By Blake Goble
Daily Arts Writer
The brothers Brancaleone don’t look like filmmakers at first glance.
Meeting on a chilly February morning at Starbucks, the two come across like any other guys. Nicholas goes nuts over the extreme heat of his tea, while Anthony makes sure he gets his order. They sit down and casually gripe over bitter weather and the fear of impending Ann Arbor parking tickets. Dropping names like Derrick May and Jack White, they’re like the two surprisingly cool music dudes straight out of a Nick Hornby novel.
The brothers toast, softly, to acknowledge the beginning of another interview. They’re here for their movie, “A Detroit Thing,” which will be showing tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Michigan Theater. Currently running the festival circuit, the brothers plan to show their film – the Ann Arbor premiere – and follow with a question-and-answer session.
The film is a documentary chronicling Detroit’s music scene and the people trying to succeed in it, featuring candid interviews and performance footage from the likes of Detroit mainstays like the Howling Diablos, Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, The Twistin’ Tarantulas and even Kid Rock. But it was no short road getting this film to where it is today.
“We shot over a period of five years and we shot about 25 bands,” Anthony said. “We wanted to make sure that we expose ourselves as well as possible to what these musicians go through.”
The brothers have an understanding for that kind of work ethic and diversity of resources. Having done music videos, band management, CD production and other miscellaneous projects, the Brancaleones have always kept it musical – all within Detroit. And though only the brothers themselves are currently showing “A Detroit Thing,” the film is being reviewed by Paramount Vantage for mass distribution.
Taking the American dream of making it big, crossed with the hard work ethic that defines unknown bands, “A Detroit Thing” is pure musical drama. Though the story didn’t come full circle right away, the brothers knew that sooner or later, one of the bands they were filming was going to make it big.
“Shooting all these bands . statistically, one of them was gonna make it,” Anthony said. “We actually shot what happened, and were there to grab someone going from ordinary to extraordinary, right before our eyes.”
The aforementioned transformation resulted from years of trailing Kid Rock. The brothers attended the concerts and witnessed the backstage antics and boast some of the actual paperwork that made him the name he’s become today.
“We had the idea of what the story was gonna be, because one of the bands was gonna be famous,” Anthony said. “It was going to be more of a fairytale. Then Kid Rock was signed, he exploded and there was this natural ending.”
For those who don’t like Kid Rock, “A Detroit Thing” may change your mind on the man.
“After seeing this film, you’re going to respect him,” Anthony said. “You’ll see that he’s a real authentic.”
The brothers were also quick to admit their love for Detroit. Shot by the brothers themselves, the film is meant to act as a beautifully contradictory postcard, capturing both the majesty and tragedy of the city.
“We have a line in the movie that looks at Detroit like an aging grandparent. We respect it, we love it, we hope that great days can come again,” Anthony said. “We think it has a lot of character, very visual, and when you’re watching the film there’s no question about that.”
The brothers liken the film to being a sort of mash-up of “Blade Runner,” “Taxi Driver,” “Rocky” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The movie sounds mixed enough, and maybe that’s a good thing. Whether or not the brothers or the bands make it is still up in the air, but Ann Arbor has the good fortune of being able to see the director’s cut and firsthand look at “Detroit.”
“I mean, what other cities in America do you think are similar to Detroit?” Anthony asked. “Electronic, Motown, Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, Bowie, Kiss, Detroit Rock City, MC5.”