This weekend the Berkeley Video & Film Festival is happening at the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas with a concentration on short films/videos typically of about ten minutes in length. At opening night last night of the eighteen year old festival, Dan K Harvest was at the downtown Berkeley cinema and got to view a dozen of these shorts. "It was invigorating, with lots of dark, foreboding, futuristic doomsday themed films and a lot of relationship commentary," he said. In addition to about 15 local productions, there are also many entries from around the US and overseas, including challenging new independent cinema from Italy, Cuba, Germany, Venezuela, and Great Britain.
"There was even a film by a 12 year old that was fascinating," said Harvest. Today, the second and final day of the fest, at 6:30pm, Dan K will be featured in the ten minute Escapin' From Oakland. Earlier this week, while still at the Interbike Convention in Las Vegas, I caught up with the longtime Oakland renaissance man, whose illustrious career has included being a rap recording artist, a BMX bike champ, and almost a reality TV star, among many other things (a few years back he was featured in an East Bay Express cover story), to ask him about the festival, the film, and himself. Never one stuck for words, Dan K responded in detail via his iPhone.
Amoeblog: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in life?
Dan K: I think my greatest accomplishment is stickin' around doin' what I love and not gettin' a crappy job sellin' insurance, as me mum would prefer. In this throw away culture it's great to stick around and share some good vibes with the youth. It's amazing to me I'm still in shape to race at a high level with a kid 15 years my junior. I still got wheels!!
Amoeblog: What went into making this film for you?
Dan K: I'm project obsessed, Billy Jam. Once I get going I just can't stop till I'm finished. I gave this latest offering everything I've got. I always say my movies cost weed, beer and gas money-- this one was about
20 pounds worth of Humboldt's finest. I don't like dollar amounts but somehow folks only relate to how good something is by how much it cost. This is disapointing to me. The only way this movie happened was that folks donated a ton of time and effort. They believed I would complete this project and they would be proud of the result. That motivates me a bunch because failing to complete this vision would let
down my friends who placed a ton of faith in me. Everything I do is to show folks that if you aim high and are positive, the end result is positive. I alway attempt to stay positive. Getting this movie done was the hardest thing. Friends died, editors got hooked on oxy's, computers fritzed and tapes were lost. I only
pointed fingers at myself and never lost my temper. You can't rush volunteer work and although the finished product is years late, it's a good product and the idea is complete.
Escapin' From Oakland (The Life and Times of Dan K. Harvest)
Amoeblog: What is the advantage of a short versus a feature length film?
Dan K: I like action, Billy Jam. It's hard to make a 90 minute action movie, although I would jump at the chance. I love making videos, however I can only crank out so much before I get exhausted and need to take a bike ride to clear my thoughts. The formula I came up with was purely accidental. I made a short video. It was deemed good. I made another two and released the tri-fecta; it was deemed very good. You can keep your audience's attention with a short piece. As soon as folks start talking in the middle of your shit, you know your flick could be better.
Amoeblog: Can you tell me a bit about your film/video history?
Dan K: Well, my pops taught photography at dvc so I learned a bit about settin' up a shot. My pal Kirby was a good dude. He had some skills on a bike and his moms bought a beta-cam. We recorded bike jumps and stunts in 86. In 89 I did an independent study at my hippie high school. I sold the profs on a movie comparing snowboarding to skateboarding. Really it just turned into a mashup of stunts we pulled on skis, motobikes and even my first car stunt. It debuted at the big parent/teacher/kids get down. The parents were bored and confused. My peers dug it and it was on! In 92 a wealthy and eccentric cat filmed us downhilling our BMX's and put together a flick he called Bodily Harm. There was some great riding but the crash scenes stole the show. In 98 I finally got my own shit off the ground with a docu-rap about the sideshow. We just filmed my birthday party getting out of hand and made quite a memorable flick. I used the same formula a year later and Olympic BMX coach primo romero edited that one into an underground classic. Redneck Battle Truck was a story about two city dudes goin' to the country and gettin' stuck in the mud. A tow out ensues and a party happens after. Unfortunately, the storyline collapses and it's just mayhem on tape. Since then I've been in dozens of vids and shows but never got my own stuff finished till now. I'm very proud to have finished this last piece.
