Today The Happiest Medium shines the spotlight Somewhere in The Dark, in this interview with Danish filmmaker Mads Jeppesen.
“Somewhere in the Dark is an insightful cinema verite documentary that encompasses the raw undiscovered talents within a plethora of individuals and their hunt for somewhere to create and express their art through the dark and underground of New York City. This documentary depicts the essence as to why people are drawn to this capital of the world and conveys a deep, rich and compelling insight into the people that work to realise their dreams and their passions. To strive for a destiny, or find fulfillment in the dark, this piece captures the journey and the struggle it takes to find a way when you’re somewhere in the dark.” ~ Mads Jeppesen
In November 2010, you came from Denmark to New York City and started filming the underground arts scene. What first brought you to the U.S.?
MJ: I came to America to work for a well-known Danish film producer. I spent much time on that project, but I ended up having some free time, and then my film project really began to grow. It started just like a little film meant for the Internet. That all changed somewhat when I met Tony Kaye, who said that my idea was brilliant! (laughs)
How is the underground arts scene in NYC different from that in Denmark?
I must admit that my curiosity for the artistic underground occurred in the U.S. We have underground artists in Denmark, but not in the same way. The widely accepted artists are paid by the state to make art. Then we have all the others. I think the biggest difference between U.S. and Denmark is that, in the U.S., if a guy wanted to make playing music a way of life, but had to work on the side, he would still call himself a musician … I just saw something here that I had to shoot. It’s crazy here. It’s truly amazing.
Tell us about your artistic vision for Somewhere in The Dark.
Well, Somewhere in The Dark is actually my first serious film project. After I got curious for the arts in NYC, I decided that I simply had to document it.
The film reflects the talent going around New York’s underground and the people who try to fight their way to the limelight, for money or just a better life. The film is also a reflection of the tendencies we see in our society where people are looking to become famous just for the fact of being famous. I would like to try to portray that as people who bring art to a different level and really have something to say.
For me the film represents something very special. It shows a very special passion and that’s the reason I have fallen in love with the environment and the city. People really pursue it here! I love it and think it’s cool. It’s very rare we see this kind of passion in Denmark. Here we all are guaranteed an education and it is more usual to focus on that and get a 9 to 4 job afterwards.
An example from the film, as it looks now, is the focus on the acclaimed film director Tony Kaye (American History X, Detachment) and Penny Pollak, who hosts Penny’s Open Mic (UNDER St. Marks Theater). Tony and Penny are interesting because they represent two different environments with very different backgrounds, but they are both artists, expressing themselves somewhere in the dark.
Tony is a great and world known film director who is financially secure. Yet, he throws himself into completely new areas, risking more than people would imagine. He’s actually very nice and a shy gentleman who just wants to be recognized and respected for his art. Conversely, we have Penny, who is a contrast to Tony. She is super outgoing girl and an artist who doesn’t have a lot of money. She hosts Penny’s Open Mic and from there, a huge network of artists expands who all know each other and are all trying to succeed with their art for various reasons.
There’s so many people out there expressing themselves through art. I would like to interview everyone who has something to say! But the film is far from finished, and I want to come back to the U.S. for a minimum 6-months to continue filming and finish the project.
You have an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to help finish the film…
The IndieGoGo campaign is running alongside this project, and it will help us to kick start it all. If we can raise just half of the $ 18,000 goal, we can have sent me to NYC to finish filming, and it won’t be that difficult for the production company to find money to finish the film. We just have to start it up. But there is a long way to go.
God, I really hope this film will be completed. It would mean so much to me and it would really be a movie for all the people in it, and all the underground artists who struggle to have their voices heard. I really like the idea to immortalize some of these artists. Many of them are so damn talented, but let’s be honest, only a part of them will succeed. I really feel a lot of these artists deserve to be remembered for who they are and what they do. Have you seen underground artist Mike Milazzo play? Damn! Go to Penny’s Open Mic, you can hear him every Tuesday! We hear the legendary stories about such people as Bob Dylan coming to NYC all the time. We hear how they started out and became big and famous. What about the thousands of thousands of people who are struggling somewhere in the dark? It’s them we want to hear about!
You filmed Somewhere in The Dark at several open mics in NYC (Caffé Vivaldi, Lucky Jacks, Penny’s Open Mic, Pete’s Candy Store, R-Bar, Sidewalk Café, etc). What was it like filming in the open mic environment?
Frankly, I have not really experienced anything uncomfortable while shooting. I’ve focused on a few places, but the original intention of documenting what an open mic is, is no longer the goal of the film. Now I have found myself a story and that is what I’m coming back for … Well, I guess I had to cross a limit to stick the camera up in the faces of people at first, but it actually ended up being perfectly normal. I’m sure many can’t remember my face, but they can probably remember me as a lens with a very bright light on top of it! (laughs)
In addition to working on Somewhere in The Dark, you have done a few music videos. (Heidi Mattsson, Mike Milazzo, Trine Jørck Petersen) What other projects are you currently working on?
Well I’ve made some music videos before, but it’s mainly something I do to develop myself. It is not a business for me and it is more about art. I certainly don’t do it for everyone. But I really don’t have the time anymore. I’m working a lot to raise the money for the film instead. I actually found a producer at production company who wants to help me finance the film, but everything is very uncertain yet, but I think it all looks really good. There’s a very long way to go but I have never felt so confident regarding film. This might actually end up being a dream coming true.
Right now I’ve got two short documentaries in I need to do before I come back to New York. They are both already financed. One will be sold to TV if all goes well and the other is about Danish rock band who have booked me as a director to make a short documentary about them as a band, accompanied with their debut CD. But this is just small project to keep me warm. My real baby is Somewhere in The Dark.
Support Mads Jeppesen and the talented underground artists in NYC who are struggling to have their voices heard somewhere in the dark!
You can donate to the making of this film through IndieGoGo. Also, check out some of Mads Jeppesen’s videos on Vimeo, view the attention the film has already received on Danish television, and be sure to “like” Somewhere in The Dark on facebook, to show support for this project, receive more information, and keep up-to-date about the developments of this exciting film as it unfolds!