My Career as a Jerk (2012)
Directed by Dave Markey
Midnight Friday (October 19) and Saturday (October 20) | Buy Tickets

Hatched sat down with filmmaker, photographer, and musician Dave Markey (the director of the new documentary on the legendary band on The Circle Jerks, My Career as  Jerk) to get an insider’s look at the SoCal punk/hardcore scene in the 1980s and to see how beautifully film and music can collide. 

Music or film – which was your first passion? What did you do first and how did one influence the other?

I started making films about six years before I got into music,  I should note the films started at 11, the drumming at 17. I was way into both. Before punk I made films with neighborhood kids, after I got involved with punk it was about casting musicians and the friends that stayed with me.  The LA Scene at the time also gave me a rich pallet to hone my documentarian skills, which I began doing in 1981 with The Slog Movie.

In relation to your upcoming book “We Got Power”, can you talk a little bit about the punk/hardcore scene in 1980s SoCal? How did you get involved? What was your first show? Who else was making films around this time?

My big pull into this scene was Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization. Penelope was one of the few filmmakers looking into this subculture at the time in Los Angeles.  My gig going was kicked off by an X show I saw at the Santa Monica Civic in 1980 and From there I got into Black Flag, Adolescents, Circle Jerks, Descendents, Red Cross, The Minutemen, and many others. I was inspired by the bands I was seeing. I felt it was worthy of documentation. In my case it was with Super-8  film, 35 mm photography, and doing a fanzine, We Got Power with my friend Jordan Schwartz.  The book, also titled We Got Power was just published by Bazillion Points, has all the fruits of our adolescent labor preserved like a fine wine.

Having already seen Black Flag and other early punk bands, how was the Circle Jerks’ impact different? How immediate was their influence?

Black Flag had a head start, no doubt in thanks to having a great front man in Keith Morris. After Keith was out, it took him little time to establish the Circle Jerks. Both bands just exploded in 1981. Also they were the first bands from this world that were able to take it on the road and establish themselves nationally. That was a big deal. It was done independently of the music business who couldn’t care less about them, this music, or the fans. These bands carved out a touring circuit that is still being followed by young bands today.

In regards to My Career as a Jerk, how long did making the film take? Any scene politics that carried over from the 1980s?

The scene politics of the 1980’s seem quaint at this date. I worked on the film off and on over the course of a year. At first I was at first given two large boxes filled with VHS video tapes, which I began digitizing and immersing myself in. One box was Keith Morris’ personal archive, the others was Greg Hetson’s. I started figuring out the best of the performance material, and I strung it all together and from there I started to interview the band members. That’s when it started to get interesting. I figured out the best way to tell the story was to let the band members do it themselves. This became the foundation of the narrative, which I decidedly kept straight forward. Looking into almost 30 years of back story can get overwhelming. Of course, there was a lot of thought put into it. I didn’t approach this task lightly. Also perhaps from having been there, at so many of their shows, remembering how it all went down, this made my interviews pretty focused.  Thankfully everyone was so cooperative and honest. I tried to maintain a democratic voice in my editing of the varying band member’s stories. And from have been a musician, being in a band, touring the country, I had a good idea of what the experience is al about. I think this film speaks largely of the experience.