Adam Yauch: Independent movie mogul
It is unsurprising that on the day we lost Adam Yauch to cancer, the Beastie Boy is being remembered mainly for his musical achievements. But over the last decade, Yauch also made a significant contribution to the film world both as a director — overseeing the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film Awesome; I F—in’ Shot That and the 2008 basketball documentary Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot — and as the co-founder of the film company Oscilloscope Pictures.
Yauch set up Oscilloscope in 2008 with ThinkFilm Vice President David Fenkel and, over the past four years, the company has released an impressively eclectic array of movies, including The Messenger, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Bellflower, Howl, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and the Michelle Williams-starring Wendy and Lucy. Upcoming Oscilloscope releases include the LCD Soundsystem film Shut Up and Play the Hits and 28 Hotel Rooms, the first feature from director Matt Ross.
That diverse lineup was in large part a reflection of Yauch’s own sensibilities. “Well, there’s certainly not one specific genre type [we look for],” Yauch told Gothamist in 2009. “We’re picking up documentaries, we’re picking up foreign-language films, domestic films, American films, and some are smaller budget, some are larger budget, some mainstream casts, some are unknown casts. But, I’d say the common thread is really just films that I and other people at the company like for one reason or another. Films that make us laugh or that are informative, but it’s pretty all over the place. You have to feel like the film has some redeeming quality, feel moved by it for some reason. We’re not going to pick up films that are just marketable because they’re marketable, if we don’t like them that much.”
Yauch could be very hands-on when it came to dealing with, and encouraging, filmmakers. “I’ve hung out with him a couple of times,” Bellflower director, writer, and star Evan Glodell told me shortly before the film’s release last year. “He’s awesome. He took me to go meet Jack White when I was in Nashville. I was like, ‘What the hell has my life come to? This is crazy!’ Adam, oddly, has a lot in common with me. When I met him he was like, ‘Were you one of those kids who used to make bombs?’ I was like, ‘Yes. This one time I almost blew my friend up.’ And he was like, ‘I did the same thing!'”
Contacted by EW today, Bellflower producer Vincent Grashaw said that he and the rest of the Coatwolf Productions team which made the film were “hurting” and offered the following tribute to Yauch.
“Every filmmaker has that fear of handing their movie over to a distribution company: Particularly not having final cut. One thing that was very clear early on was that Oscilloscope didn’t operate this way. Adam clearly trusted his filmmakers and was one of the reasons we joined forces with him on Bellflower. Aside from that, what attracted me was his excitement and passion for our film as well as the slate of films already under his company. His films are very distinct. He took risks that most distributors wouldn’t even consider. This is why Oscilloscope Laboratories has made such a name for themselves in such a short amount of time…
Adam believed in us, a group of weird young adults who made a movie… He had a heavy hand in changing our lives over here at Coatwolf and I will be forever grateful for it. But I do feel like it wasn’t over… like there was much more for us to do with him. Which I suppose is why there is an emptiness I cannot describe. There are several fond memories I have of him in just a year’s time… I will always remember what a kind, genuine person he was.”
Yauch’s friends at Oscilloscope have also paid tribute to their late colleague: “We are deeply, deeply saddened by the passing of Adam Yauch — an amazing leader, a dear friend and an incredible human being. Today we are heartbroken at Oscilloscope as we take in this awful news and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. Adam’s legacy will remain a driving force at Oscilloscope — his indomitable spirit and his great passion for film, people, and hard work – always with a sense of humor and a lot of heart.”
You can check out the trailers for Awesome; I F—in’ Shot That, Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot, and a selection of Oscilloscope releases below.