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Prior to their 2002 breakout documentary, Horns and Halos, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky had made a pair of docu-dramas, both of which are finally debuting on DVD.

Half-Cocked (1994) deals with the sister of a local musician who steals his van and equipment. With her band of rag-tag wannabe band members, the untalented group perform their handful of songs in local clubs, living the dream of touring musicians with no money, no clean clothes, junk food, and plenty of bickering for dessert.

Radiation (1998) was shot while Galinksy and Hawley were touring with their own band in Spain, and screening their debut, Half-Cocked, to appreciative audiences. With improvised dialogue and earnest performances, the story follows a local promoter/manager who takes a pretty beat poet from America under his wing, knowing his career and reputation are going down the toilet after a prior gig went really sour.

Sporting two films, a making-of documentary, interviews, stills and music galleries, the new DVD release is being handled by the filmmakers' own company, Rumur Releasing, which they co-founded and run with partner and Halos co-producer, David Beilinson.

Galinsky and Hawley met while attending NYU, and although the former originally studied documentary photography, his friendship and association with film students gradually pulled him towards filmmaking.

Suki Hawley : Michael had always been very interested in documentary photography, and I had been interested in music and film from a narrative end, and when I met him, we sort of got together, and decided to make a film.

I thought if Half-Cocked could look anything like his band photos, it would be awesome. Basically, we sat down and wrote a script that reflected what his experiences had been in a band for ten years on the road…We got people who were musicians who could play themselves, and basically wrote a script around what we knew about them.

Michael Galinsky : In a sense it became kind of a cross between the Maysles brothers and Hitchcock; cinema verite meets narrative filmmaking… It got a little bit silly, but that was the general idea, and that was kind of the same process with Radiation as well.

Mark R. Hasan : Was there a lot of improvisation for the actors to work with?

MG : That was the idea, but they didn't really do that much, except for Ian Svenonious, and he did an amazing job.

SH : We wrote a skeletal script and sent it to all the cast members, and said, ‘Okay, now write your own dialogue,' and basically Ian Svenonious was the only one who sort of changed everything around to match his own character, whereas everyone else sort of went by the script.

MRH : And both films were shot on 16mm film?

MG : Both of them were shot on 16mm, and Half-Cocked was on black & white, and Radiation on colour.

MRH : Radiation sort of reminded me of a Roger Corman situation, where filmmakers who were in an interesting location doing one thing thought it would be advantageous to make a movie on the side.

It's an audacious move, but it was one that you guys managed to pull off in a foreign country, and in a language you had to learn fast. The finished film is really good, and has intriguing characters, plus very strong performances. Was that something that sort of happened by luck, or did you managed to find a lot of people that were sufficiently talented that could suit your vision?

SH : My interpretation was that in Spain, people are not as used to having cameras around all the time, so they haven't learned what it could mean; they're much more natural in front of the camera… The Spaniards were incredibly calm and centered… although two days before we were supposed to start shooting, we were doing some rehearsals, and Unai [played by Jnai Fresnedo], who's the star of the film, said ‘I think you should find someone else to play me.'

MRH : But he was so perfect.

SH : He was so nervous about it, [but] then he took the bull by the horns, and decided to just dig in and really be an actor, although he's not an actor.

MG : And the way [Radiation] all came about is that I was on tour with a band in Spain, and he was the tour manager, and I said, ‘Why don't we do some screenings of Half-Cocked here?' And he actually said, ‘Yeah, that would be great.” So I came home and told Suki … 'We'll make a movie while we're there.'

Of course, she nearly killed me, because it would never work, and it was probably the most difficult experience you could ever imagine: we had no money, and everything closed at noon until three… We'd be rolling film around noon, and then be mad that there wasn't food at one o'clock. It was such an impossible situation.

SH : And that's when we turned to documentary!

MG : Exactly! It's really hard to make narrative features with no support, so we just figured we'll make documentaries. Just us, and where we don't need anybody but us.




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