Hey Doug! So fill us in on the basics your age, where you live and the company is based & the history behind your company High Roller Studios?
Hey Phil! I'm 29, live in Philly, and work out of Mt. Holly, NJ. I've been doing High Roller studios since 2000 where we've have put out dvds for fests like Hellfest, New England Metal Fest, Skate and Surf, and have also worked on a bunch of other dvds for bands.
So when you wake up in the morning do you think gee wizz what amazing hardcore band / label shall I work with today?
Absolutely! We've been very fortunate to work with some really awesome bands and labels. I don't know if I've ever said "gee whiz" though....maybe I should start..haha.
What sort of planning goes into a DVD on the scale of Hellfest or your latest release the Skate & Surf Fest 2004 (New England Metal fest / Earth Crisis) You have quite a large team right?
We start by mapping out where we are going to put cameras based on the location. Then we start lining up the camera operators, rentals, etc. I think our largest team was 20 something at Hellfest this past year. In the studio its me, Anderson Bradshaw, and Robbie Tassaro editing and "Skip" Cassel doing the audio. Every now and then our intern Abe comes in to help too.
I guess youve travelled around with bands on the road to? Have you ever been in a band? Who? & What do you play?
I've never been in a band, and can't do a damn thing musically.
I take it High Roller is your main source of income? A job that you do full time? What does your average day consist of?
Getting in late, handling some random business stuff, then it really depends on what projects we have going on. In a normal day I might design menus, edit video, work on a commercial or anything that needs to get done. Rarely do I work on one thing all day.
You really seemed to have targeted a niche in the scene and are dominating the scene in that respect! Thinking back to when you first started out did you have visions of it turning out this way? What were the initial goals?
Thanks. I don't know if we are "dominating" the scene, and I definately would never set out to do that. Its always been my intention to pay this type of music the respect it deserves by making the bands look the best that I could. As far as goals, I always hoped that people would recognize High Roller studios as a quality video production company.
Ever surf or skate? Both the sports are intertwined and part of the "punk" community, what sorts of extreme sports are you into? Do you have any interest in pursuing that medium?
I skated a bit when I was real young, but bruised my ribs and lost interest real quick. I used to snowboard ALOT in high school and college, but haven't been out for a while. In high school I worked on some skate videos and snowboard videos and would love to get into it again.
What sorts of preparation and planning goes into a documentary? The time scales? Using the example of the Earth Crisis DVD "1991-2001 Forever True"
For documentaries, its important to have a pretty good idea of the time you're going to dedicate to it and try to stick with it. For the Earth Crisis thing, we wanted to do an all encompassing video so we just kept shooting and shooting with no real end in sight. When the band broke up and there was nothing left to shoot, we finished the dvd..haha..not the best way to go about things since it can get real expensive.
For the most recent dvd we worked on for Lamb of God, we knew we were only going to shoot for 2 weeks in the US and 2 weeks in the UK. Knowing your time frame makes things a lot easier to put things in perspective and shoot with a purpose. We didn't do much planning for that other than "go out with the band and see what happens". We didn't realize the dvd's "theme" until about 3 weeks into the shoot. That's not to say the footage I shot was garbage, but when it came time to edit we knew exactly what to keep and what to scrap. When you see that dvd, you'll see what I mean.
How did you come to do that for them? What were your favourite and worst parts? Did anyone get in trouble for the kareoke in Japan and chucking that equipment out of the hotel windows? Haha
I was on the road with those guys for a few months and had compiled a lot of footage of them. They knew I was trying to get off the ground, and agreed to let me edit all the footage into a dvd. My favorite parts of the dvd were seeing Karl acting like a maniac, which I think surprised alot of people. You read his interviews and lyrics and see him on stage and think he's this real serious dude, which is definitely one side of him. He's also really funny and completely out of his mind at times. I love the Japanese footage too. That was such a blast being over there and definitely something that I'll never forget. Nobody got into any trouble for the karaoke stuff or chucking stuff out of the windows, luckily. There's no way they didn't hear us blaring that karaoke machine, I think that they're just so non-confrontational that they just let it go. The japanese were real weird around us and would point to our tattoos and give us weird finger gestures.
So since this is an interview for straightedgelifestle.com. What are your opinions on straight edge in America at the moment? Is the scene still strong or does it fluctuate?
I think that right now in America, straight edge is at a very comfortable place in the hard core scene. There are a couple bands out there that are representing sxe well and that's really all you can ask for. When sxe is used as a status symbol, or as a reason to get into a fight it becomes a problem. Like any scene it fluctuates, but if you truly believe in what sxe is about it doesn't matter who's sxe and who sold it out since its a personal decision and really nobody elses business.
What makes you happy? & What inspires you
It sounds corny, but my wife and I just had a baby girl 3 months ago and that makes me happy and inspires me greatly. A friend of mine told me that "having a baby is so gay", so I won't get into the mushy details.
Are there many differences to making a music video for a band (Dougs worked with: Bane, Converge, Brothers Keeper, Everytime I Die, Give Up The Ghost, Hopesfall, Another Victim, Throwdown & The Promise to name a few) and what are the main challenges? (I.e. not letting the style become stagnant & repetitive in formula)
I've done a few music videos, but I primarily work on live videos, so it can get hard to mix it up. The main challenge is not to fall into a pattern where every band is shot and edited the same. Each band has a flow that you need to find and expand upon.
How much does it cost to make a DVD documentary and also a band video? I suppose it depends on the scale of the label right? Have you been approached by major labels to work with mainstream groups?
We've done work for some major labels before, and really its no different aside from sometimes you have a bigger budget. We've worked with Nickelback, Sum 41, Saliva, and Maroon 5 in the past.
Whats on the cards for you over the next year and what sort of hopes & fears do you have for High Roller Studios as it eventually expands and grows as a company?
Yeah, I want the company to continue to grow and continue to put out documentary style dvds and live dvds. I think our work has consistently gotten better, so I hope to continue that into the future. We'll be releasing more fest dvds as well as band documentaries for as long as we can!
I take it you have a set fee for band videos or full length DVDs also depending on the content & scale of the operation filming? Do you also get paid royalties?
Talking about money succccccccks. Moving on!
What sort of equipment and computer software programs do you use in any part of the film making process? Like bands get clothing / instrument endorsements is there such a thing for filming equipment? (haha) Wouldnt that be sweet?
We use apple computers running final cut pro for video and pro tools for the audio. As far as cameras, it depends on the shoot. We can shoot in a multitude of formats and like to mix it up. I wish we could get an endorsement from apple, but I don't see it in the cards... stingy bastards. We do get t-shirts from To Die For Clothing (www.todieforclothing.com), so its not a complete bumout.
What sort of education and training did you have? I take it you went to college so which one and what was it like for you?
I pretty much taught myself how to edit. I went to the Art Institute of Philadelphia for Multimedia, but didn't take any video classes.
What are you favourite things to do? If youre into comics what do you read? Do you even have a nerdy interest?
I used to be way into comics. Classic stuff like Spiderman and Batman, but I also got into creepy shit like "Dead World" too. I've got a whole box of comics from back in the day that are probably worth something, but I've never looked them up. Let me know if any of the Spiderman comics that Todd MacFarlane drew are worth anything... I'll split the profits with you.
Hope the questions havent been overly usual for you and that aside from thanks a whole bunch for doing this have an awesome week! And if there is anything left that you wanna get off you chest NOWs the time
Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, Phil. The questions were kick ass! If you come to hellfest, come introduce yourself.