Title: Broke*

Director: Will Gray

This is a new era, in not just music but in music distribution and production. These days, if someone has a good computer, good friends, a good work ethic, talent and a Facebook and Twitter account, then they could do practically everything a major label can do. In other words, anyone can produce, create and distribute their own music. So why is there a need for major labels? In the new film from recording artist and filmmaker, Will Gray, “Broke*” explores what one man can do on his own without a record label. The problem is, the effectiveness of D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) filmmaking when it comes to the documentary genre.

Will Gray is talented, charismatic and a hard worker. This is apparent on the screen, we see Will Gray make great music and at the same time, explore notions of the need of the music industry as we know it. We get to meet other recording artists and musicians like Emily Hope Price, Nathan Johnson and Bobby Bare Jr.  that achieve their music without any outside help from a major label. They do this through hard work and talent. I don’t question the quality of the music, the talent or the hard work behind it, but I question how close the filmmaker is to the subject matter. Well, he is the subject matter. It’s problematic to have the filmmaker and the subject as the same person. The end result is an unfocused film, with too many strings and ideas, that never come together as cleanly as they should. It would be difficult for a seasoned documentarian to accomplish what Will Gray is doing with this film, and in the end, it feels too much like an inside joke among friends. We see people laughing at a joke and we don’t understand why it’s funny.

Will Gray introduces numerous recording artists to share their experiences with dealing with a major label versus their experiences dealing with their music independently. And that’s really about the end of these experiences, examples of how this works but never any concrete experiences. This is intercut with Will Gray going on tour with his band, making music and struggling financially to keep his head above water. Smartly, this resonates at points, but overall the execution is clumsy and a bit “too inside baseball” to connect the two ideas because it just seems far too unpolished to be effective. When points are made, they don’t hit as hard as they should, leaving the heavy lifting to the audience without any direction.

This film is part documentary and part concert footage, “Broke*” never feels like anything is coming together and at times, feels tedious to get through. The humor in a majority of the film falls flat, while talking head interviews, keep repeating the same point over and over again. It’s better to do things on your own because you have freedom to create. What are the benefits of working with a major label? How are these two experiences different? Does signing to a major label make you less of an artist? These questions remain open ended and Will Gray’s experiences never sheds light on them.

Maybe Will Gray is too close to the material and subject matter. He is the subject and the filmmaker after all. It feels as if an outside filmmaker should shape and capture Will Gray’s main problem of whether or not to sign to a major label. At the end of the day, it feels like Will Gray is just showing off as such a talented artist. I am a fan of the music but it seems like Gray places himself before the documentary and film itself, which is a problem in the search of truth on the screen.

Technical: C+

Story: B-

Overall: C-

by @Rudie_Obias

will gray

By Rudie Obias

Lives in Brooklyn, New York. He's a freelance writer interested in cinema, pop culture, sex lifestyle, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at Mental Floss, Movie Pilot, UPROXX, ScreenRant, Battleship Pretension and of course Shockya.com.

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