Recently we had the opportunity to chat to Shreena Soomarah of This One Is On Us and Executive Producer of the Nine Inch Nails live documentary ‘Another Version Of The Truth: The Gift‘, about the creative process and the events that led up to its release. The free film, which includes 405GB of raw high-definition footage (shot by the band’s Creative Director Rob Sheridan and his dedicated team) from Nine Inch Nails‘ 2008 ‘Lights In The Sky‘ tour took many months to complete and edit together. To follow-up, TOIOU organised for the last show of the tour (in Las Vegas) to be shot completely by NIN fans and this is currently in production. ‘Another Version Of The Truth‘ brings Nine Inch Nails‘ supporters and those on the inside together like never before.
“This project was born out of community spirit and love for the band”
S] What inspired the concept of This One Is On Us and what does the future hold for the project?
SS] Towards the end of the ‘Lights in the Sky‘ tour in 2008, Trent [Reznor] revealed that there had been plans to make a 3D film with director James Cameron about the tour, but due to a lot of red tape, it couldn’t happen. It seemed like there wasn’t going to be any document of this ground-breaking tour that the band had done. Alex Gamble (essentially the founder of TOIOU) then came up with the idea that the fans could get together to film the last show of the tour, in Las Vegas. It came together quite quickly – fans flew in from all over the world, people even rallied round to fly out a notorious taper in the community that didn’t have a ticket to the show, and the show was filmed with the intention of editing it into a live DVD. Shortly after the tour ended – January 5, 2009, I think – the band released 405GB of raw video footage from three other shows, and that became a part of the project. ‘Gift‘ is made up of the 405GB and Vegas will hopefully be out in a couple of months.
This project was born out of community spirit, a love for the band, and a desire to maintain the artistic integrity of the band, and therefore be anti-commercial. There are several other NIN fan projects that fall under this umbrella and going forward, I hope that TOIOU can be a way to promote and foster other projects with the same ethos – whether they be about Nine Inch Nails or not.
S] How did you first become involved with the NIN fan-project ‘Another Version Of The Truth’ and what has the whole process been like for you looking back?
SS] I’ve been involved with the NIN fan community for a few years, and when I heard of Alex‘s plan, I offered to host a screening, and was invited to the project’s discussion group. People were coming up with great ideas, and a huge amount of talent was coming forward, but there didn’t seem to be an overall structure to the process, so I suggested a project timeline. The role of project manager kind of crept up on me as a result, as I’d keep checking to see if people were still on track in their various roles, and if the timeline I’d drawn up was working – probably through a mix of being proactive and a bit OCD! Looking back, it’s been exciting, frustrating, and annoying at times, but ultimately it’s been a huge learning curve, and something I am really proud to be a part of.
S] You have pulled everything together with an experienced team behind you – it’s been a difficult task, obviously – what has kept you inspired throughout?
SS] It has been difficult, and while the team is fairly experienced, none of us had done anything quite like this before. Various technical and communication issues (we’re working across at least three continents) created many speed bumps along the way, but the thing that kept us continually on track, and gave us the boost to struggle through until the end was the support of the community at large. They’re not the directors of the project for nothing – this is first and foremost for them, before any media outlet, before the band, before ourselves, and their continual encouragement and amazing suggestions and resourcefulness are really what have made this such a success.
S] The standard of the footage is impressive (for us, ‘Hurt’ stands out), obviously you worked tirelessly – can you pick a particular shot (or shots) from ‘AVOTT’ that really encapsulates the mood and quality of the production as a whole for you personally?
SS] It’s strange, I’ve watched these edits non-stop, but it’s always been from a critical perspective than one of enjoyment. Let’s see… well, the start of each ‘Ghosts‘ sequence sticks out particularly for me, firstly because it presents the band in a way that most people don’t recognise Nine Inch Nails – they don’t think of them as classical instrumentalists, but they shine equally as well when you can’t see the band thrashing their way around the stage. Elsewhere, I love the way Trent knocks over his synthesiser as if he’s just squeezed the juice out of it at the end of ‘Vessel‘, the shots of the lighting technician on the screens during ‘Survivalism‘ (he’s a bit of a legend in the community), and how even 20-years-later songs like ‘Terrible Lie‘ can still be so visceral – watch the YouTube video from 4:40. The ending of ‘In This Twilight‘ is breathtaking too – not only do you have that gorgeous backdrop, but the way the band finish the song…if you don’t cry, there’s got to be something wrong with you!
S] What has been the standout moment for you throughout the process?
