For Those About to Rock, We Be-Mac You

For Those About to Rock, We Be-Mac You

D’arby Rose (with Stratocaster) is a few years senior to some of her fellow rock campers.

 

During the course of human events, it sometimes becomes necessary to bring the rock—and we cannot bring the rock without the hallowed tools of our trade. So we summon our guitars and amps, our boots and leather, our Pete Townsend windmills and Janis Joplin caterwauls. And now we also enlist our Macs—for they bestow furious powers of transformation upon those who seek rock star greatness. Yes, Macs are even more potent than cowbells.

 

Consider the DIY career stylings of D’arby Rose, singer-guitarist of the As Ifs, a band that most certainly has the coolest name in the entire history of rock, ever. At the gravelly old age of 17, Rose has already produced all the must-have media assets that one would expect of a serious punk-rock frontwoman. She’s got the demo CD. She’s got the music video. She’s got the website with the obligatory music downloads and calendar of live appearances. And she, along with drummer Lily B, created all of this stuff with nothing but a MacBook.
And we do mean nothing but a MacBook.

 

The As Ifs record and edit all their songs directly in GarageBand. Their music video, “Radioactives,” was also a MacBook-only affair: The girls used an iSight camera to capture footage, and then edited the entire 02:07 video—rapid-fire cuts, gonzo special effects and all—in iMovie. D’arby Rose seems blissfully unaware of her hardware and software upgrade options (she couldn’t name a single prosumer-level editing tool during our interview), but entry-level Mac gear hasn’t stopped her from recording a respectable oeuvre of eight songs. She also has a Jack Black level of confidence in her band’s awesomeness: “We’re, uh, pretty amazing. At first, everyone was like [in a patronizing adult voice], ‘Oh, that’s cute—they’re playing music.’ But then we started playing shows, and people realized this was serious.”

 

The documentarians: Shane King (left) and Arne Johnson.

 

Cue the second act of this “The Mac Is the Creative Center of Everything” fable. For the last six years, D’arby Rose has attended Portland’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls, which is the focus of a new documentary titled Girls Rock! by filmmakers Arne Johnson and Shane King. As much as the As Ifs have tamed the lo-fi end of the DIY spectrum, the two documentarians have tackled the hi-fi end—and, in doing so, they demonstrate just how much polish is possible with the Mac gear that’s sitting in most of our homes.

 

The movie follows the experiences of four girls, ages 7 to 17, as they form bands, write songs, learn instruments, and most of all transform themselves at camp, which is essentially a comprehensive learning academy for aspiring rock stars. The final cut of Girls Rock! runs 90 minutes, but Johnson and King accumulated 250 hours of material during their filming in 2004. This caused problems that just a single Mac couldn’t fix.

 

Dig it: With such a daunting wealth of footage, the filmmakers were forced to enlist two Macs and a third human editor (Diana J. Brodie) to get their movie ready for film festival submissions. The three auteurs broke into two teams, and their shifts typically lasted 12 hours on a nonstop, 24-hour work cycle. Their software weapon of choice? Apple’s Final Cut.

 

“I was usually working on longer-form, more structural changes on an iMac,” says Johnson. “And Shane and Diana were doing more finishing-type work on a Power Mac. Countless problems arose, because we had to have two entirely separate hard drive arrays with all of our media duplicated. We would trade program files back and forth, but had constant problems with misnamed files, clips reconnecting to the wrong files, name changes we had forgotten about, and so on—not to mention that every time one of us wanted to capture a new clip, the other had to also.”

 

After Johnson would finish a 12-hour shift of what he calls “unediting,” King and Brodie would begin massaging the footage into something resembling a movie. Johnson points out that if Final Cut Server had been available when they were in production, the two-squad approach to workflow would have run much more smoothly. Says Johnson: “Final Cut Server would’ve pretty much solved everything by allowing us to collaborate on the same set of files over a LAN, and to keep all of our work in one place. We also, obviously, had a bit of a nightmare with media management spread across two computers, and this would have been greatly relieved.”

 

Three weeks of intense workflow saw the filmmakers wrangling their footage into a trailer—and, more significantly, an invite to the Independent Feature Project (IFP), a big-biz shindig in which the team emerged as the belles of a very rarefied ball. The IFP yielded 19 meetings in two days. King and Johnson met executives from HBO, MTV, and Showtime (among others), and eventually signed a deal for an independent theatrical release. Girls Rock! opens March 7 in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles, so perhaps by the time you read this, people will be taking in the surprisingly not-so-strange spectacle of 7-year-olds bringing the rock.

 

“I pretty much learned how to edit while we were on the project,” says Johnson, “and that’s a testament to the ease and power of Final Cut. When I first started dabbling in editing, it was on Adobe Premiere, and I gave up, deciding editing probably wasn’t for me. But now I’ve coedited a feature documentary and work fairly consistently as a video editor.”

 

As for D’arby Rose, she’s scheduled to work as a roadie at next summer’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls, bringing the rock and moral support to the incoming cadettes. “I’ve learned so much about who I am from the women who work at camp,” she says. “And now I want to be one of those women who supports the girls.”

 

 

URLs of Rock
The As Ifs’ most rocking website www.theasifs.com, The rocked-out home of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls www.girlsrockcamp.org
King and Johnson’s rockumentary www.girlsrockmovie.com

 

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