Amoeblog: For those who don't know, what is the Berkeley Video & Film Festival (BVFF) all about and what makes it unique from other festivals?
Dan K: I asked Mel Vapour, the director and co-creator of the festival on this one, and he said, "The BVFF is a cinematic marathon of some of the best independant cinema producers on the planet. We have prices that are geared so folks can come and examine these works firsthand without needing pulmonary resucitation. We showcase independant producers into mainstream first run theatres so they can run against the big boys of Hollywood."
Amoeblog: What do you think of all the never-ending barrage of new (cheaper and better) digital equipment coming out and its effect on music and film making?
Dan K: Creativity should be affordable. Cheaper gear will help release the stranglehold and monopoly the bigwigs hold over the struggling first timers. Common folk should have access to good equipment. Creating art frees the spirit and heals the soul-- money shouldn't interfere with creativity.
Amoeblog: Can you give a brief overview of your music history as an artist?
Dan K: Back in 85 we would huddle around a keyboard at Miles McNutt's house, kickin' freestyle-- Miles IS nuts now. We had a breaking crew of BMX'ers that would dance on Telegraph for lunch money. I loved the music. I bought tapes by Whodini and Grandmaster Flash. My boys started gettin' their groups off the ground, and I was right there. Action Packed Gangsters (APG), Timex Social Club, Digital Underground, Metallica and Exodus and Laaz Rockit on the rock side. In the mid 90s I was gettin' hella parkin' tickets at Merritt College so I rolled up on the ticket giver, who was a cool lookin' brotha. I pulled out a huge q/p I had and said, "Can we do somethin' here?" His eyes lit up and we became friends. His cousin was workin' for a bunch of labels and thier Lake Merritt apartment was crammed to the rafters with tapes and vinyl and some CDs. He was breaking new music and the best dudes were called the Outkast. They were on a $25 dollar a day stipend and we treated em like kings. They blew up and we went to LA with Sway to be in a video. The day of the shoot the gates were locked and we got turned away. I was heartbroken. We flew back to Oakland and went straight to the Raiders game. I was blown away to see the whole town cheering for the Raiders in unison. It was the craziest, wildest scene and I decided right then to make music for the people of Oakland and I didn't give a rat's ass about anyone else. My song "#1 Raiders Fan" was wildly popular and one of my best, hands down.
Amoeblog: What is that reality show you said was on the table, and for those who don't know, what was that past TV show or pilot with Carmen Electra or something like that?
Dan K: Ahhhh, the Carmen Electra Show... I remember the day it came out, my friends and I just sat there and watched the segment over and over-- it was like we had arrived! My girl Nisa had gotten ahold of my videotape and sent a crew up to Norcal to film-- we filmed and filmed and filmed-- when the dust had settled we made their best segment of the year. It ran after Snoop and before Nellly-- some insignificant whiteboy had snuck in and worked his ass off to be the poster boy for the whole series! It played over and over and we thought it was about to be really on! They romanced me Hollywood style, had me sign a bunch of exclusivity agreements and never delivered. They offered me a spot in a reality flick about a bunch of dicks in a house all fighting for the affections of some high maintenance bimbo-- weak! I stayed positive, however, and the film crew from the Carmen Electra Show returned to film a double shift and help me create my latest work! For free! Something they would charge 20 Gs for normally-- they just liked my vibe.
Amoeblog: How has the recession affected you, if at all, and do you see it as the end or the beginning of a promising new era?
Dan K: I refuse to acknowledge the recession. It just feels like a mental beatdown. If everybody tells you how bad it is then you spiral down into some pit of hopelessness. I think it's bringing more folks into my neighborhood, makin' more people ride bikes, and unburying more hidden muscle cars! I think America has a big fat problem. Obesity is dragging down our health care system. Eat right! Farm your own food! Excercise!! Make some art and share some positvie energy with a young person. Be inspirational and you yourself will be Inspired!
Dan K Harvest's film Escapin' From Oakland screens at 6:30pm. I have included it on YouTube above, but it is much better to see it on the big screen. Today's BVFF screenings (Saturday 9/26) start at noon. Tickets are $13 General Admission, $10 Students & elders. All tickets are valid for the entire day and evening.
For BVFF Tickets and Showings:
Landmark Shattuck Cinema's Box Office
2230 Shattuck Avenue
Full details here