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TC Doc Series: Negin Farsad on Nerdcore Rising

Director Negin Farsad gives us the skinny on her documentary Nerdcore Rising, which will be playing March 22 at the TC Doc Series.


Sure, it's hip to be square these days, but MC Frontalot and his rap group take it to a whole new level with sweet beats about all things nerdly. Video games, blogs that suck, robots, a fondness for goth chicks, and so much more are just fodder for this MC and his quick rhymes. Wear your pocket protector for the March 22 Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series screening of Negin Farsad's documentary about Frontalot and the nerdcore hip hop genre, Nerdcore Rising.


Farsad gave us the scoop on the fans of nerdcore, hustling to raise money the project, and why Nerdcore Rising is for non-nerds too. Please describe the story you tell in your film. What inspired you to tell that story?
Negin Farsad:
The film basically follows the first national tour of MC Frontalot and his band. They went on the road hoping to win over fans, determining whether this thing, "nerdcore hip hop," is a real genre, and whether it's got a legitimate fanbase. I personally wanted to see if they could survive on the road without constant Internet access—get four nerds in a van and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.


Throughout the film I ask experts of every stripe, from Weird Al Yankovic to Prince Paul from De La Soul, whether pursuing the nerdcore genre is considered a fool's errand. Figuring that out was one of the inspirations behind the film because I didn't necessarily believe that "nerdcore" was a real thing, or that there was an audience out there. And yet here are these guys, willing to stake their time, effort, and money on going on tour and really committing to it. But it was the fans that sealed the deal—there weren't that many of them on the first tour—hell, in some towns there probably still aren't that many. But however many there are, you can bet they are truly hilarious, charming, quirky, socially awkward, unnaturally smart, and everything in between. They made it possible for me to make a comedy out of this documentary genre, and I'm really grateful they did.
Can you tell us a little about MC Frontalot and the band?
Frontalot is a talented rapper, Gaby is a savvy composer, Brandon is a sharply edgy musician, and Sturgis has an unparalleled ear for beats. The combination yields great, catchy tunes. As personalities, they can be very different—Brandon is definitely the outgoing, charismatic one; Gaby is the flighty genius; Sturgis is the strict taskmaster, and Frontalot is the nerdly glue. On the road they were prone to fighting, laughing, singing, and randomly impersonating Governor Schwarzenegger. In short, the filming was a fun month-long ride and I couldn't have asked for four better subjects. (Sifting through 300 hours of footage in two years of lonely editing, that could have been better, but that's documentaries for you!)
Making documentaries is not an easy road. What was the biggest challenge in getting your film made? How did you overcome it?
Money was a big challenge. I was in constant hustler mode because, as they say, it's hard out there for a pimp. I had to raise money throughout the entire process and even AFTER the film was done. I incurred debt, spent my own cash, and in sleep all I could do was dream about magical investors. The fundraising aspect was all-consuming. I overcame it by simply begging—shameless, unrelenting begging. Of course, my begging came in the form of a detailed and well-articulated prospectus, but it was begging all the same.


The other major hurdle was getting interviews. Lots of people just didn't want to be associated with a nerd movie. But again, begging was the solution, persistent begging. So to any filmmaker out there, I say, swallow your pride, and grovel! You might lose your soul by the end of the process, but at least you'll have a movie!
What's up next for you as a director?
My dirty little secret is that I was always more of a TV person than a film person. The film sorta happened accidentally. And right after I was done with it, I went back to my TV ways, writing, directing and performing for a Comedy Central series, followed by an MTV series, and then a PBS animated series. Nowadays, I'm jamming up the airwaves with my face as the Interactive and Tech correspondent for IFC's coverage of South by Southwest. Nights and weekends you can mostly find me doing standup—standup was my day job before cameras were ever in my life. As for filmmaking, the next movie is on its way and this time it's a narrative! And it might have a little something to do with love! And comedy!
What makes Nerdcore Rising a must-see?
NF: At this point I've tested the film in front of 12.5 billion people and the mean response is definitely laughter. Which is what this gal wanted! So I can safely say that Nerdcore Rising is a must-see because it's funny. Also, it's a movie about nerds but I wouldn't say it's for nerds. It doesn't get wrapped up in techy jargon, so for those of you who are curious about the nerd world, this movie will do a very good job at giving you an entertaining primer without getting mired in the super geeky stuff. After all, I still don't play video games.


March 22
7:30 pm

Director Negin Farsad and MC Frontalot will be in attendance.
The Tribeca Cinemas bar will be open before and after the screening—stop in for a drink and mingle with other movie lovers.


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