A Guest post — with photos — from HogPro stringer (and real-life Spokesman-Review freelance correspondent in Spokane, WA), Arabella Figg! Thank you, Arabella, for this HogwartsProfessor.com Exclusive:
A Rockumentary That’s Wizard!
By Arabella Figg (Deborah Chan, Muggle Alias)—April 18, 2008
“Arabella, please send us a full report!”—John Granger
When John Granger announced at Hogwarts Professor that young twin sisters and filmmakers Megan and Mallory Schuyler had made a documentary feature film on Harry Potter wizard rock and the world premiere was in my hometown of Spokane, WA I was floored.
Wizard rock? Enough of it for a documentary? Made by Spokanites? I could attend a unique Harry Potter event? Wow!
My fan participation has been limited to HogPro. I knew nothing of the wizard rock subculture and was eager to have my Harry Potter horizons broadened.
“I feel we’ve grown up through this project.”—Megan Schuyler
“It’s our contribution.”—Mallory Schuyler
(Mallory, Deborah, and Megan: photo by Richard Chan)
The Schuylers (Griffinclaw Productions) traveled cross-country for two years to document wizard rock and its musicians of all ages, styles and creativity. It was Mallory who coined the term “rocking and rowling.”
“Wizard Rockumentary: A Movie About Rocking and Rowling,” produced and directed by the Schuylers, explores the rise of wizard rock, its musicians, and impact. The documentary will screen at film festivals and Harry Potter symposiums this summer.
To read about the impressive Schuylers, the documentary and schedule, and more, visit their detailed and helpful web site.
The World Premiere
“We sure got a kick out of John’s post and are excited to hear his reaction, because I think he thought he would end on the cutting room floor.”—Mallory Schuyler
The midnight world premiere was on Friday, April 11, 2008, at a Spokane theater. Over 125 people of all ages were the first to see it on the big screen. Special premiere buttons sold for $5, of which 20% went to Page Ahead, a children’s literacy program providing children’s books for low income families. There was also an onsite book drive.
“It was a great success and has raised over $150 dollars, so far” said Megan on Saturday. “We had people clapping and shouting with the music in all the right parts,” Mallory added. “It was awesome! It was fun to gauge the crowd’s reaction; we’ve waited for this for a really long time.”
“We wanted to have a local benefit for literacy, “said Mallory. “There’s an ingrained tie between wizard rock and children’s literacy causes,” Megan added, “Brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge of Harry and the Potters inspired the whole literacy emphasis, with their Reading and Rocking tours, having kids bring book reports to receive toothbrushes,” and other promotions.
My husband Richard and I attended Saturday’s daytime premiere at the Spokane Public Library, which was prefaced by acoustic performances from three wizard rock bands (who later played at Eastern Washington University in Cheney). About 50 people showed up, a good turnout for the first warm, sunny day of the year.
Wearing a homemade HogPro badge (with website address and slogan “For the Serious Harry Potter Reader”) to authenticate sticking my digital recorder under people’s noses, I informed interviewees that I was “not with The Daily Prophet, that scurrilous rag fit only for lining owl cages!” Richard and I also took photos of the event.
Megan and Mallory greeted me with an enthusiastic hugs, saying they were honored to have a HogPro person at the event.
When I praised their amazing feat, Mallory said, “What inspired us about wizard rock in the first place are these kids who started these bands and put a couple songs up on MySpace; I don’t think any of them expected this to turn into touring where they’re playing for hundreds of people. That’s what it’s been like for us.”
The Schuylers had nice words for the Hogwarts Professor.
“John, it was such a pleasure to meet you,” said Megan, “and so eye-opening for us at our first symposium shoot to talk to you, and other authors and experts. It really opened our eyes to the extent to which these books can be appreciated by fans and kids. To see the series appreciated at that maturity and depth was really cool; hopefully we were able to share that through our film, exposing it to fans.”
Mallory said John’s work “really legitimized what we were doing—other people appreciated Harry Potter as much as we do—it was a worthy use of our time. I’ve read some of the HogPro logs, and the thought put into the subject matter is just great. It makes me think about the books even more deeply. I love what you guys are doing and keep doing it, because it’s fantastic.
Added Megan: “It does inspire kids to go beyond Harry Potter books.” When I mentioned some classic books I’ve read and contemplate reading in the future because of HogPro participation, Megan said, “Kids being able to see that progression in the adults they admire helps them look forward to other literature they can explore.”
Cat Woman Expects Yowls, Hears Great Music
“I’ve been a musician all my life and thought, Hey, I can put those two things together.”—Mark of Marked As His Equal
The musicians each sang three well-written and entertaining songs. Greg and Linda Gower of Hogwarts Trainwreck sang folky, satirical family-friendly songs, including a funny lament about a poor misfit, “The Happy Dementor.” In “Muggle Magic,” Muggles have the edge:
“You say you got a broom, well good for you
Last time I rode mine my lips turned blue
I’d rather have Mustang, it’s true
Anything with a heater that works will do…”
Droll Greg is a longtime comic lyricist, full of HP song ideas. “I think Linda and I are, for sure, the oldest wizard rockers—I just turned 49 and she’s 150. John, I can’t wait to get on your site to check it out; I’m sure it’s going to be a major learning experience!”
The next two musicians were edgier and deeper.
