Jonathan Buchner's 45 was screened for the public for the first time last night. And for those who came to either screening at 8 or 10, it was hard to walk back out onto a muggy night without having a strong mix of emotions floating in your mind.
Assembled in the large space that is 2625 Main Street in Deep Ellum, almost every seat was full for the first screening. Introduced by Frank Campagna Sr. and featuring comments from Buchner and Scott Mankoff, the tone was light but urgent, welcoming those who gathered. But when the conversation turned to the topic of suicide, Mankoff and Campagna strongly stressed reaching out to people - including anyone in the audience - if you're having suicidal thoughts.
With that, 45 was prefaced by Spector 45's three proper music videos. As the final one wrapped, the chronicling the history of the band began. Very soon into it, it was obvious that Buchner has assembled a healthy roster of well-spoken people that were the closest to Frankie Campagna Jr. and Adam Carter. Be it family, friends, fellow local musicians, girlfriends, or even former Observer music editor Pete Freedman, everything came from credible and valuable sources.
Documentaries on bands work best when the emphasis is on the people who made the music, rather the music itself. You can rehash memory after memory about a crazy show or how great this song is, but ultimately, a wider story is told when it's about the people. With 45, you're not going to find a more comprehensive document on this band anywhere else.
Once the narrative got going with the various talking head interviews, cheers and laughs frequently erupted from the audience. For a story that has such a tragic end, there is a large dose of humor in the first half. From tour antics to the origin of the band's name to the one time Frankie ran over a band member's leg with a car, the fondness and candidness were most welcome. Surviving Spector 45 member Anthony Delabano frequently talks about the inner-workings of the band with plenty of insight and humor as well.
Everyone in the room knew there was going to come a point where the film's tone would turn somber. That would be a slow transition, but it didn't feel forced or out of nowhere. And when the heaviness of talking about Frankie's and Adam's suicides began, there was total silence in the audience aside from occasional sniffles. Ending the film with a glimpse of what a number of the people interviewed are doing now was a wise choice. Showing Delabano play drums with a new band, hearing former members and girlfriends talk about how they've moved on, those directly affected by Frankie and Adam all have a focus of making the most out of life in the present.
45 is the kind of documentary that should reach a wider audience, beyond the Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton county lines. While the majority of the film was shot around Deep Ellum, there's a story in this film that goes much deeper than the average documentary. Well worth seeing again, and paced in a way that doesn't feel too short or too long.
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After the first screening ended, the majority of the audience congregated outside. Plenty of hugs were given and hands were shaken. Catching a spare moment, a visibly relieved Buchner spared a few minutes to talk to us. "It's a very deep story in this community," he says. "It wasn't a community I was a part of at the time when this story happened. To have this positive reception makes me very happy."
As for what he hopes to do with the film, the aim is for more digital distribution along with pushing awareness about drug use, depression, and seeking help. "We're trying to expand the 45 Fund itself," Buchner says. "The film is loosely attached to [it]. We're trying to take the band away from it and make the cause the more prevalent issue."
Frank Campagna talked with a number of people outside and was gracious to share some time with us as well. "This movie has a purpose," he says. "It feels good to see people's reactions. It's nice to see the final product." Campagna hopes to have some more public screenings later in the year as well. "I'm not sure where it will go from there," he says. "I'd like to see 45 awareness nationwide, if at all possible."
Sean Fitzgerald of the Deep Ellum Community Association added this: "This was a relief. This is an important phase for everybody coming to grips with it. In a way, thanks to Jonathan, the team, Anthony and everybody who stepped up and told the story, the next phase, for us as a community, is to really find out how we can make a difference. Reach out to the kind of kids . . . We can't stop the world from committing suicide. We can't stop every young rock-n-roller and every young artist from making stupid mistakes. But if somehow we can find a way to get the simple message to them, help perhaps by the power of this story and this documentary, we'll have accomplished something."