by Samantha Anne Carrillo
New Mexican director Steve “Fenix” Maes is a busy guy. It’s Friday afternoon, and he has been on the “Longmire” set in Santa Fe all week, filming the sixth and final season of middle America’s most-beloved cop drama. Over one lunch break and two cell phones, OneHeadlightInk.com recently caught up with Maes to talk about his forthcoming feature documentary on the “rocker” subculture, Caffeine & Gasoline: Evolution of the American Rocker, with the director.
Raised in Silver City, Maes still calls New Mexico home. And the inspiration for his debut documentary, Caffeine & Gasoline, originated right here in The Land of Enchantment. His respected place among our state’s top film industry professionals is augmented by his card-carrying membership in Southwestern rocker culture and local café racer club The Duke City Rockers. Rocker culture possesses an onion-like degree—we’re talking layers—of sociocultural complexity.
In the 1950s, intense post-war shifts in British economy (the end of rationing, enhanced prosperity and credit opportunities for the working class) and a cultural sea change (the influence of American popular culture, film and music) coalesced with advances in automotive technology and the conversion of military plants to auto factories. The upwardly mobile now piloted their own car, but less well-heeled Britons continued to ride motorcycles.
Google “rocker subculture,” and you’ll discover charming black-and-white photos depicting pompadour-sporting leather and denim-clad rocker boys—plus a handful of rocker girls—sporting scarves, copious enamel pins and a thoroughly insouciant glare. There is an irrefutable romance shot through the fabric of emergent rocker (aka leather, “ton-up” boys, greasers) subculture.
Inspired by café racer motorcycles and American rock ‘n’ roll, O.G. British rocker culture’s aesthetics and ethos was seen as a threat to society. Scholars have called the British media’s demonization of the rockers and their primary brawling opponent, The Mods, as a “moral panic.” After exposure to rock music—think Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent—in the 1950s, rocker culture emerged in the U.K. Later, rocker culture was exported to the U.S., where the British movement had found its pop culture inspiration and rockin’ soundtrack.
Here in the contemporary Southwest, creative arts/film professional Maes embraced American rocker culture and joined up with local café racer club The Duke City Rockers. Urged on by colleagues and fellow enthusiasts, Maes resolved to make a rocker documentary. Over the course of his career, he taught himself most of the jobs necessary for creating a cinematic documentary on an indie budget. Maes’ IMDB profile reveals his primary filmic occupations (art direction and graphic design) alongside a slew of writer, director, producer, actor, recording engineer and audio mixer credits.
As Maes discusses Caffeine & Gasoline, his passion for the project is audible. Onscreen interviews are a basic but key aspect of most documentaries. Maes expresses excitement over a couple of so-called “talking head” interviews in particular. Locally based, internationally renowned architect Antoine Predock reveals his unexpected rocker status, and the depth and breadth of his obsession may only be rivaled by the sci-fi and crime-genre celebrity and girl-power insight of actress/rocker Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, Longmire, et al.).
Currently in post-production, Caffeine & Gasoline is raising funds for the project via crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. Maes explains that the film’s GoFundMe campaign offers exclusive rewards to contributors. Along with final editing, the next step is hitting the road. To secure the reviews, awards and general PR necessary to land screenings at independent theaters all over America, Maes plans to apply to relevant film festivals and visit them to present Caffeine & Gasoline.
Without major studio funding and a distribution deal, Maes explains that this is how indie films score screenings at independent theaters like our own, The Guild Cinema. A win at South by Southwest or the like spurs the requisite media and audience interest that Caffeine & Gasoline needs to get their film out there.
As an industry veteran, Maes is familiar with the commitment and work it takes to make a film. As a first-time feature filmmaker, he proudly notes that the learning isn’t over; now Maes is immersed in a real-life seminar on the equal importance of behind-the-scenes and post-filming aspects of promoting a film.
To learn more about Caffeine & Gasoline, visit the GoFundMe profile at caffeineandgas.com or follow the production on Facebook at facebook.com/americancaffeinegasoline.
Samantha Anne Carrillo is: a Burqueña; a freelance writer & editor; a social media consultant & brand strategist; a fourth-wave feminist; and a devout situationist. Connect with her at facebook.com/samanthaannenm & linkedin.com/in/samanthaannecarrillo.