Aaron Rose has held many titles in his life: Gallery owner (most notably of the now-defunct Alleged Gallery in New York City), art show curator, writer, publisher. Now, with the release of Beautiful Losers, Rose can add documentarian to that list.
His feature documentary debut highlights a group of once-underground artists, including Thumbsucker director Mike Mills and Harmony Korine (Kids, Mister Lonely), of whom Rose has long been the pseudo-ringleader, giving them numerous opportunities to showcase their work since the early 1990s. With this film he continues his reign as the collective’s pied piper, bringing them together for interviews in which they discuss their own history as they gear up for their touring art exhibition, also titled “Beautiful Losers.”
Shortly before the movie’s theatrical release, Rose spoke with MM about his debut foray into long-form moviemaking.
Andrew Gnerre (MM): Am I right in saying that the documentary started as the film component of the “Beautiful Losers” exhibition?
Aaron Rose (AR): Yes and no.
MM: So what was the idea?
AR: We were actually shooting stuff before there was a “Beautiful Losers” exhibition, but it didn’t really have a set destination yet. Me and my friend Josh [Leonard], the co-director on the film, were shooting with our handheld cameras for a while before we got financing and then when the exhibition happened we said, ‘Oh, this is the perfect opportunity to link it all together.’
MM: So you were essentially just filming some footage of your friends and it just happened.
AR: Exactly. We shot all this stuff on MiniDV and cut it into this little show reel to try to get some financing to turn it into a real film and that happened sort of concurrently with the opening of the exhibition. But the original idea was, ‘Something’s going on here. We should film it.’
MM: Since a feature was never the goal, was there ever a moment when you felt like it was getting out of hand?
AR: [laughs] Yeah.
MM: Because you’d done some short film work before…
AR: Yeah. I worked at MTV. I produced a bunch of short films and on-air promos. So I knew my way around an editing room and all that, but it was always short stuff.