The Music ofAmerican Meth
Local artists lend their talents to documentary film project
By Jim Phillips
Farmington native Justin Hunt is the brains and guile behind American Meth, a documentary film he wrote, produced and directed. With a gift for storytelling (surely the result of years of hard-knocks experience in television journalism), Hunt attempts with American Meth to shed some light on an inexplicable addiction to a dangerous and faithless drug, methamphetamine. An edgy subject, to say the least.
A few things set American Meth apart from other films shot in New Mexico. For one, Val Kilmer narrates the film. Hunt says he loves it when people ask him how Kilmer became involved. His response is so very New Mexico. “I called him,” Hunt says plainly. “I asked him. He said yes. It was that simple.”
Even more impressive than Kilmer's role is the film's score. The American Meth soundtrack contributors are New Mexican artists—a type of local collaboration that's so desperately important, especially in a locale as strange and remote as New Mexico.
Hunt says he initially wanted to adapt mainstream music into American Meth, but he soon came to realize what he was up against. Namely, the music industry. So he changed gears. Hunt explains, “I contacted a friend at the New Mexico Music Commission, Nancy Laflin, who turned me on to some great New Mexico musicians. Jasper Brown, Hundred Year Flood, Nels Andrews, Jenny Marlowe, Michael Tomlinson and others. Just awesome musicians.”
Now, with the film finished and promotion underway, Hunt is also laying plans for a CD release of the soundtrack. “The best part,” Hunt says excitedly, “is some of the money will go to the musicians, who have, by the way, graciously donated their music because they believe in the project. So this provides me an opportunity to give back to them. The rest of the money from the soundtrack goes directly into the American Meth Education Foundation, a nonprofit I founded in Farmington.”
Hollywood has set up camp here, for all practical purposes, but is this collaboration between the film industry and the local music community just a fluke? Can it happen again? Justin Hunt sure thinks so. For the musicians out there looking to insinuate themselves into films, Hunt says, “I would suggest two things: One, get out there and look for New Mexicans who are making movies and share with them what you have. I guarantee as badly as musicians want to be found, filmmakers are trying to find them. Second, plug into the resources provided to you. Like the New Mexico film sites. It's not easy, but it can be done if you believe, your heart's in the right place and you know how to be human to other people.”
In every way I need to believe that this is the start of a trend—that the film industry and the independent music industry in New Mexico will learn to combine forces and take on the world. We’re all alone out here in the desert, folks. And that’s a rough place to make it on your own. It’s time we started traveling in packs.
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-