Published by MVD Distribution in streaming, video on demand and DVD platforms last November, “Red Turns Into Blue” was shown at intimate screenings in Seattle and Athens. Hay and producer Bill Cody recently spoke with AJC about the production.
Change is the main theme of the new film and there’s certainly no reason to copy the original. The first one felt very organic and in the moment, while this one feels a bit more focused.
Hay: The first one was just before REM achieved international success. The B-52s had moved away before, though they often came back because of family and friends, and Pylon had broken for the first time. It was all pretty much flying underground in terms of what was going on at the university or in city government.
Cody: The first one was shot on 16mm film, and it maybe felt organic in some ways because we shot it on compressed time and it became a well-thought-out party. With this one, it’s a new world, so it’s digital. But basically, the genesis of this one was also during some kind of party. I was in Athens for an event and [Pylon bassist-artist-photographer] Michael Lachowski and I talked about needing an update to the first one. It was really obvious that – not that there weren’t strong women in the scene before – but this time it seemed like there was a young woman in almost every group. Cindy Wilson [of the B-52′s] did her solo stuff and Vanessa had the Pylon Reenactment Society. These strong female icons from Athens are making important new music. The other thing was that there were definitely more people of color involved in the scene, so we followed those two threads.
There is a certain political atmosphere.
Cody: There are and we didn’t even intend to do it at first. The intense discussion between [Drive-By Truckers singer-songwriter] Patterson Hood and Mariah Parker changed that. Of course, some of these racial and political issues have always been struggles. They are not completely resolved in Athens or elsewhere, but it seems people are actively trying. That’s why I want the movie to be released more widely because right now, when everyone is so depressed, depressed and angry, there’s still hope. The hope is to listen to each other and be open to change.
The other common thread is the community. It’s very centered on downtown Athens.
Hay: At the time, the university didn’t want anything to do with that kind of thing. We were a little under the radar. Today, the music and arts scenes are almost a public relations tool for the city and the university. Although REM helped get a mayor elected and they played an important role in the idea of ”think globally, act locally”, it was still quite low key for a long time. Nowadays, everything is different. This is largely due to the efforts of the people you can see in the film. In 2020, UGA even held a Pylon exhibition, so I guess we finally got legit!
It’s a really good mix of old and new Athens mindset – and female empowerment is front and center.
Hay: It’s really an acknowledgment of what’s been going on since the beginning in Athens. We have always had female empowerment and embraced all beliefs. Not just with bands like B-52 and Pylon, but even Oh-Ok. You could probably make a movie about women.
Cody: Because it starts with Vanessa and Cindy, we were kind of making a statement. Both are influential to so many people. It’s a statement about their heritage and how women aren’t generally treated as well as they get older in rock and roll. Or in music in general. The performances of these two are so important – so we go straight to Nihilist Cheerleader who is younger. In the first, it was a very young scene in many ways. But you go to concerts in Athens now and it’s the same thing, everyone dances. Some of the people dancing are 80 years old and they are dancing right next to a 15 year old. I think it’s something very special in Athens, inclusion. I wish people would see that and maybe treat each other a little nicer, but also find ways to make things better for the whole community we live in. Is that too much to ask for a movie? I do not think so.
WHERE TO SEE IT
“Red Turns Blue: Athens Inside/Out, Part 2”
Available on Vudu, Tubi and more. Also on DVD from mvdshop.com.