Soda City Chronicles
Punk Rock Filmmaking
Steve Daniels says he approaches filmmaking like he is making a punk rock song, which is to say time is seriously short.
“You just grab a camera and blaze it out,” he adds. “I like to just do it, total guerrilla. Just get it done and get it out there.”
The Amazing Russell, his 2004 commercial for Converse, complied with that punk ethos. The 30-second clip features a cape- and goggle-wearing daredevil who uses a ramp made of cinder blocks and wood to leap over a row of high-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars on a bike.
“Time is so precious to me these days,” says the 39-year-old Daniels, the father of two young children. “Finding time to make my own projects is very challenging. My wife, Katherine, is very supportive.”
Daniels, a local filmmaker known for presenting macabre plots beautifully, jokes that Katherine, an art teacher at Ridge View High School, is his Alma Reville, a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s wife and collaborator.
“She cracks the whip when I’m farting off on a shoot,” he continues. “Nothing gets made without running it past her. She’s definitely the voice of reason in the relationship.”
Daniels will be showing his latest horror flick, M is for Marauders, at the Indie Grits festival that opens next week.
By day, Daniels directs, shoots, edits and designs sound for film and TV boutique company Mad Monkey. He has his own padded editing suite in the new Main Street space.
“I definitely like spending long hours alone in a dark room,” says Daniels, a former photojournalist who worked at WLTX-19 for a decade before switching to advertising in 2005.
He earned national and international recognition for The Amazing Russell, but locally he’s perhaps better known for his work with homegrown talent, particularly his videos for Chaz Bundick’s Toro Y Moi. (Daniels’ videos also date back to Bundick’s pre-Toro Y Moi band, The Heist and the Accomplice.)
“Never Matter,” a video for a song on Toro Y Moi’s 2013 album Anything in Return, was filmed at the US 1 Metro Flea Market in West Columbia.
Bundick’s friends, along with some curious shoppers, danced in front of a camera as onlookers watched. The clutch frame was puppies urinating on an article I wrote on Bundick for The State.
“That was as real as it gets. That was not set up or placed,” Daniels says.
He had been talking to ladies at a stall, trying to coax them to participate. As he was talking, he noticed the newspaper in the dog pen.
“I don’t think they believed me,” he says. “It was too much of a coincidence.”
He didn’t have the frame in the original cut, but he mentioned it to Bundick in an email. Bundick replied, “You’ve got to put that in.”
For a 2013 ETV documentary on Harvey Gantt, Daniels re-created scenes of Gantt’s car ride to Clemson University on the day he broke the school’s color barrier in 1963.
“It felt so authentic,” says Daniels of the fantastically grainy scenes that featured vintage cars. As he does for a lot of his work, he used Super 8mm film.
“It’s so dummy proof,” he says. “I’m not a tech guy. I don’t get into the minute details of tech and cameras.”
Daniels was one of four directors commissioned by Indie Grits last year to make films that were accompanied live by a quartet from the South Carolina Philharmonic. M is for Marauder, which screens on April 18, was made to enter Filmmaking Frenzy’s ABCs of Death 2 horror anthology contest. Daniels’
T is for Termite, starring local guitarist Kevin Byrd, placed in the top 12 in 2011.
M is for Marauder is a three-minute ode to decades-old biker culture. It’s also a reminder of what Daniels has left to do.
“I need to make a feature before I die,” says Daniels, who is currently writing a screenplay.
How’s he looking on time?
“My first word as a baby was ‘clock,’” he responds.
The SCC is a column about interesting people in and around Columbia.