Djake Carroll on the Denver Zine Library, His Documentary and the DIY Ethic

The do-it-yourself ethic is one of the great legacies of the punk movement. For over forty years, people have been creating their own zines -- self-published magazines, a subject Djake Carroll explores in his short documentary, Zinester: The Art of Individualism in the Era of Mass Media, which will have its Denver premiere this weekend at the Denver Zine Library's grand reopening. In advance of that event, we spoke with Carroll about his movie and the zine world. See also: Five Amazing Zines From the Denver Zine Library

Westword: Talk about the documentary.

Djake Carroll: The doc that I've been working on is a six-minute short film chronicling what a zine is and who the people are who make them.

What is a zine?

A zine is an independently published publication. They are like do-it-yourself magazines. They kind of grew up in the '80s with the punk movement. It was pre-Internet. There was no other place where people who felt like they had no real means of expressing themselves could express themselves. Zines grew up as a loophole, as a place where people could express themselves where they otherwise couldn't.

What is the role of zines in our information-saturated age?

I see them as being just as important now as they were before the Internet, because today, I feel like everything is so disembodied and so floating and so unreal, right? You can go to any blog, and it can be saying anything, and it doesn't leave an impact. But when you get something like a zine in your hand and you're flipping through it, it feels real. It feels meaningful. Not to mention, anyone can make a blog in ten minutes. Just go to blogger.com or whatever; I fill out a form and then I have my blog. Then all I have to do is type an essay.

For a zine, there are so many steps you have to go through, from getting the paper, to folding it in half, to coloring it, to getting it printed at Kinkos, to gluing on the artwork. It requires so much more effort. You have to slow down and think about what you're doing. I think there is a lot of heart and meaningfulness in zines nowadays.

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Talk about the process of shooting your movie.

It was a trip. I was all by my lonesome. I had to do the lighting, editing, sound, directing, interviewing and camerawork myself. The people I worked with were so great that it was really pretty easy.

Talk about who you worked with?

I worked with three people involved with the Denver Zine Library, a phenomenal organization. They were Kelly Shortandqueer, Melissa Black and Dylan Scholinski. Kelly is a co-founder of the DZL back in the day and is a great, energetic dude always willing to help and get the job done. Mel, as she likes to be called, is a lead volunteer at the zine library. She moved here somewhat recently and fell in love with zines. Dylan is founder of Sent(a)Mental Studios, with which the zine library shares a space. He's also a zine-maker himself.

Read on for more from Djake Carroll.

Talk about the process of working with each of those people.

I took an internship at the zine library. I helped them move into their new space, The Temple. I helped them move boxes for about a week and just got to know everybody. Honestly, they all made it so easy. People who are involved with zines tend to be so open to talking about zines, because it's this thing that we all love.

As a documentarian, you normally have to fight to get to know your people, to get to know your subjects and to get to know who you're dealing with. That was so easy here. Everyone was open and ready to help.

Talk about the screenings you've had and where it's showing next.

Well, we had a screening at my college. At Colorado College there was a reception for it. It was a packed theater. It was a lot of fun. The aspiration for this piece is PBS. They might be picking up a few of my fellow classmates' work and mine. But we only hope that happens. There's going to be a screening of it at the Denver Zine Library itself, at their reopening, which I'm pretty excited about.

What advice do you have for aspiring documentary filmmakers?

It sucks. Oh my God. It's so hard. For that six-minute film, I probably filmed like ten-to-twenty hours of footage. I probably spent sixty-to-seventy hours editing. But I made a documentary at the end.

It's so hard and so frustrating. I was at the end of my rope at a couple points there. But at the end of it, you have something that tells a story that needs to be told. The fact that I -- who am not a professional -- can access these things to make films for not an exorbitant amount of money is insane and phenomenal.

If you have a story to tell, it's almost your duty to tell it, because you can do it. It will suck. It will be hard. It will be miserable. But you can go out there and tell the story that you want to tell. I think that's one of the most amazing things about the time that we're living in.

Join Djake Carroll for the Denver premiere of his documentary at the Denver Zine Library's free grand reopening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, August 16, at The Temple, 2400 Curtis Street.

Find me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris

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