Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Jay Buim – A New Jersey Guy Making Movies

Another creative type coming out of New Jersey. It must be in the water or something. Read More

By / June 15, 2011
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

In every school there’s that kid who dresses weird and obsesses over the bands and movies that no one else has heard of.  People may assume that one day that person will being doing something interesting with their life — but what?  How do you find an outlet that encompasses all of your obsessions and interested, and get paid for it?

Without a doubt, Todd P Goes to Austin director Jay Buim, is one of those kids.  Sitting in café on Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn, Jay explains how his childhood room functioned as a hideaway for his friends growing up.

“I think because I was an only child, I just always loved having friends over and every place I’ve had since I was a kid, I’ve tried to make a place where people would feel comfortable and want to hang out.”

With an entire basement to himself, Jay turned his teenage bedroom into a shrine to his obsessions.

“I loved Halloween, so the place was decorated for Halloween all year round.  And I loved John Waters films and skate mags; so my room was those three things collided.”

It was hanging out in that basement with his friends where Buim discovered his future profession.

“We used to do crazy things, like one day we all dressed up like 70’s basketball players with big afro wigs and short shorts and went to the mall to play basketball. Another time we went trick or treating on a day that wasn’t Halloween and people in my neighborhood gave us bags of potato chips.  But, I’d always film it.  It was a combination of being bored and always wanting to be ridiculous, we’d always have a movie to shoot after school.”

Spending his days watching the same movies over and over again, and his nights going to punk shows, Buim looked forward to the day he could move to the city and make films.

“Growing up it was always, “I can’t wait to move the hell out of here and live in the city,” but now I’ve grown such a love and appreciation for New Jersey, we had such a healthy punk rock scene.  Every weekend there’d be so many amazing shows.”

Upon graduating high school, Buim attended film school at Penn State.  During the school year, he would DJ frat parties in order to save up to live in Manhattan for the summer.  He assisted production on a number of films, but like any kid slaving away at free gigs for experience points, it took the right one to jumpstart his career.

“I worked on The Squid and The Whale while I was still in college.  I drove around this 25-foot cube truck.  I was always first to set, and the last to leave.  It was cool because there were so many kids working on that movie who were doing it for free, so it was like this weird film summer camp, and then on top of it we’re working on this amazing movie.

From working on The Squid and the Whale, Jay landed his first paid film job working on a documentary about outsider artists. Beautful Losers told the story of a number of artists including Harmony Korrine and Shepard Fairey — artists whose work imbued the DIY/underground spirit.

“It was supposed to be six months but it ended up being a two year job.  The movie focused on these people I really admired and it’s all about what they did and how they did it.   So, I kind of had these people’s stories pounded into my head everyday for two years.  We all moved to LA and rented a house.  I was in the back room and Money Mark ‘s Studio was in the next room where he was composing all the music for the movie.  It was beautiful.  I came home from that and said, I’m going to make my own movie now.”

Todd P Goes to Austin follows Brooklyn promoter Todd P and a number of bands on their migration to Austin during South By Southwest.  Not unlike Another State of Mind, the film manages to document the energy and ethos of music scene simply by following a number of like-minded bands on the road.

“At the time, a bunch of my friends were in all these great bands, like The Death Set and Matt and Kim.   I’d stopped going to shows, and when I started seeing those bands, it totally reminded me of going to basement and firehouse shows when I was younger.  There was a lot of excitement and a lot of energy and it felt like something new and fresh was happening.”

By giving some of the bands their own cameras to film their voyage, and accompanying others on the road, Buim constructed a narrative about the tribulations of touring and the excitement of a budding scene, all of which coalesces at a five days music fest in Austin.

“It was five days of free shows at this little rundown bar with a big backyard and it was free, open to whoever.  It was just a totally great way to experience live music.”

Since his last film, Jay’s taken up residence at Nylon Magazine, where he produces video content for the magazine, but starting this summer, he’ll be taking a leave to work with a non-profit arts collective called Creative Time and produce his next feature.  “American Tourister,” Jay says, “will be a journey into the world of unclaimed baggage.”

For Jay, documentary film availed him a way to encompass everything he could ever want to obsess about, be it music, or art or a bunch of kids pretending to trick or treat during the summertime, and telegraph that to the world.  It’s the ultimate gig for a weird kid for Jersey.

“I was lucky to have the most supportive parents in the world.” Jay says.

“When I went through a phase where I liked to paint my nails, my mom would go out and buy me nail polish.  When I was into gas station shirts, she’d asks the guys at the gas stations if they had any shirts they didn’t want.  They just always encouraged me to be who I wanted to be.  So I while I might have been always been a little bit weird, I just never felt that way.”