Published Feb 18, 2014Red Bull's What Difference Does It Make?, shot by Ralf Schmerberg of the Mindpirates collective, explores the musician's journey, giving the viewer a behind the scenes view of what goes on in the maker's head during the agony of creation. The film uses the Red Bull Music Academy's 2013 New York session as a backdrop, and picks the minds of over 70 students, DJs, musicians and composers like Richie Hawtin, Philip Glass, Giorgio Moroder, Lee "Scratch" Perry and Brian Eno, sharing golden rules that any aspiring creative should take advantage of.
The overlying message of the film seems to be that it's the process of creation that really matters, more so than the actual music itself. Take Brian Eno for example, who explains that "for quite a long time, I'm pushing the work. Pushing, pushing and pushing, trying to make it go somewhere, and then suddenly there's a change and the work is pushing me. That's the moment I know something is happening. I don't need to make decisions anymore. I'm just being carried along." James Murphy of DFA/LCD Soundsystem, meanwhile, apparently wrings his hands in grief whenever confronted with the task of making more music. It shows how much fans really take music for granted, never really thinking much about the effort that performers go through.
Producer Falty DL, who's made significant breakthroughs in the past few years, finds satisfaction from writing a good song for a day or two, while a master like Brian Eno admits he'll rest for 30 minutes before he moves onto the next.
Issues like drug use are also confronted, albeit quickly. Nile Rodgers claims to have died over eight times in a night, and then been brought back to life, and explains that he's sadly seen band mates pass due to disease and natural causes. He can't explain it, and the movie offers no answers either, jumping onto the next talking head like the taurine-fueled party that the movie seems to emulate.
The film is a tribute to the fifteen years of the Red Bull Music Academy, which is gaining more and more in esteem, but it lacks some direction: it can also be a challenge to keep up with key, but lesser-known, talent, introduced early on in the film with a brief five second name tag, and a dog doing his business as a backdrop to a bit about making music doesn't fully add up.
That being said, it's still easy to appreciate the filmmaker's raw street-style cinematography that captures the essence of New York. Another of the film's messages is that captivating music can be found in the studio but also heart-wrenching tunes heard on the subway tunnels, ripped straight out of Motown.
There are some great nuggets of inspiration, (some from Lee "Scratch" Perry is unforgettable) which make this a doc not to be overlooked. Schmerberg brings his innate talent to create a visually artistic piece that gives us a snapshot of what it's like to attend the RBMA conference and receive guidance from musical greats.
What Difference Does It Make? is available for free at the RBMA website.
(Red Bull Music Academy)