It’s difficult to live in any urban hub in 2012 and not hear the word “hipster” uttered countless times each week. Whether it’s in the context of people complaining about the apparent recent influx of them, yearning to be identified as one or denying they are one, never before has a word with such vague and hazy definitions caused such contentious debate. In any case, filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton has chosen this label to run with in his debut feature film, I Am Not a Hipster, that last week premiered to great acclaim in the Official Selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
“Going there this year with a feature film was pretty different than going with a short,” Cretton told us after he returned home from the festival, referring to Short Term 12, the short film he took to Sundance in 2009. “It was seriously one of the best experiences of my life. I met some incredible filmmakers there whose friendships have lasted long after the festival.”
His experience at this year’s festival was unparalleled, though, if only for the fact that the audiences for and hype surrounding feature film screenings are much greater than they are for shorts. “It’s pretty crazy watching all these people line up to come and see your movie,” Cretton, who saw each screening sell out, said. “During our premiere screening I thought my chest was going to explode”
The storyline of the film centers around San Diego-based musician Brook Hyde (played by Dominic Bogart), who is dealing with the double-barreled heartache that resulted from a break-up with his girlfriend and the death of his mother. The music Brook produces in the film’s narrative may have been performed by him, but it was written by Joel P West, whose alias Canines is a band he created specifically for the movie.
“He wrote the entire album from the perspective of the film’s main character,” Cretton told us, “He and Dominic worked together to create the voice and sound of the character’s music.” The collaborative relationship between Bogart and West is surely music to Cretton’s ears (sorry), considering they were a large part of his reasons for embarking on this film in the first place.
“This movie started out as an excuse to work with Dominic Bogart (one of my favorite actors) and Joel P West (one of my favorite musicians). I was excited about the idea of creating a character-driven story that took place inside the indie-music scene in San Diego, which was a world I grew to love while living there for 10 years. When we shot the film, we called on the talents of all our friends from that community…so it was a film that was made by the community that it’s portraying.”
That’s what I Am Not a Hipster really boils down to, after all: the celebration and acknowledgement of a creative community, rather than one about pretentiousness or self-awareness. The connotations of the word in the title, Cretton told us, are sure to leave viewer’s (and doubter’s) minds not long after the opening titles.
“I think once people watch the film, they’ll see that this isn’t just some silly spoof on hipsterdom. What starts out as something seemingly shallow, turns into an intimate story about family, friendship, and the difficulty in dealing with loss. I’ve never been too fond of labels in general, and hope this movie helps to tear down some of the stereotypes associated with this subculture.”