A Conversation with Sean Dunne on American Juggalo

Sean Dunne, director of The Archive, The Bowler and Man in Van, stopped by Sirius XM to talk with about his newest documentary, American Juggalo, which focuses on the fans of the band Insane Clown Posse.  Excerpts of that interview appear below.

Ron Bennington: Sean Dunne is in the studio with us. American Juggalo is his new film and you can go to AmericanJuggalo.com to see that. Thanks for stopping in Sean.

Sean Dunne: No problem, thanks for having me.

Ron Bennington: I gotta tell you, it was a very funny thing how I became aware of you.  I got an email that said, ‘hey you gotta check out this American Juggalo.’ And I’m like, I don’t think that interests me. The next day, three people. I was still like, eh. The next day five people. Finally I click on to this. It’s an amazing little film. And not one that people would expect at all. First of all its shot beautifully. How did you pull that off?

Sean Dunne: We talked a lot about the cinematography before we went out there, actually. I spoke with my DP, Hillary Spera, she’s fantastic, and we decided to take in an approach where we would try to make something really deliberate and composed– a little bit unexpected, something that’s kind of disgusting and ugly and make it beautiful.

Ron Bennington: It does become beautiful very very quickly. The first couple of shots in, you see these people in a way you wouldn’t normally see them. And I think because you get those visuals, suddenly the guard comes down a little bit and you start to hear them.

Sean Dunne: That was the idea with the intro, to kind of pull the audience in, but also, you can’t turn away once you’ve seen this, and your guard does come down. The idea was, once you’re into the interview part– once you’re hearing their voices– that there wouldn’t be a moment where you’d be like, ok I could click out of this, I could close out of this. Make it captivating.

Ron Bennington: So you think if you open with an Insane Clown Posse song, it would have cost some of the people who weren’t already fans.

Sean Dunne: I don’t think this would have had as wide of an audience if I had done something like that.

Ron Bennington: Which I think is the great thing about it because it’s not so much about what’s going on there, but I think we all learn a little bit about prejudice watching this stuff. And seeing these kids, most of them are young people, right?, in their early twenties?

Sean Dunne: Yea, there’s also a sixteen year old and I think  a seventeen year old and….well there’s an eight year old in there.

Ron Bennington: But their hearts are so exposed in this where they’re saying, this is exactly who I am. And almost to a person, every person that you were looking at– looked to be part of a community.

Sean Dunne: Yea, its kind of really commendable. Some people all over the internet give me flack for saying that, but I grew up being a punk rocker and that scene preaches all of that stuff. Like unity, we’re family, stick together, have each others backs–and its just not true.  With the Juggalos, what I found to be fascinating is they practice what they preach. They really are a family. There was 20,000 people there and there’s no security or cops in there. There wasn’t one fight. There wasn’t an incident the whole time.

Ron Bennington: And yet, it looks like a lot of the people would be the type of people that you would think to yourself are violent, are troublemakers and yet that doesn’t exist.

Sean Dunne: Yea, they’re the type of people that if you saw walking around the mall you might want to avoid them. They have hearts of gold. Every one of them. Every single person in the film we became friends with and we’re friendly with and talked to us throughout all four days that we were there.

Ron Bennington: What kind of feedback have you got from the people that are in the film now?

Sean Dunne: I’ve heard only from a couple of them. I heard from the guy in the beginning– the well spoken guy in the red shirt– he was very thankful to be in it. And then the straight-edged kid that was later in the film has been emailing back and forth with me. And they’re really appreciative. Juggalos as a whole have been reaching out to me and saying thank you so much for giving us a voice. Thanks for presenting us in a favorable light, which I didn’t even feel like we did.

Ron Bennington: No, you actually just– again I think because some of the original kind of prejudice we have against some people– the way they look– the way they talk– for some reason that curtain gets pulled back in this, and the humanity comes through. And I think we kind of, as viewers, feel a little bit a part of this. Or maybe even admire it? Maybe even there’s a thing as a viewer, where I’m going, I wish I had a little more of that in my life.

