Inside the Making of American Artifact

(Hatch Show Print).jpgAs you may have deduced, we at UnBeige are rather obsessed by documentary films, and 2009 delivered in a big way: Helvetica director Gary Hustwit continued his beautifully shot journey into the world of design with Objectified, Megumi Sasaki created a tender portrait of Herb & Dorothy, R.J. Cutler helped the talented Grace Coddington grow her fan base by millions with his fascinating The September Issue, and Matt Tyrnauer revealed his brilliance as both a filmmaker and a marketing man with Valentino: The Last Emperor, which deserved every one of the 286 sumptuous fêtes thrown in its honor. Merle Becker‘s American Artifact, as you may recall, chronicles the rise of American rock poster art. And while you go and circle March 27 on your new 2010 calendar as the date of the DVD release, we wanted to share with you an artifactual tale about the making of the film. In this helpful story about how not to interview Frank Kozik, Becker described to us her fateful meeting with the rock poster legend:

Frank Kozik is the artist that is generally regarded as the one who “single-handedly revived the [rock poster] scene.” He helped to make it what we know it as today. Going into Frank’s interview, I knew it was very important to ‘nail it,’ or else a crucial part of the movie would be missing. So, I won’t say I was nervous, but let’s just say, I was extra prepared for this one; questions written and re-written, equipment checked, then checked again, alarm set an hour early…the whole bit.

Click to continue reading. You’ll be glad you did.

Frank, interestingly enough, doesn’t do rock posters anymore. He has moved on to a very successful vinyl toy design busniss. So, when I got to Frank’s studio, he brought me upstairs to this huge room of vinyl toys—hundreds and hundreds of vinyl toys everywhere; tables of toys, toys on the windowsills, glass displays of toys, etc.

We got upstairs, and he told me he was going to step out for a cigarette while I set up my equipment. And so he did.

So, the first thing I proceed to do is try to let a bit of natural light into his studio, because he had all his blinds down. I go over to his window, and he has these huge old metal blinds from the ’50s spanning like 30 feet in his studio. I pull on the cord to open one, and the entire thing pulls out of the ceiling, and comes crashing down to the floor, knocking Frank’s stuff everywhere. All of his hundreds of little toys that were so neatly stacked on the windowsill went shooting across the studio, stuff on his desk went everywhere, dust, pieces of ceiling, debris. The blinds miss his computer by inches. Total disaster.

So after the initial shock, I frantically run around the studio trying to do what I know is an impossible task and get everything back to normal before he comes back up. But of course, I can’t because there’s literally hours of clean up.

Frank comes back upstairs, and I’ll never forget the look on his face when he walked in. But, after explanation, he was completely gracious and understanding. And, after a little cleanup and a call to the building super, we managed to set up an interview spot in his studio that didn’t look like Armageddon. Frank did a fantastic interview, and all ended well.