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LEARNING HOW TO FAIL
LOOKING FOR THE SECRET TO SUCCESS

a film by lisa marr

preview the movie & bonus cd

 


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As for the back story on the project, as you may know, I was in that band cub from 1992-1997... kind of (I now realize like a nostalgic old grandpa) the golden era for indie, diy-type music... we were constantly making records, touring and making videos to critical and popular acclaim. Almost like shooting fish in a barrel. Then I moved to LA, the 21st century threw us all into the supersonic future and suddenly it seemed like just making music and getting it out there was a whole lot tougher... millions of bands pumping out computer generated product; the economy in the dumper forcing customers to be less likely to shell out for new stuff and small labels to be more careful with dwindling funds for promotion and publicity; skyrocketing gas prices matched with a reluctance of promoters to offer guarantees making touring an expensive extravagance; Napster, MP3s, iTunes, dvd etc. bringing music directly into people’s homes and cutting down on traffic to live venues; the cold realities of keeping a band together as a 30-something (families! careers! in-fighting! finances! availability!) and the sickening feeling of pushing one's product on an indifferent marketplace...

After years of futilely trying to get my current band, The Lisa Marr Experiment, on the road for a national tour, it seemed as though the stars were finally aligning: everyone had a small but sufficient amount of time off from work and other projects, we'd saved up a little money from local shows, we had a brand new album called American Jitters out on Sympathy For The Record Industry, and we had an eager new booker who assured me that the biggest problem of the tour would be deciding whether we wanted to play one night or three with Jonathan Richman in Austin, Texas. Two weeks before the tour, the booker suddenly dropped off the radar...no phone calls, no emails. All I had was a list of cities and venues. Frantically following up, I found out that not only were there no shows confirmed, most of the club promoters had never even heard of our so-called booker! With no time to make other arrangements, the tour was called off. The band went back to their jobs and their families. The window of opportunity was closed.
I felt like the music biz had given me a nasty kick in the ass and spent a day feeling very sorry for myself before a little light bulb went on... I had time off, I had recently acquired a beat-up '63 Gibson acoustic and a mini-DV camera; I had a box of records, a bag of t-shirts, a trusty '88 Toyota Corolla hatchback and a ferocious case of wanderlust. Why not just hit the road by myself, play music in random public places and interview the folks I encountered along the way about their notions of success and failure while I tried to sort out my own feelings on the topic. I'd call it the Learning How To Fail Tour. And that's exactly what I did.
I had friends willing to put me up in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Brooklyn, Detroit, Chicago and Denver so my route was a giant game of connect the dots. In between, I slept in my car. Every day I'd set out and stop whenever a place caught my fancy. I'd find a suitable location (a park, a shopping center, a laundromat, a street corner, a truck stop, a bowling alley, a tavern, a tourist trap....), set up the camera and start playing. I had a little sign on my guitar case explaining what I was doing. Folks would amble up... sometimes they'd throw me a little bit of money but mostly we'd get to talking... The question "What is the definition of success?" was a window into all kinds of really amazing discussions about happiness, money, work, divorce, ambition, love and heartache, cancer, suicide, politics, music, family, travel... you name it. People responded with a kindness and generosity I couldn't have imagined. Everyone wished me well and helped me in whatever way they could. Not once did I feel threatened or afraid. The whole experience restored my faith in making art and reminded me of why I'd been driven to make music in the first place: not money, not fame, but simply to connect with people. Process not product. Hokey, but true.

Putting the film together has given me the added bonus of combining another medium with music, taking it to another level and giving me fresh challenge... As someone who's just getting into filmmaking, I'm excited about making films and editing them in the same way I was excited about learning how to play bass 15 years ago. The documentary is certainly not a masterpiece of modern filmmaking but I think it's true and compelling in the way it represents a certain moment in time and reflects where I'm at in my life right now.

Whew! That's it!

-Lisa Marr