Making Something Out of Nothing

An interview with Ari Gold

AndyO: First, tell us a little about the film, "Adventures of Power." Where did the idea come from? How did the film progress from script to screen?

Ari Gold: "Adventures of Power" was probably born when I heard Tom Sawyer at age 10. I became an instant air-drummer. But it was years later, living in a weird little southwestern copper-mining town, where the workers were fighting to save themselves from extreme poverty, that I realized the comedy of being an air-drummer had a deeper meaning. An air-drummer is someone who tries to make something out of nothing.

Ari Gold as Power and Jane Lynch as Aunt Joanie

AndyO: There are many serious themes in "Adventures of Power" contrasted with Power's childlike presence and point of view. In many ways, this film is the story of Power growing up during a quest into the adult world. Power has obviously grown and changed during his quest, but do you think he's grown up?

Ari Gold: Well, spiritually, Power starts as an emotional child, with all the good and bad of being child-like. The good: he's idealistic, and believes people are all good, when clearly they're not. The bad: he's naive and scared. By the end, he "grows up" in the sense that he becomes fully aware that he is complete, even as an air-drummer, and he learns that this strength can bring out goodness in the wolrd. It's like he goes from being a naive child to a wise old philosopher in the space of his adventure, and he skips all the confusion of being middle-aged!

AndyO: Thanks for bringing "Power" to Seattle to the Rawstack Film Festival in July, 2010. My 10-year-old son and I really enjoyed it, and the sold-out audience reaction was extremely positive. As you've toured with "Power" around North America, have you seen similar reactions? Have you met a lot of air drummers?

Ari Gold: The reaction from audiences, from Memphis to the Czech Republic, has been overwhelmingly gangbusters. Critics have been harder to predict, and there are critics and bloggers who despise the movie. You can't enjoy the movie if you're cynical — it's not a cynical movie. It's like "Babe" for musicians. In the States, a lot of people talk about the music and in Europe they'd ask me about the philosophy! Though I've now air-drummed in Finland and Germany, so the air-ists are out there

AndyO: As part of the "Power" tour, you've also been supporting kids' music education. Can you tell us a little about that? How can people get involved?

Ari Gold: We're launching our auction on January 27. I encourage people to join my mailing list at I will let my list-friends know about all the items that are available. As of today, we have incredible collectors' items and/or backstage experiences from Rush, Ringo Starr, Metallica, Weezer, Ween, Judas Priest, and more, with additional bands coming on board every day.  

AndyO: "Adventures of Power" has Rush drummer Neil Peart's first live-action film role. Since Neil is so private and rarely even gives interviews, how did you convince him to appear in your film?

Ari Gold: My music supervisor Robin Kaye, who was in charge of trying to clear music-rights, knew Pegi Cecconi, who runs things at Anthem (Rush's management and record company). I wrote a letter which came from the heart, and Pegi passed it to Neil. I think Neil saw in my letter something of the struggling-artist he once was. Also, Neil has a great sense of humor, a great mind, and a great soul, and more than anything I think I was lucky — maybe the time was right for him to do something in front of the camera.  And though there was no money in it for him, I do hope it actually was good for (Rush) too. There was another director who saw my rough cut and ended up using Rush in a big way — and actually had a budget. I think Neil had a good time, more than anything watching me and all my friends hustling and making something out of nothing.

AndyO: How was directing Neil on the film set? And, most importantly, did he give you any pointers for how to play air drums (or real drums) to "Tom Sawyer"?

Ari Gold: I have to say that I was intimidated when Michael McKean (aka David St. Hubbins in Spinal Tap) came on to play my dad. But I was terrified about Neil — until he showed up. He has a great quality about him that put me at ease. But actually, he let me be the air-drummer — no pointers at all! He said I seemed to know what I was doing, which was a relief, because I've been air-drumming for decades!

AndyO: What was Neil's reaction to seeing the finished film?

Ari Gold: He loved it, called it "the best rock movie in many a year."  He and his wife apparently had a great time watching it.  

AndyO: Have Geddy and Alex seen the film yet?

Ari Gold: I actually don't know if Geddy or Alex have seen it yet, but I was screening it at the UN in Toronto, of all bizarre things, and Geddy's niece was there, and she adored it.  

