By the looks of ’em — kicking back and cracking jokes in a cozy room of their production studio in Ferndale — you’d never guess that just over a week ago Anthony Garth and John Quigley were inciting barricade-breaking riots in England. You definitely wouldn’t peg that the two laid-back guys actually prompted the biggest musical sensation in the world — Eminem — to encourage a crowd of thousands to frenetically yell “De-troit! De-troit! De-troit!” outside a stadium in London. But it’s precisely this casually cool yet playful attitude that has turned a creative partnership into an unbelievable business success.
Welcome to Chrome Bumper. These two cards are actually the hardworking duo running Detroit’s best-kept secret: an underground film, audio and video production and postproduction house. They’ve got big show-biz names like Marshall Mathers, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Redman, George Clinton and Kid Rock walking in and out of their studio all the time.
Quigley formed Chrome Bumper studios 12 years ago. At age 19, he had a DJ’s love for music, a keen eye for pop-culture aesthetics and a knack for knowing the right people. He found his calling in film production when he helped make a music video for his friend’s band, Sponge. Two and a half years ago, he partnered up with music recording veteran Joel Martin and moved next door to Martin’s recording studio, 54 Sound. Martin, who has been producing big-name albums for 15 years, stepped in to father Chrome Bumper, and marry the audio and visual components of the recording industry. Since Garth joined the team as director, they’ve worked with consumer-savvy corporate clients such as Volkswagen, Borders and Universal Music Group. But they do this, of course, when they’re not making music videos … or bunking on a double-decker tour bus with superstars.
The duo has just arrived home from following Eminem on an international tour with his hip-hop crew, D-12. Garth and Quig traveled eight countries with the group, nabbing footage for their production of a behind-the-scenes film soon to be released nationwide in conjunction with D-12’s upcoming record, Devil’s Night. While Garth was trying to grab moments with celebrities and MTV interview spots, Quig was filming like a fly on the wall inside dressing rooms, onstage during shows, at afterparties and in hotel rooms.
Now they’re back in their Ferndale studio, exhausted and eager to come up with a finished product. All they have to do is edit 39 hours of great film footage down to one sweeping hour of raw documentary. But passing the tapes over to some other editing house is not an option. In order to ensure that the initial creative vision is never buried in the production process, Garth and Quig run their show from beginning to end.
Garth explains why it’s common sense to work so hard: “We handle it on our own, mostly because we don’t want to deal with stiff camera guys standing there questioning why we want to duct tape a camera to the back of a car.”
The pair has been known to get messy on purpose when making a music video. The two of them subscribe to the Dogma 95 school of filmmaking, always pushing for a hard-edged realism. When they can, they choose to work outdoors and make the most of what’s known as the “golden hour,” a break of natural light that offers perfect texture and color for film. And they always improvise within the moment. During the filming of Workhorse Movement’s music video, the stage was unknowingly set in the middle of an intense anti-war protest downtown. Sometimes mistakes make remarkable footage.
So what’s next on the storyboard? As soon as Detroit’s darlings, the White Stripes, arrive home from touring, Chrome Bumper will work to generate ideas for the band’s premiere music video. The Chrome Bumper boys are also currently developing a commercial spot for Universal Studios. Some video work they did for the Dixie Chicks recently premiered on NBC. And they’re constantly bidding for work on more music videos. They’ll also soon begin scouting film festivals, so they can get their groove on how to make short films. All of this (which has been known to keep them busy until 6:30 a.m.) while holding down part-time employment: Garth is a bartender at Magic Stick and Quig continues to DJ at least once a week.
But they wouldn’t be doing any of it if they didn’t live for the gig. Sometimes executive owner Martin digs into the boys because they lowball the price for their creativity. It seems they can’t get used to the idea that their edgy ideas and perfectionist work ethic are worth a heavy penny. When will they outgrow the modesty and enjoy the inevitability of their international status? Garth jokes, “I’m only doing this so that one day, hopefully, I can become a full-time bartender.”
Quig agrees with a more straightforward notion about making videos: “There’s something wrong with doing this nonstop … you gotta love it or else you’re fucked up in the head.”Rebecca Mazzei is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org