Hang the DJ
Writer/director/producers: Marco and Mauro La Villa – Coproducer: Henrique Vera-Villanueva – Cameraman: Stephen Reizes – Diary by: Pamela Swedko
Amid the hubbub of a downtown pizza place in the heart of Montreal’s club district, brothers Marco and Mauro La Villa glean inspiration for their $1-million documentary on the art of disc jockeys, Hang the dj.
Fresh out of film school, the identical twins are running their uncle’s pizzeria, which does a booming business with the late-night party crowd. Among those craving a slice are a slew of djs, and soon the La Villa brothers pick up on the sociology and competition surrounding the profession.
Following some extensive research, the filmmakers come to the conclusion that these guys are ‘major musical artists’ who are being ‘treated like juke boxes.’ When the La Villas lay their catch phrase ‘djs are the Beethovens and Mozarts of your century’ on people, they invariably hit the ceiling in disagreement, which leads the brothers to believe there is enough steam surrounding djs to get something going.
November 1995: Marco and Mauro La Villa bid farewell to Concordia University film school and hop on a plane bound for New York where they schmooze with club owners, get in on the who’s who, meet some local djs, and begin extensive research.
Early 1996: A contact at the National Film Board steers them into script development. They write 115 pages, speculating what interviewees might say. The nfb agrees to put up 60% of the budget, which at this point is between $500,000 and $600,000.
September 1996: Voice Art Productions president Henrique Vera-Villanueva, a film school buddy of the twins, comes on board with $50,000 as coproducer and cinematographer Stephen Reizes joins the team.
October 1996: The crew heads to Washington, d.c. for their first shoot: Junior Vasquez at the capitol where a tribute is being held in honor of Larry Levan, an influential dj who died of aids.
Still they see no money from the nfb. Voice Art funding is enough to carry them through.
November 1996: Next stop on the whirlwind club tour: Q-Bert in San Francisco then Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, back in Montreal, Vera-Villanueva receives word that the nfb will no longer be backing the project.
The producers get together for a tete-a-tete and Vera-Villanueva says, ‘We may have to stay in seedier hotels, but let’s do it ourselves.’
The boys get on the phone to everyone they know and collect as much money as possible. (They later get a tax credit from sodec.) They still manage to stay in first-class accommodations.
December 1996 to January 1997: The crew packs up and once again they’re Europe-bound where they visit the hottest night clubs in Paris, followed by London, Nottingham and Liverpool and then back to Montreal.
Dining in one of Liverpool’s worst Chinese restaurants, the boys meet Anthony, a serious Beatles fan who ends up being their tour guide and an integral part of the film.
The La Villas tell him about an interview with dj Roger Sanchez who claims the only difference between himself and John Lennon is their birthplace; they are, he says, both musical artists and equals.
Anthony ‘freaks’ and the LaVillas decide to get him on tape.
February 1997: Shooting takes place in Amsterdam, Madrid and Paris.
Spring 1997: The editing process begins in Montreal. The brothers and editors Jules Collette and Diego Briceno lock themselves in the editing suite at Voice Art for four months.
May 1, 1998: Hang the dj screens at its first festival in Bermuda.
September 1998: Hang the dj unspools at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of The Midnight Madness series.
Sept. 18, 1998: The doc hits Cineplex Odeon screens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, followed on Sept. 25 by Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and other cities across the country.
Sunday, Sept. 13, midnight
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 9 a.m.
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