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Tom DeLonge is a busy guy. Though the Blink-182 frontman might not be who you’d expect to see in an article about low-budget moviemaking, it’s a fitting combination given that he recently finished producing and scoring his first feature-length film. Love is the story of an astronaut, cut off from all human contact, who begins to struggle with loneliness and insanity against the backdrop of outer space. The film’s atmospheric score was composed by DeLonge and his other band, Angels & Airwaves (AVA). The sci-fi epic, which was shot on a budget of under $500,000, was helmed by first-time director William Eubank and features actor Gunner Wright’s first lead performance. In addition to its festival screenings, the film appeared as part of the one-night-only show Love Live, released by Fathom Events. Love Live, which was shown in selected theaters across the nation, also included a live-streamed AVA concert, a Q&A and the premiere of the band’s latest music video.
I sat down with DeLonge at this year’s Fantastic Fest to talk about shooting Love on such a low budget, finding the cast and crew for the film and the future of both the music and film distribution industries.
Andy Young (MM): What was the inspiration behind turning this idea into a feature as opposed to, say, a short or a series of music videos?
Tom DeLonge (TD): I think most bands take the easy way out by defining what they’re capable of and sticking to that. Do a documentary, show the raw footage, concert footage, vignettes tied together… We started at vignettes, but I knew we couldn’t just be like everyone else, so I thought, “If I could get Will to do all these different vignettes and tie them together, we could add some sound design…” I started to think about how we could take this apple and turn it into an apple pie. What happened was that he came back with stuff that far exceeded my expectations, and it just kept growing, so that five years later we had Civil War battles and giant spaceships and God.
MM: I remember that when the first AVA album came out there was promotional material, including some trailers, that had a very similar feel to this movie. Was a feature in your heads even back then?
TD: Absolutely. I always knew that I wanted to do a film, and I have this bad history of saying what I’m gonna do before I do it. I always wanted to blur the line between the music and film industries, because then you push both those things into a different category, and you can journey into such deeper places.
MM: You had a first-time director, and this was your actor’s first lead role. Was that a conscious choice?
TD: Well, Will is responsible for finding Gunner. I found Will because his cinematography reel made its way to our drummer. As we were watching it, we turned off the audio and played Angels & Airwaves music, and I just thought thought, “If we can get him to do something like this to our music, it’ll be something special”.
MM: My article is about low-budget moviemaking, and I was blown away by the fact that a movie like this was done for $500,000. Talk about the production process and how you were able to cut corners.
TD: One of the reasons I chose Will was that he was already a capable cinematographer and was also directing his own commercials, so that was one less guy we had to hire. But in his commercials, he was also building all these things like costumes and structures. I had no idea he would be able to build the International Space Station on his parents’ driveway! But I think I have a pretty good intuition when it comes to people, and this guy falls right into that category. I learned early on in my career that if you can identify talent, you need to be there to help mentor that talent and give them the tools and guidance they need. But it eventually got to the point where Will was guiding himself!
MM: Talk about the process of scoring the film. How was it different for you, compared with writing a song?
TD: Easier, way easier. The process was really organic. I could just sit down with a synthesizer, play the movie and say, “It feels like this.” The movie is very meditative, and so is the music, which made it a lot of fun. And I was constantly asking myself, “What am I doing wrong?” So I’d rewind the last scene, watch it go into the next scene, then rewind two scenes and work on the pacing…
MM: I love the idea of Love Live, where it’s a one-time-only, special event. Do you see this as a good release method for future films?
TD: Well, for us it helped that we already had a built-in fanbase for the movie, but the problem for us is that this movie speaks to more than just that audience. There’s a whole sci-fi culture that loves it and wants to get involved, and they probably wouldn’t find it until after that one screening. So we were looking into different ways of touring the film. I think the days of just parking a movie in a theater for a few weeks is really almost non-existent now, and something like the Fathom event is a really strong component of where it needs to go.
MM: I usually ask the film version of this but, from your perspective, how has the music business changed as far as new musicians are concerned? Do you think it’s easier or harder to become an established band than it used to be?
TD: That’s a good question, and a difficult one. Music is bigger than it has ever been, but there’s no industry to support it. But now, with the Internet, there are these incredible worlds you can jump into. If you make enough noise, someone will hear it. If you just say “I want to start a band with my friends and write a cool love song”… that could have worked in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but it’s probably not gonna work now. So if you’re ambitious enough and you cut through that noise, your music could get heard and passed around and talked about. I think that this is causing bands to think more like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, [visualizing] their music into a whole new category, so it’s challenging their art and they’re delivering something that’s much more conceptual, much more meaningful and much more grand. And that’s causing people to talk about it, and the Internet gives them a forum for that.
Andy Young is a director, editor, writer and composer living in Austin, Texas. At the age of twenty, he has produced over 100 short films and one feature film, The Legend of Action Man, which he shot on a budget of only $200. Andy continues to make low-budget shorts with his sketch comedy group Dingoman Productions.