Among documentary films, this is the one we can’t wait to get our hands on.
Barron Storey, an artist featured in one of the most anticipated documentary films, is addicted to his art.
Storey — illustrator, graphic novelist and teacher — is at the top of his game.
And yet, he says in a soon-to-be-released documentary, Temple of Art, he sometimes struggles. He must proceed, though, because as an artist, he simply cannot stop.
“I am absolutely dedicated and addicted to the artistic process,” he says in the film. “I think it serves all of humanity, don’t you? Proceeding, that’s the thing to do, no matter what.”
Quartet for the End of Time, Barron Storey
Storey’s verbalization of his emotions, which sway easily between failure, addiction and elation, are familiar for many, if not all, artists. The fear, the need and the periods of ecstatic glee.
So why do artists do what they do?
“We asked what inspires them. When they need to go to the well and make art, how do they deal with failure? What makes them wake up in the morning?” said Allan Amato, a Los Angeles–based photographer who cocreated Temple of Art. “The theme that emerged is that art is this bigger thing than putting a paintbrush to canvas. It’s the overarching theme.”
“Art is this bigger thing than putting a paintbrush to canvas.”
– Allan Amato
The story behind one of the most inspiring documentary films all about art naturally started with a photograph.
Amato took a picture of David Mack. Mack, comic book artist and writer, doodled on one of those photos.
The year was 2011, and the result of that doodle was instantaneous love by Mack and by Amato.
Illustration by David Mack
Amato decided that he would begin shooting all of his and Mack’s artist friends and create artsy portraits for a book: Temple of Art. The book would weave together the portraits, complete with little narratives about art and the creative process.
Kent Williams (painter and graphic novel artist), Jason Shawn Alexander (painter and illustrator), Stephanie Inagaki, Soey Milk (multidisciplinary artist) and Storey were a handful of the artists who eagerly posed for the project.
Illustration by Kent Williams
In the book’s picture of Storey, he is clutching his sketchbook, eyes closed, appearing to be in a childlike state of complete bliss.
“But this story got more interesting,” Amato says. “Originally, I was much less ambitious. I wanted it to be a series of interviews about why they make art and why they love art.”
The project graduated from book to documentary in 2013 in San Francisco during another photo shoot of Storey. During the shoot, Amato was mesmerized by Storey, who was speaking about art techniques, singing songs and teaching Amato about art in general.
Olga Nunes, singer, songwriter and pianist and cocreator of the documentary, was on the scene, and she began taking a video of the session. “The message in the documentary is literally the idea that creation is a community experience, and we all need to be in this together,” says Jon Schnepp, director, voice actor, writer, cartoonist and executive producer of Temple of Art. “It’s the idea of making things for others, it’s a sharing and it’s a responsibility.”
“Creation is a community experience, and we all need to be in this together.”
– Jon Schnepp
But while art may be beautiful, communal and pure, it’s impossible to get a movie started and created without money. On August 20, 2014, Amato and Nunes turned to Kickstarter and raised $80,000 for Temple of Art. It was go-time.
They needed to round up artists to interview for their film.
“A lot were individuals that Allen photographed or that Allen was photographing for little commercial projects,” Nunes says. “There weren’t any cold calls made — Ben Folds contacted us, and he said, ‘I totally want to be in.’”
Finding the artists was simple.
Temple of Art, Good Bully Collective
Next, the pair traveled across the United States and around the world — Nunes doing the sound, Amato holding the camera, both doing the interviews — stopping in Los Angeles, New York, Massachusetts, England and Scotland. They interviewed artists who were just out of school, mere months into their careers, and they interviewed artists including Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Folds and Chuck Palahniuk, who were thriving as artists.
They interviewed about 50 artists for the film, which was their favorite part of the process.
“It felt like every time we sat down with an artist, we got our own private pep talk,” Nunes says. “We were so inspired to make art, and it reaffirmed our own personal belief about the arts.”
Temple of Art, Good Bully Collective
Amato says he was so inspired that he began writing a mythological novel in the midst of making the documentary, and he’s currently 75,000 words into it. “I just took what those guys were saying, and I said, ‘Why not?’ Amato says. “In the midst of doing the film, I felt like I allowed myself to explore an avenue that I’d never allowed myself to explore.”
Before directing and creating the documentary, Amato and Nunes had never put together a film, not even a short one, but Amato says, “Here we are.”
They’re hoping that it’s as inspiring for others as it was for them to produce.
“By the end of it, hopefully, your immediate response will be that you have to go work,” Nunes says. “In a land where we are all failed human beings, to get up and have a thing that you have to share with the world — I feel like we’ve done our job.”
“Hopefully, your immediate response will be that you have to go work.”
– Olga Nunes
The rough cut of Temple of Art is in the works, and it’s been shared with close artist friends, with a positive response. Day-to-day operations involve a small film crew that is a fraction of the size of a normal film crew, and they operate on a low budget, but the crew is working on B-roll to fill in the gaps of the story and finish the final details.
They expect Temple of Art to be released by early summer, and preorders are available for $9.99 at templeofart.net.