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Making Our New Documentary: “Sweet Rock: The Red Weasel Story”

There’s a famous quote about sculpting that we think applies to storytelling, too:

A bystander asked an equestrian sculptor how
he did it. The sculptor replied: “I just chip away
everything that doesn’t look like a horse.”
(unknown)

Earlier this year, Media Boomtown began chipping away at a slab of raw material collected over late 2010 and 2011. We had over 12 hours of footage and interviews, over 100 photographs, 30 or so music tracks, and a handful of documents that chronicled the story of a band called “Red Weasel”. Today, we are proud to announce to you that we have ourselves a horse: “Sweet Rock: The Red Weasel Story”.

Red Weasel was a band in Salisbury, MD from about 1988 to 1991. The 5 members of Red Weasel were in tune with a very different set of influences than what was around them at the time. Adam Robinson (vocals), Scott Hedeen and Dean Cartwright (guitars), Chet Cornman (bass), and Steve Messick (drums) served up a stew of punk and metal that was not always polished, and not always well received at the time. There was a small, solid core of loyal friends and fans, but mainstream success eluded them. Time would prove them right, however. A scant few months after their breakup, an album from a band called Nirvana would change the entire musical landscape forever.

For years, the band’s home-recorded tapes and one professionally recorded demo tape were traded and copied among the Salisbury faithful. After CD recorders and mp3s gave analog recordings new life and portability, the Red Weasel tracks were digitized and traded again.

In 2010, Benn Ray (one of the original Salisbury Red Weasel fans and co-owner of Atomic Books in Baltimore) did some talking and twisted some arms to get Red Weasel back together again for a one-off show. Enter Media Boomtown.

We recorded the band practicing again in Salisbury a few days before the Baltimore show. We also interviewed everyone in the band, original friends and fans, and the producer of their 1991, 7-song demo EP. Then the supporting material started to trickle in: videotapes of gigs, cassette recordings, the original EP master tapes, photographs, and poster designs. Suddenly we were staring at a big slab of raw material that had to be carved into an interesting narrative; one that would be engaging even to someone who wasn’t there at the time, and didn’t know these people. We were chipping away at everything that wasn’t the horse.

With so much raw material, covering a variety of subjects, there are many rabbit holes you can crawl down when drafting a story. Our first edit of “Sweet Rock” was about 50 minutes long. After taking a serious look at repeated thoughts and stray tangents, we did what a lot of filmmakers call “killing the babies”: hacking things out (even if we liked them) because they didn’t serve the story that was unfolding. After some hemming and hawing (and a few passionate discussions, we must admit), the length of the film came down to about 33 minutes. We had no preconceived notion as to how long this film should be, so telling the best story we could with the materials at hand (and no narrator) kind of naturally brought us to that timing.

We think you’ll really enjoy it.

Now that the film is done, we could use your help. Please “like” Sweet Rock: The Red Weasel Story on facebook, and visit sweetrockdoc.com for updates on screenings near you. We’ve also started a Kickstarter profile to help us finance the duplication of the film and recordings. Please share the links. Tell a few friends.

The 1990’s are coming back. With the 20th Anniversary of both Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album and Pearl Jam’s forming (and all of the related re-issues, documentaries, and press), it seems that America is poised to revisit grunge music again. Red Weasel just barely missed the first wave in 1991. Hopefully, thanks to “Sweet Rock”, we’ll be able to give them some of the attention that they deserve.

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