DFW Music News

The Painful Story of Spector 45 is Now a Documentary: Director Jonathan Buchner Talks

Last night, local filmmaker Jonathan Buchner announced to the world the project he's been working his ass off on: a documentary on Spector 45. Called 45, those who know the band's story know how incredibly emotional and sensitive this is to tell, but Buchner has captured something that should see the light of day. If you don't know the story, a good place to start is some of our previous coverage, which you can find below. Firing up a Kickstarter project to cover post-production and legal costs, hundreds of dollars in donations came in within an hour. If he meets his projected goal a little under $10,000, it will be finished. We talked with Buchner about the documentary and he has plenty to share.

See also: -R.I.P. Spector 45 Front Man Frankie Campagna -R.I.P. Spector 45 Bassist Adam Carter

How long have you been working on this documentary?

The documentary project came about eight or nine months ago. I had moved down to the Deep Ellum area about two years ago, and if you're familiar with the Deep Ellum area, almost every location in Deep Ellum, there's a sticker on the window, on the bar, anywhere in the bar, there's a white "45" in a black heart. I had no idea what the sticker represented, having moved here after the incidents in the band that the sticker represents. So I was talking to a buddy of mine on the patio one day, and I said, "You know, what the heck is up with these stickers? Why are they everywhere?"

And he briefly told me the story of what had transpired to really tell the story of why that sticker is so powerful and what it represents. I didn't know these kids. I don't know any of the people involved with these kids. I don't know the families. I'm completely unbiased and I'm a third party. I've got tons of camera equipment. We had just finished shooting our feature film, Cry, and I was sitting with no project. And I said, "I'm gonna go make a documentary. I'm gonna go find out what the heck this sticker means."

Roughly, how many people did you get to interview?

I believe the total number of interviews was 24. Twenty-four different people. They range from the families of the band members themselves, the Campagna family, the Carter family, and most of the band members throughout their ten-year history. The band made this when they were 15 years old. It was around for a decade. Through the course of that time, it was always two members: Frankie "45" Campagna and Anthony Delabano on drums. Through the course of the band's history, they kept on going through different bass players as the band progressed and aged because kids would go off to college, want to start a family, couldn't be in the band anymore. The final bass player, Adam Carter, he was just so brilliant on the bass, joined the band and the band took a little bit of a different direction, musically and personally.

It seems like what you shot this on was very high quality. Obviously you've put a lot of time and effort into it. What is the ratio between what you shot and footage that friends and family gave you?

I would say 80 percent of the footage was shot on my own. The majority of it was in the interview/storytelling styling due to the fact two of the key people involved are no longer around anymore. I shot the film on a mixture of a RED Scarlet and a 5"D" Mark II. We were able to cut those two cameras together. The found footage was collected through Scott McMurry. He did the "Emulate" video, which is present during the opening of the film. The "I Love You" video was also done by McMurry. Those were two great ones because they actually shot those on very high quality cameras as well. They really provided the best footage. A couple of pieces were Frankie and Adam running around town with a camera themselves. This band was so well known in Deep Ellum, so there was always videographers in the audience, people taking pictures, stuff like that.

You lay it out on the Kickstarter page, but basically, you're running this project for post-production. I know post-production can take a long-ass time.

The film has been edited to a submittable format. The film has been submitted to SXSW Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival, which we have not heard back from either one yet. Which is good, because that means we're still in the running. The submission cut was taken care of, but it is still in the color grading and audio correction of the film. Basically, it's mastering the project, giving it the final touches. Credits still have to be applied as well as some pictures that have come up after the filming that we didn't have.

So we actually have more material for the final cut of the film. Color grading, God, it's such a painful process. You really have to be an artist, and I have a guy named Matthew Stocks that does this for me and he's currently neck-deep in color grading the film. And my other guy, Ian [Alvey], is currently finishing up the audio completion of the film. A lot of what I need help on is the simple legal fees required by a feature film, just to distribute it, to protect ourselves with the distribution of the film. And it's making sure we do it the right way; that way we don't have lawsuits or anything like that later on. Most of it's actually book work now. I'd love to compensate those kids for helping me out, too. They've been running on beer and no sleep.

Was pizza also in the mix?

Yes, pizza has been present three or four times during the making of this film. But honestly, since this film has been shot with no budget, most of the time, they had to purchase their own pizza.

I'll share with you an Adam Carter story. I only really ran into him a couple of times. The reason why I'm telling you this is that I'm curious if people have told you a similar story. My previous band frequently played the Lakewood Bar & Grill. It was a room that, for a drummer like myself who pounds the shit out of drums, wasn't helpful in terms of sound. One night, Adam ran sound for us. Previous times with a different soundman, I'd be told - and my bandmates - to turn down the volume. Well, I didn't really like being told that because we're a rock band and we're loud. The thing that stuck with me about Adam was that when he did sound for us, "You just be yourselves; I'll take care of you." I took that as, "Look, be yourself and don't worry if the owner complains that you're too loud." That really stuck with me.

You know, everything I heard about this kid: he was gigantic and scary-looking and imposing, but I heard he was just a nice, genuine human being. Everything I've heard, I heard how genuine and caring and passionate that he was. He was a beautiful person. It's a shame.

I still remember the first time that I saw Missile. When they played the song about Frankie, I got a little choked up. Also, I saw Frankie just a few days before he died. I met up with a friend from out of town and since I love to go to the Amsterdam Bar, Frankie was bartending. Then I saw [Robert Wilonsky] wrote the obituary a few days later. I sent my friend a message telling him about our bartender and telling him that he died. It was just tough to deal with. I can only imagine with his father and family.

It was hard. It was trying on me, emotionally. I didn't know these guys, but I talked to everybody that did for years. I got to experience their story all through the course. The actual shooting was about two months. Just in two months, it was hell listening to some of this. There's still a lot of emotion to it.

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs