On June 21, 2011 directors Scott Ogden and Malcolm Hearn will release MAKE on DVD, the documentary that inspired Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz. The film is an intimate journey into the lives of four American self-taught artists: Prophet Royal Robertson, Hawkins Bolden, Judith Scott and Ike Morgan. Isolated and struggling with the disabilities life has dealt them, these artists all find their most powerful voice through art. Using the simplest of materials, they each produce work that is both sublime and at the same time completely their own. Primarily driven by scenes of the artists creating, their interwoven stories are told by the artists themselves as well as through family and friends whose lives they have touched. Vintage footage, quiet moments to reflect upon their work, and commentary by scholars and art historians help to round out the film.
The making of this film was a true labor of love. Scott Ogden started filming for this project almost twelve years ago with no clear idea of what he was undertaking. He first spent a week visiting and shooting video of Ike Morgan at the Austin State Hospital and then shortly after met both Judith Scott and Hawkins Bolden. It was quickly evident that something special was happening. These artists’ stories were not only gut-wrenching, but at the same time redemptive. Convinced of the power and emotion behind this footage, Malcolm Hearn agreed to edit and co-direct the film with Scott. Traveling the country together, they collected more interviews, repeatedly visited Ike Morgan, and even made one last pilgrimage to Royal Robertson’s house ten years after his passing. Later, while editing the film from a leaky loft in Brooklyn, they reached out to several of their musician friends. With contributions from Sufjan Stevens, Marc Bianchi, Jim Guthrie, Oneida, Tommy Guerrero, Au Revoir Simone, and several others, they suddenly had a stunning soundtrack.
The film was featured in the New York Times, and shortly after emails started pouring in to the filmmakers. Sufjan Stevens declared the film “a beautiful and insightful look at the sublime task of making art when nothing will else do.” He then went on to create the album, The Age of Adz, which not only featured imagery by Royal Robertson but also used Royal’s life story as a springboard for the album’s narrative. And through some friends of the film, David Byrne eventually received a Sharpee-enscribed copy of MAKE. His reaction:
“Here is a real testament to the power of MAKING art (or music, for some of us) - how that process not only heals and energizes, but the results move me as a viewer as well. They're touching something deep, as any artist should. There's a little bit of all of us in this work. This is as high and as fun and beautifully primal crazy enlightening as it gets.”