Mr Cochrane's words have been echoed elsewhere too, but the first time is always the best: "One of the most unique documentaries I have seen in ages…Refreshing...A very funny, unexpected and captivating journey". We are now being distributed in the U.S. through BrinkVision and the American view of the film seems to be geared toward the political process in the leadup to the 2016 election. So it remains topical, and I think it will continue to be topical as we find stranger and stranger political leaders taking power around the world.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I've really been overwhelmed by the feedback and how positive it has been. To quote Fakeshemp again, 'This is a documentary that could easily hold its own amongst bigger, highly produced films and potentially come out on top'. People are often surprised that we funded the film ourselves. The only expense really was the airfares and accommodation in America.
People do seem to glean things from the film that I didn't really intend - like that the crowd of 10,000 that I face at the end of the film were mean. I don't think they were mean, they just had more important things to do than to listen to me! People occasionally mention that they disagree with some of our interview subjects. But they're not up there just for us all to agree with them! The whole message of the film really is to question everything.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
We Are Moving Stories is a wonderful new platform and one that I'm very keen to explore. It's an honour to be featured here amongst such prestigious and important films. It's just great to get more eyeballs on the film - and I'm sure a lot of those eyeballs will be industry-focused!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message and audience?
We believe that A Venue for the End of the World has an important message - one that could apply to almost any major political event. There will be a lot of interest in the leader worship aspect of the film as we draw toward the American election, so at this point we're trying to get the film seen by as many people as possible. We're thrilled to be currently available in North America, and we're now on the lookout for distributors in all other territories, including at home here in Australia.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
One of the great bits of archive that ended up of the cutting room floor was Timothy Leary with his slogan TFYQA: Think For Yourself Question Authority. That's really the message of the film and I'd love for people to leave the theatre and look at something in their lives in a new way. That would be a wonderful way to make a difference. Of course, the dream scenario would be to have lots of Americans see the film before they vote this year!
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
The question I had in my head the whole way through making A Venue for the End of the World was 'where are the parallels between entertainers and politicians?’ And of course in my brain that morphed into 'what would happen if the Rolling Stones were pitted against the Nazis?' Which lead to lots of quirky moments. But I think these questions make a very real point. What drives a person to crave this kind of power? And how can we stop them if they start to abuse that power? Because in that moment, in front of half a million screaming fans, there might be very little difference between Mick Jagger & Adolf Hitler.