Sean Dunne: That’s definitely how we felt going in to it. Once we got there, within the first couple of hours we were like, are we Juggalos? This is speaking to me in a certain way! Yea I think there is an allure to it, of being like, wow, this is a family. And it’s also a really fun time.

Ron Bennington: You keep the Insane Clown Posse out of this, you keep the music out of this. There’s no stage work in this. Tell me the reasons why.

Sean Dunne: I didn’t think that it was necessary. I wanted to make a film about the fans and I made it clear to my crew– don’t turn the cameras toward the stage– I don’t care what’s going on, on stage.  It’s more about what’s going on here. Other people have done that; other people have covered it. I’m not a fan of Insane Clown Posse. They fleece their fans a little bit– as all musicians, I guess you have to. But these people don’t have a dime to their name and they spend every penny they have on getting a shirt that’s overpriced, and I guess that’s how that band gets by.
I didn’t feel like I needed to promote that in any way.

Ron Bennington: So did you feel that way before you did this?

Sean Dunne: Yea, going into it, that was the idea. Just interviews with the fans. Have you ever seen the film Heavy Metal Parking Lot? That kind of approach.

Ron Bennington: And yet, this is a million times different than Heavy Metal Parking Lot. I’ll tell you, I laughed at Heavy Metal Parking Lot. But this, I didn’t find myself laughing at the people who showed up. I found myself even more curious about them. Like, most of the characters that you interviewed I could have followed for a while in terms of a documentary film.

Sean Dunne: Absolutely, we discussed doing that.

Ron Bennington: And I found myself curious about what their lives were like away from that. Or whether or not the gathering could only last four days. If it lasted a month, would it start and turn back into the same kind of society that we have now.

Sean Dunne: It’s an interesting question. I think that had we delved more into the people’s lives– that’s where it would have taken a turn for the depressing. Every one of those people signed releases and on the release form it’s like, what’s your phone number and address. Fifty percent of them don’t have phone numbers or addresses. They were like, if you need to get in touch with me you can call my buddy, he’ll find me. It seems like a lot of homeless and that was kind of sad and startling.

Ron Bennington: A big part of this too, is a lot of these guys are southern, and yet they don’t seem to be a part of what we think of as southern culture. Are a lot of these people outcasts in their own towns?

Sean Dunne: Absolutely they all are. A common story– we’re not allowed in the mall because I have a Hatchetman tattoo which is that logo for Psychopathic Records. They’re outcasts wherever they go. I don’t know a lot of Juggalos, I grew up in New York so you don’t run into it that often. Everybody that’s been emailing me is like: oh my town is full of them– they’re the outcasts, the dregs of society. Hopefully this will go to change that a little bit.

Ron Bennington: I love the fact that they use the dark carnival thing, because they do seem like modern-day carny folk. And those people were always close with each other no matter what the rest of society thought about them. How come you go directly to the internet with what you’re doing? Why aren’t you making a run at HBO or theaters first?

Sean Dunne: I just don’t want to deal with it. I want a lot of people to see my stuff. That’s why I make it. I can make these things for pretty cheap and when you avoid all of that bullshit, nobody has a say at what you’re doing. Can you imagine me taking this to HBO or A&E and being like hey can you air this as is? Nobody would do it.

Ron Bennington: So you’re going to stay away from the traditional styles and its going to be all internet for you.

Sean Dunne: Yea this is the fifth one of these I made and they all achieved some good success. I didn’t think I was doing anything too pioneering when I put my first film out on the internet and it became popular. But apparently that’s not a route a lot of people were taking at the time and they still don’t. They feel it necessary to go through film festivals and all these other channels and distribution. The bottom line is 650,000 people have seen my film in the past ten days. I don’t know how else you could achieve that.

Ron Bennington: The first time that I saw it I sat and watched the full 23 minutes. I’ve watched it a couple of times now.

Sean Dunne: Who’s your favorite?

