Making hits: Violent Femmes footage punches up music doc

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The movie was missing something, so they had to add it up.

A documentary about a Gowanus music studio has already rocked audiences across the world, but the creators jammed in one more scene before its Brooklyn debut on July 12. They said they could not pass up a chance to mix in footage of sound engineer Martin Bisi working with the beloved folk punk band the Violent Femmes.

“A week before we delivered the movie, Martin put something on his Facebook page about working with the Violent Femmes and we knew we had to get that in there,” said Sara Leavitt, the director of “Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studio.”

The film recounts Bisi’s history working with some of the most innovative musicians on the planet. The screening at Littlefield, just a few blocks from BC Studio, is the first one since the additional footage came in.

The movie is a meditation on the effect one hard worker can have on a whole music scene, and how gentrification can kill it. Bisi said that he is one of the few people of his generation still creating in Brooklyn, even after most of his friends have gone daddy gone.

“I try to be optimistic, but it is bad and it is going to get worse,” he said. “So many of my friends have said ‘This place is dead. I am out of here.’ ”

Bisi entered the music scene at age 17 by volunteering at Manhattan punk club CBGB, and immediately began rubbing elbows with a slew of experimental rockers. He started working with the band Material and then met electronic music guru Brian Eno, who helped Bisi set up a small recording studio in Gowanus. Bisi still works out of the studio today, where he has recorded artists including Sonic Youth, the Swans, and the Dresden Dolls.

The filmmakers and Bisi have toured the United States and Europe with the film, showing it in cities like Berlin and Los Angeles. In every city, they have encountered audiences who relate to the loss of the creative class.

“It turns out there are similar things happening all over the world,” said Leavitt.

Left unresolved in the film is the status of Bisi’s studio, which may soon get kicked out of the building it has occupied for the past 35 years. Bisi said it will be another few months before he knows whether or not he can stay.

“Sound and Chaos: The Story Of BC Studio,” at Littlefield [622 Degraw St. between Fourth and Third Avenues in Gowanus, (718) 855–3388,]. July 12 at 7 pm. $10 ($8 in advance).

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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