Final Rating: 8.3/10
Quiet Riot’s reputation as being one of the first heavy metal bands to smite the charts is a pretty obvious story. What may not be as obvious is the bands’ story on an emotional level. With the documentary Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back: The Quiet Riot Movie, you don’t need to be a Quiet Riot fan, or even a heavy metal fan, to understand what loss feels like. You don’t need to be a party animal to understand the highs and lows of a rock star lifestyle. With Regina Russell’s clear passion for the subject (she is engaged to Quiet Riot drummer and the film’s main subject Frankie Banali), we get some uncomfortable truths about Quiet Riot as they are the words of rock stars who do not beat around the bush. Everything feels genuine on screen, because everyone is serious enough about their craft here to expect the utmost honesty at all times. If someone is annoyed, they will mention it without hesitation. This carries a punch when it comes to the topics of line up switches and the death of singer Kevin DuBrow back in 2007.
We look at the history of the band and we have a whole cast of fans and peers there to share their stories, whether it be for a while (Dee Snider appears for much of the documentary) or just for a word or two (John 5 quickly makes an appearance). A lot of the history and the current situation of Quiet Riot is humorous. A lot of it is funny because it tells rock folklore which is backed up with clear evidence. Case in point: Bassist Chuck Wright’s countless struggles with his gear. A lot of the film works through running jokes that are never repeated too many times, so the burdens are real but our tolerance of them remains high. We even wait for these occurrences to pop up again. When we see Quiet Riot as a band now straining to get a vocalist or to continue as a band, it’s depressing because we see members of a constantly changing line up, who themselves have also left and rejoined the band, who are here merely because they cannot quit their biggest passion.
With a step in the past and a lunge to the future, this documentary is what you’d expect from a rock documentary, but it is something much more to those wanting more questions answered. With legacies at stake, we really get an insight as to how the dust settles. We see the train refusing to stop. The lengthy title is a message to us as much as it is a message to members of Quiet Riot both old and new. No more is Metal Health just an album to rock out to. No more is the genre simply one to bust out the alcohol to. There’s a sense of respect for Quiet Riot gained after our sit down in Banali’s study. We still find entertainment through their music, but we do so with a recollection of the dedication that fueled this machine for decades.
I managed to interview director Regina Russell and the questions and answers can be found below.
What attracted you to documentary filmmaking in the first place? How has this experience differed mentally from your other experiences with acting and fashion?
I was an actress for 20 years and learned film making from being on film sets and from some amazing mentors. I owned a clothing store and did some fashion commentary and hosting which is just one of my many interests over the years. I have always, as long as I can remember, wanted to make a documentary. I kicked around a few topics here and there but never seemed to find that great story until now. I was just waiting for the right story.
You are engaged to Frankie Banali so making a documentary on Quiet Riot is no surprise. Did you learn anything more about the band that you didn’t know before?
Yes, I knew only about as much about Quiet Riot as the average person before I started. I became a historian on the band to make this film. I did a lot of homework. I could tell some of the interview subjects wondered if I knew that much about the band when I sat down with them, as I expected they would. I had to really become a walking textbook on Quiet Riot so I could get great interviews and carve the story together.
What was the biggest reward you had making a documentary? Did anything you found while researching really stand out as striking?
The greatest reward so far was the experience of showing it to an audience for the first time. I didn’t know about how this band had paved the way for their genre and that their success had created the hair metal craze. That was one of the things that really made me want to do it.
What was your experience with Kickstarter? Your target was reached, so it worked out. Is it a site you highly recommend or do you feel that your success was lucky/pertains mostly to what your documentary was about?
We were one of the first to use any crowd funding platform. This was in 2010 when no one was doing it. We got a lot of flack from people who said how dare we ask for money for a profit venture. It was just such a new concept. But it is fundraising which is not exclusivly done for charity. If you are offering rewards for cash it’s like any school bake sale but some people were aghast. We did offer some great rewards and made our very modest goal which didn’t begin to cover the budget of the film. Of course since then everyone and their mother has done crowd funding. Some major Hollywood players have raised millions this way and it’s totally accepted now. The down side is that now it’s almost over used and there are so many campaigns competing for funding. I may do it again someday. I think it’s important to have a realistic goal, offer unique rewards and hire a publicist to promote it.
How did your film get into NXNE? Did you approach them or did they approach you?
I thought it would be a great fit for us and I submitted.
Did your documentary teach you solely about Quiet Riot or did you learn a lot about rock n’ roll culture as a whole?
I don’t think I learned about the culture because I lived it.
Can you find a large contrast between music culture now and the way it was back when Quiet Riot were first starting out?
Girls used to flash their boobs at musicians on stage and now they lift their skirts.
Do you see more documentaries in your future? If so, do you have any ideas as to what about yet?
You know, I may do more docs at some point as I love documentary films. I really want to do something scripted next but you never know.
What is some advice you can give to aspiring filmmakers? Was there a secret ingredient to the recipe of this film that really made it all come together?
I wish I had some great advice and I wish there had been a secret ingredient! This was four years of filming them with no plan or idea of what was going to happen, feeling like nothing was happening at all and hashing and re hashing story lines over and over and over until I had my story and then taking that apart and redoing it a few times. So if there is a secret ingredient please someone share it with me. LOL Hard work is the secret ingredient!