The Conversation: In Memory of Adam Yauch's Contribution to Cinema

The Conversation: In Memory of Adam Yauch's Contribution to Cinema

May 04, 2012

The tragic death of Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch has raised a lot of awareness of just how much of a movie fan he was and how much of his legacy consists of what he did for indepenendent film. Erik Davis mentioned his founding of Oscilloscope Laboratories earlier in a tribute post and we've also shared a list of that distributor's films currently available streaming from Netflix. There's more, though, including his list of favorite titles in the Criterion Collection (introduced with a jokingly competitive jab at Oscilloscope). 

I am especially grateful for Yauch's interest in documentaries, which make up a good part of Oscilloscope's catalog (see my Doc Channel Blog obit here). And among the docs he was involved with, I think the Beastie Boys concert film he directed under the alias Nathanial Hornblower, Awesome: I F*ckin' Shot That! is his most significant contribution.

Always on top of what's going on and consistently a pioneer of art and culture, he got the idea of crowd-sourcing footage from the concert crowd after seeing videos of shows being uploaded to the Internet by fans. He handed out 50 cameras to attendees of a Madison Square Garden appearance and told them to shoot anything, and then he compiled and curated the material for a smooth, chronological film that I imagine had to have impressed any editor of a multi-angle concert film shoot.

Rather than a gimmick, Awesome is a celebration of and gift to Beastie Boys fans, who were invited to be an interactive part of and authority on the show. While it was consistent with Yauch and the group's dedication to their listeners, the film also became a groundbreaking step in the increasing trend of user-generated and collaborative documentary, a precursor to films like Life in a Day and many more to come.

If you've never seen Awesome, you can watch it now streaming for free on the Documentary Channel website

There is so much more to say about his contribution to and interest in movies, but I'm going to let others speak to these other areas in a roundup of blogs and tweets from people in the film community paying tribute to Yauch and offering condolences to the staff at Oscilloscope. 

What are people saying about Adam Yauch's film legacy? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:

Way before the internet was an easy to way to learn about forgotten media, Yauch and the Beastie Boys (with help from Spike Jonze) pointed the way to films like The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three, and Danger: Diabolik. There was a bigger lesson in there, too: everything was fair game, every experience fed back into others. It’s all connected. - Russ Fischer, Slashfilm

While his contributions to feature films was fairly recent, he leaves behind a legacy of delivering great films to audiences who would have otherwise never seen them. - Ethan Anderton, First Showing

Yauch always maintained an interest in film. He directed the 2006 concert movie "Awesome: I F**kin' Shot That!," which used crowd-sourced footage of concertgoers for one of the most dynamic examples of the genre, and two years later helmed a documentary about one of his other great loves, basketball, with 2008's acclaimed "Gunnin' For That #1 Spot." To release the film, Yauch set up the distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories [...] And over the last four years, Oscilloscope have gone on to be one of the most forward-thinking indie companies around, with an impressive 50 releases, including some of the best films of any kind of the last few years. - Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist

By founding Oscilloscope, Yauch made a home for dozens of movies that never would have found distribution elsewhere-- and not only did he get them out there, he helped them thrive. [...] Yauch wasn't a brash, larger-than-life figure like Harvey Weinstein or so many of the filmmakers he represented, but he didn't need to be-- he was MCA, and the inimitable power of the Beastie Boys made him a titan by default. But he didn't rest on his laurels, either, building Oscilloscope into a distributor with a clear, hugely valuable role in the indie film world, consistently picking up films that were weirder, but often better, than most everything else out there. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend

Yauch built a home for movies that no studio would dare touch, and even boutique distributors would stray away from. They weren't overly marketable, they were just great films. That became the driving force behind Oscilloscope: when they put a movie out, you know you had to watch it. It wasn't a stamp of approval, perfectly nurtured Oscar-bait. Love'em or hate'em, the movies Yauch harbored at Oscilloscope were courageous, dangerous and bold. [...] Even with Yauch's passing, his legacy and impact in the film world will continue on. It's clear, Oscilloscope is too important not to. - Matt Patches,

His exceptional, connecting, generous sensibility is evident in many ways, and in many objects; right now, as I listen to Ill, I'm thinking about the Blu-ray disc release of Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff, with its liner essay by punk rock pioneer Richard Hell—an inspired choice and a completely natural one, but not a choice that someone with less deep background in the arts than Yauch would sign off on. - Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running

Adam Yauch is a major loss to the independent film world. This can't be overstated. There are bigger, deeper footprints, but his was a beauty - David Poland, @DavidPoland

Adam Yauch was a brilliant musician but also an essential figure in modern indie distribution. - Eric Kohn, @erickohn

