If rock’n’roll was taught at school as a viable career option, local music documentary The Fauves: 15 Minutes To Rock would be mandatory viewing.
A grimly realistic insight into what it can be like for a band signed to a major label in Australia, it’s a warts-and-all account any budding musician should see.
Director Vanessa Stuart followed The Fauves as they struggled through their career when they were signed to PolyGram in the mid-to-late 90s. To your average punter, The Fauves were a successful band living the rock’n’roll lifestyle. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Stuart says she was motivated to make the documentary by a desire to capture the genuine life of not just musicians, but creative people in Australia beyond the facade of media hype and marketing bullshit.
“I stumbled upon a copy of the Fauves fanzine Shred and was so engaged by it that I quickly ran out and got my hands on all the back issues,” Stuart says of the initial inspiration. “The wit and charm with which they described life on the road seemed like the perfect vehicle for a visual diary. I couldn’t have made the film about any band – The Fauves are absolutely unique.”
Stuart says that while she had some doubts during the early stages of pre-production for the doco, she quickly set them aside and pressed on.
“I think doubt is the permanent travelling companion of any person working in the arts. But once a project is initiated and you start shooting, there’s no option of giving up otherwise you’d end up with egg on your face.
“There were moments in the early stages when I was funding the hire of equipment with my dole payments and certainly lacked a degree of professional confidence. There was also a stellar moment during a shoot one night at the Metro where, after discussing access for the camera with the manger of the venue, he promptly asked me for ID to prove I was over 18.
“There were many practical obstacles, given that the film is about a rock band and many of the scenes take place in pubs. This was a constant challenge for sound and light. It was also imperative to make sure that the live recorded music sounded good as I’m a huge fan of The Fauves music and didn’t want them to sound shithouse. That meant a lot of experimentation with PA systems and DAT recorders.
“It was also really hard work: long shooting days, late nights, countless kilometres up the Hume Highway and smelly pubs. I also believe that, in many cases, no one took me terribly seriously as I was a chick in a band room and probably came across as a band-mole making a home video. [Although] that probably worked to my advantage in many instances as people were fairly unguarded in front of the camera.”
Although Stuart funded the documentary herself during its first year of production (courtesy of “the dole and money earned from various bad roles on Australian television”), she eventually scored funding from the Australian Film Commission and a pre-sale agreement with SBS Independent.
The film took three years to film and 12 weeks to edit, including some serious work on sound post-production. But Stuart – who is now working on a film about the history of West Indies cricket culture – agrees the end result was worth all the toil. Ask anyone who’s seen it, and they’ll also agree that The Fauves: 15 Minutes To Rock is one of Australia’s best rock documentaries committed to film.
The Fauves: 15 Minutes To Rock screens with Heavy Metal Parking Lot and Black Rose: Exposed at the Document Music Film Festival, Schonell Twin Cinemas October 29-31. It screens Saturday Oct 30, 11am. Visit www.documentmusic.com for screening details, other programs and to purchase tickets.