SS] Probably seeing such a positive reaction from the fans when we released it. Before it came out, I was so worried that people would come after us with pitchforks because we’d done something to ruin the experience, but it seems that most people really like it. Screenings are popping up everywhere, people are making multiple versions of the film themselves, creating mirrors of torrents, contacting their local press…during the making of the film, I was too busy to allow myself to stand back and take stock, so after so many months in an insular, stop-start environment working on the film, it’s good to have that electricity again.
S] Can you describe a typical day in your life when you were at the most crucial point of finalising the production of ‘AVOTT’?
SS] In the run-up to Christmas, I’d get up at about 8am, purely because I couldn’t sleep from the anxiety, run through all the messages that had come through from the US the night before, poke any people that had slowed down in their work, check the Twitter and ETS/nin.com forums, then generally go about my daily business but keep checking in on my phone, get home, obsessively refresh my emails and all the social networking sites, and go to bed a lot later than intended because I’m up chatting to the editors and artists on the other side of the world. It’s probably worth noting that the project wouldn’t collapse if I didn’t do that much, I just couldn’t get it off my mind! By the end of the Gift‘s timeline, I probably became the person whose emails would provoke a groan from whoever would find them in their inbox.
S] Will there be more projects like ‘Another Version…’ released by TOIOU throughout the year (perhaps something from the UK) following the success of the footage collected for ‘The Downward Spiral: Live’ and ‘AVOTT’?
SS] Loosely, yes. As I mentioned, we are supporting the numerous other projects going on in the NIN fan community. These include a Blu-Ray of the last NIN show, entitiled ‘After All Is Said and Done‘, a multi-cam edit of the last gig in Kentucky and the London O2 show. This One Is On Us is not solely made up of the people who made ‘AVOTT‘, but anyone out there with the impetus to create high quality DVDs for love not money. If you are one of these people, you have every right to be a part of TOIOU.
S] How would you like to see This One Is On Us and the ‘Another Version Of The Truth’ production inspiring other creative groups as you have already started supporting other like-minded projects from around the world?
SS] I’ve been asked before if this is a model that could be applied to other fanbases, or if NIN is a special case. I really hope this encourages other artists (because really, most record labels are welcome to drown in their declining currencies) to open up a dialogue with their fans, and embrace the fact that they are taping their shows and bootlegging their music out of admiration, not selfishness or penny pinching. Before this opportunity came up, I’m not sure I would have said that a big multi-cam production would be possible in our community, despite our long history of taping shows. There are signs of the same level of potential in other fan communities. You don’t have to look far to see that loads of other fans want to document their favourite artists, but camera policies and copyright get in the way, and especially on official forums, people are too scared to discuss this sort of thing incase they get banned, which is ridiculous. Fans in general clearly want to embrace this sort of thing, and I think in a lot of cases the attitude of the band (or maybe more realistically, the corporation that surrounds them) is the only thing stopping them.
S] How have Trent Reznor and NIN’s Creative Director Rob Sheridan been supporting the process and are they keen to develop the project further in the future?
SS] They have been very supportive of the project, and said some kind things about us on their website and on Twitter, but, apart from consulting Rob on the legal implications of the project, we haven’t really given them any special treatment. And that’s probably to their credit. They gave us a bike without stabilisers, and rather than drag us down the road, they followed us and cheered us on. I think if they’d done any differently, this project wouldn’t be such a big deal. With regards to developing the project in the future, from what I understand they’re happy to let us flourish, and no doubt they have even more tricks up their sleeve for the New Year.
S] How has working on ‘AVOTT’ helped you develop, considering the previous projects that you have been involved in?
SS] When I started helping out with ‘AVOTT‘ I was a year into a corporate editing job that I had become quite comfortable in, and the project put me back into a place where I was outside of my comfort zone, and everything was dangerous and exciting, and I just had to wing everything. I’ve done so many things during this project that I’ve never done before, not least manage a team of 30 people. I consider myself to have a decent CV under my belt for my age, but every time I talk to someone in my work circle, they are always most impressed by my NIN-related escapades, whether it’s touring, meet-ups, or TOIOU.
S] What other projects are you and TOIOU looking forward to for the rest of the year?
SS] I think the main thing on our minds is finishing off the release of ‘AVOTT‘ – we have two discs coming out yet, and physical distribution (all free!) to finalise before we can sit back and watch over the DVDs that the other teams are making. Trent‘s said that there are a couple of exciting things coming
out on his end this year, which I’m sure will keep us bursting with anticipation too!
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To watch all of the clips for free now, visit the official This One Is On Us YouTube.