Just heartbroken about Adam Yauch. Big part of my teens/20s, respect him so much for taking on docs in the way that he did at Oscilloscope. - AJ Schnack, @ajschnack

Adam Yauch was a pioneer--including founding Oscilloscope. - Athens Cine, @AthensCine

Sick over Adam Yauch. When founding a great indie film label (Oscilloscope) is only a small part of your legacy, that's quite a legacy. - Scott Tobias, @scott_tobias

Pretty sure everything from Adam Yauch's indie-film unit, Oscilloscope Laboratories, is on Instant Netflix. Go watch them all now. - Josh Spiegel, @mousterpiece

Meek's Cutoff, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Bellflower, If a Tree Falls, Howl, A Film Unfinished: all distribed by Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope - Shawn Levy, @shawnlevy

Very sad to see Adam Yauch died. Beastie Boy and co-founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories, the distrib. co for If a Tree Falls. - Marshall Curry, @marshallcurry

I've always been surprised by the diversity of Oscilloscope's roster. Apparently, their m.o. was simple: release movies Adam Yauch loved. In a recent press release about Oscilloscope promotions, Yauch said his co-workers "know their shit." In a press release. The best. - C Mason Wells, @cmasonwells

Adam Yauch's most underrated achievement: Making the only film with a semi-colon and obscenity in the title - S.T. VanAirsdale, @stvanairsdale

Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! (2006) - Up there with the best concert docs of all time - Jen Yamato, Movieline

One of his legacies that's least well-known is actually in sports. "Gunnin' For That #1 Spot," a documentary directed by Yauch, debuted in 2008, and it follows the best high-school basketball players in the country as they play in the Elite 24 All-Star game. The documentary is a dynamic piece of work, switching between personal narratives about the players and sensational on-court action. It rules. - Kevin Lincoln, BuzzFeed

Perhaps his biggest passion project, apart from band-related films, was his producer work on the 1998 documentary "Free Tibet." Yauch played a major role in organizing the 1996 Tibetan Freedom Concerts in San Francisco, where the Beastie Boys were featured performers, as well as the documentary film that followed the shows. - Amanda Bell, NextMovie

A highlight of my time at SXSW was telling Adam Yauch that Terence Malick came to a screening of the Beastie Boys concert film he directed. When Yauch came back to SXSW as an upstart distributor, he was so unassuming and casual... he was eager to get Oscilloscope off the ground. My heart goes out to Adam Yauch's friends and family, as well as his family at Oscilloscope Laboratories. Sad day. - Matt Dentler, @MattDentler

Deep sadness and sympathies for our friends at Oscilloscope Laboratories for the loss of the great artist and visionary Adam Yauch. - Janet Pierson, @JanetPierson

Our thoughts go out to Adam Yauch's family and the team at Oscilloscope for their tragic loss - IDA/, @IDANews

In shock about Adam Yauch, who made indelible contributions to music, film, and life. Peace, thoughts, to his friends, family, co-workers. - Eddie Schmidt, @Eddie_Schmidt

Devastated to hear about Adam Yauch. Our thoughts go out to all at Oscilloscope Laboratories and Beasties fans. Big loss for indie film & documentary. - Kartemquin Films, @Kartemquin

We've had so many great STF nights with Oscilloscope Laboratories. Our hearts ache for loss of Adam Yauch. - STF Docs, @STFdocs

Our hearts go out to Mr. Yauch's family and the Oscilloscope team. Besides being a music legend he built one of the coolest indie companies ever - Roadside Attractions, @roadsidetweets

Terrible news about Adam Yauch. Our thoughts with his family, friends, and the good folks of Oscilloscope Laboratories. - Variance Films, @variancefilms

Our thoughts go out to Adam Yauch's family and our friends Oscilloscope Laboratories. The world has lost a truly talented artistic soul. - Tribeca Film Institute @TribecaFilmsIns

Our condolences to Oscilloscope Laboratories and Adam Yauch's family. - On Demand Weekly, @OnDemandWeekly

Oscilloscope does not die with the passing of Adam Yauch. In fact, this summer they are releasing one of my most anticipated films, 'Samsara' from the brain-blitzing visualist Ron Fricke. Fricke is the guy who made 'Baraka' and was the cinematographer on 'Koyaanisqatsi,' the greatest “head-film” ever made. Celebrate Adam Yauch by blasting 'Check Your Head,' but keep your eyes open for films from his young company. It will be his other great legacy. - Jordan Hoffman, Screen Crush

At least the Beastie Boys' music lives on into the 24th century, as seen in the last Star Trek movie. - Chris Ryall, @Chris_Ryall


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.




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