AndyO: Music obviously plays an important role in "Power." Your brother, Ethan, is the composer for the film, and you also have many 80s hits like Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Mr. Mister's "Kyrie." Were there songs you wanted that didn't end up in the film?  

Ari Gold: I met Lars Ulrich after making the movie, and he told me I should have tried harder to reach Metallica's management.  Who knows. I actually challenge your readers to get my brother's soundtrack, listen to it, and guess which artists inspired his incredible original songs. Let's just say some of them rhyme with Shmuce Shmingsteen, Schmurney, and quite a few others whose management may have thrown our letters in the garbage.  Which gave my brother an opportunity to top their songwriting — and he did.

AndyO: Were there songs besides Rush's "Tom Sawyer" that you knew would be in the
film before you started principal photography? 

Ari Gold: Every song was in the script. The most important other song was "In the Air Tonight", and we actually didn't clear the right until about 3 hours before I had to shoot the riot scene where the song is featured. Judas Priest was actually a replacement for a Rainbow song, and a hell of a good one. Some of the Chinese music was found by Robin at the last minute.

AndyO: Power's nemesis Dallas H. (Adrian Grenier of the HBO series "Entourage") has a hilarious song and video in the film called "A Little Like You." Did Adrian Grenier play drums and sing on that song? 

Ari Gold: No. My brother Ethan sang the song, and produced it with his friend Hunter Crowley on drums. It's perfect: a movie about air-drummers, and the one singer in the movie is lip-syncing!  Adrian has a great voice but we liked the behind-the-scenes comedy of doing it this way. My brother also sings Mexican death-metal on the soundtrack. He's a ventriloquist. (See more about Ethan at

AndyO: Being that you play in a band with Adrian (The Honey Brothers), did you
write Dallas with him in mind?

Ari Gold: Absolutely. I wasn't sure it was going to work in his schedule, but I knew it would work for his personality. He'd never had the chance to do something funny before, and I knew he would be amazing in it. I think it's the best thing he's ever done! Of course, I'm biased.

Ari Gold as Power and Adrian Grenier as Dallas H.

AndyO: "Power" is your first feature-length film. What advice do you have for new filmmakers for making a film these days?

Ari Gold: The market has changed dramatically.  Technology has made movies a lot cheaper to produce than they used to be — but then it also made them a lot harder to sell. And marketing has gotten more expensive. I was naive and thought that studios would see my crowd-pleasing low-budget film as a great opportunity to have a great movie on-the-cheap, but instead they said "We still have to spend $50 million marketing comedies, so it's not low-budget anymore." I wrote a brutally honest play-by-play, with pictures, about the making of my movie over several years, and I invite people to read it. It's called Postcards From the Set, and it's available on my website.

AndyO: "Power" shares some stylistic similarities with the classic film "This is Spinal Tap." Was getting Michael McKean, who played David St. Hubbins in "Spinal Tap," (and plays Power's father in this film) something you thought of because of "Spinal Tap" -- or was there another connection?

Ari Gold: It was my brother Ethan's idea. We grew up memorizing This Is Spinal Tap, but he'd seen Michael McKean do a dramatic role and thought he would be great. We loved the idea of having David St. Hubbins play my dad, absolutely. We also loved the idea of giving this great actor, who's known for comic improvisation, a meaty dramatic role in a comedy. McKean plays a tough union organizer in a small town, whose world is coming apart as his wacky son plays air-drums. He plays the role for real, and I love that about his part of the story.

Michael McKean as Harlan

AndyO: What were your favorite films of 2010? Any predictions for the Best Picture Oscar this year?

Ari Gold: My brother should win all the Oscars for his music, but you need money for that.

AndyO: I see that you've recently directed a 3D music video for Luxxury, as well as an episode of Showtime series "The United States of Tara." Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Ari Gold: I encourage (beg?) people to join my mailing list. I have some great things in the works (though, like talking about a baby before your pregnancy test, it feels early), and in this day and age, the only way to guarantee you'll be able to see them is if we cut out the middle-man. Come say hi. I'll just say the following elements may exist in my next big work: (1) Music (2) Action (3) Comedy (4) Chickens. Beyond that it's still a secret!

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