Ben Weasel at Odds with Documentarians

Whether fair or not, Ben Weasel has never been known as one to "go with the flow" and over time has earned a reputation as being somewhat of a jerk. First, it was the quarrels with bandmates (many of them). Over the years, disagreements and creative differences turned his band, Screeching Weasel, into a tilt-a-whirl of  a rotating cast that continues to this day. There have also been the occasional flair ups with people outside of his band, usually purveyed through Mr. Weasel's writings. Then there was the chick that threw ice and spat at him during one of his shows. What followed (him punching her in the grill) has come to be known as the "infamous SXSW Incident". Now, it seems he has beef with the very people interested in producing a Screeching Weasel documentary. It's hard to say exactly what went on between the two parties but what is certain is that Ben has severed ties with the makers of the film, tentatively titled What We Hate. What follows are excerpts of their ensuing Facebook spat.









"Hey gang, a few of you have been asking about the SW documentary we've been working on for a while now. We hadn’t heard anything from the crew for months so Owen e-mailed them in June to ask what’s up and they indicated that they’re bummed out about the film and don’t really want to do it anymore. Which is just as well because they were making a film that was very different from the one they agree

d to make when we first spoke 2 1/2 years ago. They kept telling me one thing and doing another, so I only agreed to continue with the project in April of last year when they gave me final cut approval. Now they’re saying they can’t make the film if I have final cut approval. I wish they’d told me that before signing the agreement – it would’ve saved everybody a lot of time and headaches. The final straw came when the assistant director of the film started making snide comments about me and the band right here on our Facebook page. That tells you everything you need to know about what kind of movie they’ve been making. I imagine this is what high school would've been like if I'd actually attended more than occasionally. Sorry to have gotten everybody’s hopes up. I thought we were all on the same page. I was wrong."


"The reason we can't make this film is Ben Weasel. Plain and simple. He is trying to tell me who I can and can't interview, and frankly, since the punch out, it's been a nightmare dealing with him.We are no longer allowed to speak with him directly. And I'm not interested in getting into a "he said-she said" fight on this here Facebook. But here's the bottom line, fans: I have amazing foot
age of the band. Behind the scenes stuff of Ben writing and recording "Carnival of Schadenfreude" and "First World Manifesto."
I have honest and interesting interviews with people like Danny Panic, Dan Vapid, Ben himself (numerous times), Larry Livermore, Mike Dirnt, Fat Mike, Joe Queer, Joey Vindictive, John Jughead, and many, many more. I have live footage and photographs. This was not going to be a fluff piece. It was not going to be a "slam Ben Weasel" piece. It wasn't going to be all about SXSW. I am a Screeching Weasel fan. A punk rock kid who lived through the 90s seeing this band rise and fall and rise again. It was going to be epic."



"I originally posted this under my own account but it's getting lost, so here it goes again. I’ve been fuming since Ben’s announcement on the Screeching Weasel Facebook page. Actually, I’ve been fuming about the state of this project for six months or more. There were more people working on this project than the few that you might know of, but we have all been privy to everything that takes place
, we are all experts in the degradation of this film, and we did all we could to figure out how to salvage it. 
I won’t go into specifics of the original friendly agreements or the modifications to those agreements following SXSW, the change in communication after SXSW, the implication that the crew had done something—anything—to indicate there was a change in direction when there were no discussions, internally or externally, of changing focus. What I want to say is that this team of filmmakers, producers, and artists has worked hard for over TWO YEARS on this project. Not Ben, Midway Pictures. The implication that Ben has been put out by the collapse of this film is insulting. It is the immeasurable amount of time, energy, and money contributed by this team that have kept this movie afloat. There were trips with crew and equipment to Wisconsin, Chicago, California, New York….there were endless interviews…there were many, many hours spent editing footage…there were many, many hours creating outlines and concept artwork…this was not a “couple of hours on the weekend” film. Everyone involved has families and other jobs and still spent days, nights, vacations on this film.What makes me more upset than anything else is the insinuation that David Bettencourt has been anything other than objective and professional. In case you aren’t aware, Dave has owned his own film company for many years. One of his works received a New England Emmy nomination. One of his works has been chosen for a nationwide viewing campaign by the American Medical Association. Several of his works have aired multiple times on PBS. This is not some high school punk kid who borrows his dad’s video camera because he wants to make a movie. You may not know, but this project began with Ben. Ben expressed interest in doing an honest, thorough documentary about the long history of Screeching Weasel. He said he didn’t want a fluffy fan movie. Dave jumped at the chance to make a professional film about one of his favorite bands. It was a labor of love, for him and for all of us on the crew. Ben was completely on board in a big way, sending boxes of material and opening his home to Dave. Then SXSW happened. Not a single member of this team made any comment about it to make sure we stayed neutral in the eyes of anyone watching the progress of the film. Like the band, we went into radio silence. We did not mention it until press releases by band members were released, and even then, we did not comment on the incident. This was a film about the band’s history, and the early days were what we were focused on at that point, so we continued on with the interviews as scheduled. That’s when the tides started to change. I’ll leave out a lot of specifics here, but Dave touched on them in his post. Communication essentially shut down months ago, and we’ve spent this time deciding how to move forward with the project without using any footage or interviews of Ben. But really, how would that be an honest and complete look at the history of Screeching Weasel? Because, no matter what Ben claims, that’s the movie we started out making, and that’s the movie we always wanted to make. We never had any intention of “creative editing” to skew the real story. Ben can believe or say whatever he wants, but it was never going to happen. This was going to be an in-depth look at the trials of a working punk band that has had ups and downs over 25 years. That’s the interesting part of the story, and that's story enough. I want to personally thank everyone who took the time to be a part of this project. The interviewees, the artists, the coordinators, and everyone who was following us through the process. It's a huge disappointment for all of us that we won't be able to share what was going to be an outstanding film with you." - Jen Stephens


   At the end of the day, it seems like a shame the documentary won't come to fruition as it looks like their is a good deal of quality footage in the can. 



  On a side note: I feel obligated to mention I have met Ben a couple of times and can only say he seemed like a genuine and nice enough guy. He has treated me with nothing but respect while posing for pics, shooting the shit, answering incessant questions, etc. 

No comments:

Post a Comment