March 27, 2015 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Old rock music—Aerosmith and early Metallica specifically—brought filmmaker Nick Cavalier and Cleveland artist Derek Hess together. It was how Cavalier got the gifted, but very private, artist to open up.
Hess, says Cavalier, is a very interesting and complex guy, but a difficult interview. “He doesn’t really open up too easy,” Cavalier explains. “So getting to know him as a friend first was super important.”
Cavalier, a Solon, Ohio, native and Hess fan since the age of 14, was surprised that no one else had approached the artist about a film.
He emailed Hess through his website, via Marty Geramita, Hess’s manager.
“I really had no expectation that they would even get back to me,” says Cavalier.
Cavalier wanted to tell the story of this brilliant, but troubled, artist. Hess—who started out drawing flyers for concerts at the Euclid Tavern and now has his art displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Louvre—struggled with mental health issues and addiction.
“I did not want to present those things in a bad light,” says Cavalier. “At the same time, we absolutely need to expose that, because that, in my opinion, is where his strength lies as an artist.”
Cavalier knows what it’s like being the troubled kid. He could draw, too. And it was art that “straightened” him out, he says.
“Being bipolar myself, I can speak for Derek and say we feel everything more intensely than normal people,” says Cavalier. “... We have both been through similar life challenges that shaped us.”
That common ground was what earned Hess’s respect. “He knew I was coming from a genuine place, not an exploitive one,” says Cavalier.
The filmmaker, who is now based out of Los Angeles, will be back in Cleveland on his birthday, no less, for the world premiere of his first feature film, “Forced Perspective.”
“Cleveland means a lot to me,” he says. “This is an exciting time in my life, and I feel now more than ever before, Cleveland ‘has my back.’”
— Anne M. DiTeodoro
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