Ron Bennington: I love some of the bigger guys just kicking back watching it all go by and I’m not even sure if a lot of them are there for the music.

Sean Dunne: No! That was another weird phenomenon we experienced. Nobody even mentioned the music. Every one of them said they were there for the family– family love.

Ron Bennington: Lets go over some of the films you’ve done before this. What makes you pick a subject?

Sean Dunne: Just something that speaks to me. My first film was The Archive, that’s about the world’s largest record collection. I read an article about it and I was shocked to see that nobody had done it. The visuals of it alone– I was like I have to go there and shoot this and see what that’s like. Then my next film was Man and Van about a guy that lives in his van on the West side of Manhattan. Just read a little blurb about it in the New York post and then went and stalked him out, found him– it just spoke to me in some way. Then I had an idea for a film called The Bowler– it was kind of the reverse. I thought of the idea and put the visuals together in my head where I wanted to shoot it, what kind of music we would use, but didn’t have my person. And reached out to some friends and said hey, if anybody knows an old school bowler– the type of person I grew up with in the bowling alleys the older guys, bring them to me, and this guy Rocky Salemmo came into my life and he was a professional bowling hustler. How could I not make a film about him? The second he walked in the door, I saw this guy and said, yea you’re the subject of my next film. And then actually Jonny Corndawg who is with us here right now. I stumbled into a bar one night and he got up on stage and before he even sang one song, I said I’m making a film about this guy, and we were out with him a week later on the road.

Ron Bennington: And you’re hanging out with Johnny Today.

Sean Dunne: Yea, yea, we hang out. We do.

Ron Bennington: So there is a connection now. When you make these films about people you’re also entering their life and allowing them into your life and it doesn’t end there.

Sean Dunne: Yea, for the most part it doesn’t. I’m really tight with Johnny, we love hanging out and the same thing with Rocky. He came to the premier of American Juggalo and he took over my Q&A, he’s a shameless self promoter. It’s kind of a rule I used to have, don’t get involved, don’t get involved. And I really started to break it with Johnny and I told him that. I was like this sucks, I still want to be friends with you.

Ron Bennington: Are you finding the same kind of things that people are saying across the board [about the film]?   There is a fear about these people as if they’re gangsters; as if they’ve all got meth labs or Oxycontin dealerships.

Sean Dunne: Yea that’s something that was even in my head a little bit before I went and did this, and we went there and realized really quickly that it’s not really like that– these are just people who have fallen through the cracks a little bit. Every article seems to take a different stance on this. Some people really get what I was going for and other people said it only served to– well it didn’t dispel any of the stereotypes I had of these people and it made it worse. So I guess people are going to take different things out of this.

Ron Bennington: I think you come in with something, but it honestly dissolves very quickly into this film. And if anything it only makes me more curious about the way all this stuff works. Unfortunately you’re not going to be up for any awards this year, but you would have been a slam dunk for at least one.

Sean Dunne: When you put something on the internet you kind of disqualify yourself from all that.

Ron Bennington: Yea, you’re done because there is a way of doing things, Sean, that’s been done this way for fifty, sixty years and you are bypassing this.

Sean Dunne: I don’t give a fuck about any of this stuff. I don’t know how many people are listening to this show, but I don’t care about ever winning an Oscar or an Emmy or anything like that. I don’t care, I just want people to see my stuff; and I want to keep doing it, and I think that if I have an audience, I”ll be able to keep doing this.

Ron Bennington: Thank you so much for coming out Sean. VeryApeProductions.com. You can see everything there.

Sean Dunne: Yea, all my films for free. I haven’t put this one up there yet, but you can go to AmericanJuggalo.com for that.

Ron Bennington: A very unique film. I appreciate you coming by man.



To hear this interview in its entirety, check out Ron Bennington Interviews on Sirius XM Satellite radio.   Don’t have a Sirius XM subscription yet?  Sign up for a free trial here.

To see American Juggalo visit AmericanJuggalo.com and you can view Sean’s other films at VeryApeProductions.