Steph Anderson, of Tonks and the Aurors (from Ann Arbor, MI) sang, as Tonks (with colorful hair), about her love for Remus, her cousin Sirius’ release from Azkaban and Molly Weasley’s annoying matchmaking. Steph’s “main mission” is the literacy focus, and she hopes to add more people to her band. When I joked about the Aurors being under Invisibility Cloaks, she said, “I always say the Ministry wouldn’t give them the night off because the Man is keeping them down.”
Mark of Marked As His Equal sang my favorite song of the event, the exhilarating “Run Free,” which extends to the listener the thrill of the Animagus Marauders’ nighttime prowling:
“With the wind in our fur and the full moon to guide us…
We’re gonna run free tonight
Nothing’s holding us back tonight
We’re up to no good and we’re just getting started
We’re gonna run free tonight”
Mark, a lifelong musician, decided to write Harry Potter songs after meeting the Schuylers, who were filming at Lumos. “On a musical level,” he thought,” how can I capture what Rowling was trying to capture?” He likes Potter fans’ intensity and the way they contemplate the books.
“John, I love your mustache!” he added.
The musicians had an enthusiastic reception. Click the links to hear their music (including some songs mentioned above), learn more about them and buy CDs (lyrics courtesy of the MySpace pages).
“We had to choose between a lot of great songs for the film. We tried to choose lyrical ones most amusing and insightful of the books, for fans or those who haven’t read them.”—Mallory Schuyler
With no film critic cred, I’ll just write how I received it as audience.
The documentary is a fine piece of work, moves at a good pace and is engrossing and entertaining although we thought it seemed to us a bit long toward the end (but others may likely disagree).
The Schuylers explore wiz rock, and its explosive evolution, mostly through the musicians and their songs. The bulk of the film covers the two years preceding the release of Deathly Hallows, with some post-release interviews.
The two most prominent bands featured in the doc are a foundational group, Harry and the Potters, and Draco and the Malfoys, each with two members. The bands are friends, traveling and performing together; ripping the other’s alter egos through song, yet playing instruments for each other. They’re articulate young people excited about wiz rock’s potential for promoting literacy.
Harry and the Potters tell of refusing a comp CD deal from a label, whose agent saw them only as a commodity, uninterested in even hearing them play. Instead, by the time the Schuylers finished filming, the band had raised and donated $13,500 for literacy projects.
Draco and the Malfoys, green-tied “bad boys,” show their inner Slytherins with clever, snarky lyrics. In “My Dad is Rich,” they sing:
“My dad’s always there to open all my doors
You have to call a Patronus just to catch a glimpse of yours
My mom says she loves me when she tucks me into bed
How’s your mommy doing in the Mirror of Erised?
My dad is rich, your dad is dead….”
There are clips of HP fancons filled with excited, costumed fans (need I mention the satire, Galaxy Quest?). But the focus is on the male and female wizard bands (most consisting of one or two people who seem to choose subtle clothing references for their characters). The Schuylers intersperse Band performances in conference rooms with interview comments by non-rock panel event speakers and authors, including our own Professor John, who came off very well.
The documentary shines when showing the rock groups and their enthusiastic fans, who jump and sing along. Many of the performers might be considered geeky to their peers (and some confessed they kept their bands a secret), but to fans of both genders, they’re Rock Stars, with dedicated followings. Leaping around stages, passionately singing and showing off their licks, the musicians are powerful and admired, later thronged for autographs.
“Drama” of Switchblade Kittens, the band first credited with performing wizard rock on their CD, “The Weird Sisters,” humorously relates that when doing non-HP sets, she got suggestive invitations, but when performing wizard rock, fans “want to discuss the latest theories.”
Some of the bands the Schuylers interviewed are young children–The Hermione Crookshanks Experience, a little girl who, with her stuffed cat alongside, plays piano and sings; two brothers, 5 and 7, who jump around like little Mick Jaggers (one says “Harry doesn’t want to be famous—I want to be famous”).
The more mature bands shown (and those at the library) have thoughtful, well-written songs, comparable to any good Muggle music, exploring the imaginative fullness of Potterdom.
What continually struck me was how many bands passionately see their music as an enticing gateway to reading, most often performing in kid-friendly venues. They’re ambassadors for literacy beyond Harry Potter.
“Keep on wrocking!” –Megan Schuyler
I encourage everyone to see this delightful and moving documentary. It, like many other efforts, is a first in the foundation of Harry Potter scholarship.
One musician said the growth of wizard rock wouldn’t have happened without the Internet (which could be said of most of HP fandom interaction/output). And fans were too young when the series emerged and most current wiz rockers are moving into adult life in which their interests will likely change. My husband Richard rightly said the Schuyler’s documentary “is a snapshot of our culture. It couldn’t have been made ten years before or ten years into the future, only before the huge anticipation of the release of Deathly Hallows. The Schuylers have done an important work in capturing this moment forever.”
The Schuylers’ documentary is critical because it chronicles an aspect of Potter fandom currently under the radar for most people. I believe it a “Sirius mistake” for those absorbed with the deeper aspects of HP to dismiss wizard rock; it’s a relevant, artistic component of the HP experience and an effective, fun way for young people to express their passion for the books. It entices those unfamiliar with Harry Potter and leads HP readers to further explore the ideas contained within.
And the Schuylers have captured it all beautifully.