A self-made documentary filmmaker from the age of 20, Shaye Fox has been archiving live rock shows in Sydney since 2019. Youth editor Corin Shearston had a chat to him about the making of his second film.
If you have memories of seeing a big guy with a camera at the front of a city mosh pit, you may have been witnessing the live video fieldwork of Shaye Fox. In a chosen labour of love, Shaye has commuted to a wide array of rock venues from his home in St Mary’s since 2019, to capture and upload entire live sets on his YouTube channel, DMWC Films.
Shaye’s love for film began when he started high school, when he first bought a video camera to make “goofy little shorts” and home movies with his sister and neighbours. His business acronym came from a Simpsons comic which he read in his last year of primary school, which inspired ‘Drunk Monkeys With Chainsaws’ as the full name of his indie video production project. This secret layer of fun crassness is akin to the underground, urban punk rock scene that Shaye began to archive two years ago through “a lot of long train rides”.
The first show to be filmed and uploaded on DWMC Films was Rockin’ For West Papua, an activist’s night of live punk and metal occurring on November 29, 2019 at the Hideaway Bar in Enmore. By steadying a camera in the tiny mosh pit to preserve a raw reality of noisy, angry and bloody Sydney musicians, Shaye lay the first foundations for his trademark style of uncensored DIY videography.
Before starting his professional film career in 2019, one of Shaye’s major works for a TAFE degree involved the creation of a 15-minute documentary, which he created around tribute bands in Western Sydney. After studying his Diploma in Screen and Media at TAFE, he went on to release one self-made documentary in October 2020, titled Unearthing The Underground, which originally began as an oversized Tropfest short. For his first film, Shaye was able to interview members of Frenzal Rhomb, the Hard-Ons and The Meanies, and he now hopes to interview members of Private Function and/or Clowns.
Shaye is now aged 24 and considering studying at the Australian Film, TV and Radio School (AFTRS), and submitting his upcoming second documentary to festivals such as the Sydney Underground Film Festival. It’s predicted that the second film will retain the name of the first. He also stays busy working, commuting, directing and filming music videos, and maintaining a steady stream of the complete gig footage that first made him such a vital young figure in the underground Sydney music scene. As for a future career path, Shaye aims for a dream job in film and TV, but explains that he’d settle for work as a commercial videographer.
While gathering content for his second documentary, Shaye interviewed me on Saturday, 10 April before I played drums with my metal band Magma One at The Vanguard in Newtown, speaking alongside our lead singer and lead guitarist, Nigel Chad.
I pitched one of his questions back at him in a backyard phone interview for this piece, inquiring what his definition of the ‘underground’ scene meant.
“What the underground means for me is a bunch of people who want to play music and wouldn’t be able to do it through conventional means, figuring out ways to perform, through DIY…it’s more of an attitude of the people playing and the audiences, not a specific genre of music…it’s finding ways to be able to perform and see music, using creativity and good negotiating skills.”Shaye Fox, April 2021
By his own definition, Shaye’s work as a filmmaker and archivist is also based in the underground; a creative domain far removed from any velvet. Denim, beer and leather are the main orders of the day, complemented with broken glass, black t-shirts, sweat, feedback and foul language in the pursuit of cathartic self-expression. Shaye works at the frontline of these musical maelstroms, wielding his trusty self-made tripod handle and audio gear to capture every bold move or minute gesture against a seething Sydney soundtrack.
Shaye has taken his directorial eye far beyond the harbour city, and reveals that a selection of Wollongong and Newcastle bands are featured in his upcoming documentary. For his first film, Shaye also interviewed a band from every state and territory in Australia, except the Northern Territory, something he hopes to amend when repeating the process this time. While his methods of research, content gathering and editing have remained largely the same, subtleties of his creative process have evolved to prevent mistakes incurred by production of the first film. Animated sequences of funny live gig stories are also on the agenda.
“Once I’ve done all the interviews and edited all the snippets then I ‘Frankenstein’ them together and that’s basically how I edit the movies,” Shaye explains. For his second film, Shaye reveals, “I don’t want it to be exactly the same as the first one … I’m gonna try to do some different stuff.” Expanding on his debut’s focus away from subject matter that was “99 per cent punk and one per cent other”, his second film will be “35 per cent punk” although it “still mostly has a punk edge”.
Due to “underground”, being a vague term, Shaye’s creative expansion will allow space for the inclusion of other musical genres. This will reflect the densely interwoven subcultures of Australia’s modern DIY music scene, and the process has already begun. “I’ve interviewed some electronic artists,” he says, referencing a member from Cheap Coffins and members of Dweeb City; the latter described as, “weird, avant-garde, electronic … horror effects … wild live performances”. In the pursuit of cinematic variety, Shaye explains, “I would love to include some rap music … I’ve tried contacting triple j bands … I have been contacting a lot of bands from all over Australia and interviewing them.”
After withstanding a continuing global pandemic, our continent is currently undergoing an interesting period in its ancient island history. This has resulted in a curious time to be documented by young filmmakers, which Shaye acknowledges. As the majority of first film was made in 2019 and released in October 2020, Shaye explains that, “the first one came out in the middle period between Covid-19 still being a thing and being back to a sense of normalcy in the music scene.” Speaking to artists impacted by the pandemic, Shaye observed some polarising views, ranging from the opinion that Covid-19 has nearly killed the live music scene, to a sense of ‘things could have been worse’. Aside from a recent culture of livestreams and virtual events, international travel restrictions have shifted a cultural view onto more Australian talent, he notes.
Shaye says a recent abundance of exciting urban acts encouraged him to go ahead with his second film. “There were so many bands I hadn’t been able to interview [for the first one] so I was like, ‘Why not start work on a sequel?’ Shaye’s urge to create again was initially sparked by experiencing a hardcore punk show in Newcastle in March, from a pummelling band called Boudicca.
Referencing his personal strengths as a filmmaker and videographer, Shaye humbly surmises, “I guess they think I have a good eye for filming music and stuff. I hope I do … I’m trying to [emerge] out of the underground but keep a couple of feet in there.”
Working as DMWC Films, Shaye Fox currently has 30 full rock concerts uploaded on YouTube, with extra content that includes full interviews, rehearsal footage, trailers, his TAFE documentary and Unearthing The Underground. DMWC Films also provide affordable film work by commission, are active on Facebook and have plans to branch out into podcasting.
Corin Shearston is the youth editor of the Sydney Sentinel.