Macklemore with Daniel Torok, director of the documentary The Otherside.
I spoke with Director Daniel Torok for this website's review of The Otherside in hopes of getting an explanation as to why Oldominion, a huge network of over two dozen Seattle rappers and producers, wasn't focussed on in his documentary. Torok seemed to like the review, even if it gave him a critical eye, and agreed to do a question and answer for the blog. Keep in mind that Torok is only one third of the production behind The Otherside - more information on the producers and directors behind the documentary can be found on the film's website.
Thank you very much to Daniel Torok, by the way, for taking the time out of a very busy schedule to answer questions here for Blood Is One and also for making his documentary at all. Here goes!
How did all three of you - directors and producers - become involved with each other?
Jeff and I were in school together, JR and Vinny were childhood friends. Me and JR were trying to set up a concert event for the Seattle Children’s Hospital with JR’s brother, Chris and my colleague, Jeff. The concert fell through due to time constraints on the bands involved…so it was cancelled before it was created. I then decided with JR to document the scene instead of the concert. And thus the doc was born.
Was there ever any talk of exploring the Portland hip-hop scene on film as well?
There was talk about Portland. One of JR’s favorite acts was Portland based, as well as Spac3man being from there. But we had absolutely no budget, which made filming very very difficult—which is also why we could not spend a lot of time interviewing the historical figures in Seattle hip-hop. If they were presented to us and wanted to work with us, we filmed them. There were a lot of people not interested in the project at first. Perhaps because I was in college…or maybe just because they didn’t know me, but we were semi-limited from the start.
Was there any hostility from film distribution companies to a hip-hop documentary?
We haven’t worked with any distributors, haha, so I have no idea.
What do you think makes Seattle hip-hop unique?
Seattle hip-hop is more musical. More notes. More technical. It has a rabid fan-base behind it, and the love of the city outpours through the fans and the music. It all sounds different (to some degree), and that’s a good thing.
I saw you are employed by NBC/Universal - did that help at all in getting a hold of the now very popular Macklemore? (Especially given his SNL performances.)
NBC came after. I was fortunate enough to befriend Ben and Ryan early on. Helped them as [much as] I could along the way while filming. Having a full Macklemore story was never the goal, but capturing the success he was seeing to start off with was. We got lucky by being there. The biggest factor in this however, was the notion that Ben and Ryan called me to come film. Whenever they had shows, working on new music, just hanging out in the studio…they called and/or welcomed us to join. They were the ONLY artists to do so. So if other artists complain about not being part of this project, or not having as much exposure as the #1 Billboard act did, well…my advice to them is make themselves more available to people that want to document them.
In other cases, like Grynch, who was around from the start…some of the footage was just unusable. And with no budget at that point we couldn’t keep going back to re-record the artists as the story changed from one thing to the next. It was sort of written as we went. It’s still being written, haha….that’s the best/worst part of documenting something current. It evolves…it changes.
Are there other elements of the Northwest music scene, hip-hop or music in this country in general you would like to explore in future work?
There are a lot of other elements I’d love to learn more about. As to what I would work on again, I’m not sure. I have a feeling this project, The Otherside, will continue to be fine-tuned and other artists will be added and/or removed to round this story out to the best it can be—again given the constraints on time and money.
Pictures of Macklemore and Daniel Torok used for this came from news coverage by KOMO News of The Otherside's premeire at the Seattle International Film Festival - read the full story here.