WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
When the coronavirus first began to spread across the United States, filmmaker Lance Bangs was in Southern California, catching up with some old friends.
"I was beginning to shoot on a new Jackass feature film," says the Portland-based filmmaker, who is sort of "the fifth Beatle" of the gross-out stunt crew—though he typically stays behind the camera, he made a memorable cameo in the third movie, becoming perhaps the first cinematographer to ever vomit in 3D. He'd gone down to L.A. in semi-secret earlier in 2019 to lens the group's reunion, and was a few weeks into filming when friends of the cast started to fall ill. "Things began to swell up, so on the set of the production we began wearing masks and washing our hands and being conscious of that."
You know a crisis is getting serious when guys who've gone bungee-jumping while locked inside overflowing Porta-Potties start worrying about their health. So in March, production was suspended and Bangs flew back to Portland.
But as something of a cultural zelig—his lengthy résumé includes music videos for Green Day and Kanye West, standup specials for Marc Maron and Davis Cross, and various projects for Dave Chappelle, the Rolling Stones, Björk and practically every other bleeding-edge tastemaker of the past 30 years—those are hardly the only plans Bangs had derailed by the pandemic. He'd also worked on Spike Jonze's Beastie Boys Story and the Netflix documentary Have a Good Trip, which were both scheduled to premiere at South by Southwest, which ended up being the first major event canceled by COVID-19.
Bangs has spent the past two and a half months back at home in Portland, where he lives with his wife, Sleater-Kinney singer-guitarist Corin Tucker, and their two teenage children, in a rare state of idle.
But he hasn't exactly been napping and watching Tiger King. He's working to launch a new web-based variety show called Status Update, featuring everything from real-time interviews with astronauts on the International Space Station to bizarre Ramones covers from Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. He's also been rifling through his archives, excavating old footage of Elliott Smith and R.E.M. he didn't even know he had. And he's indulged his own compulsion for documenting the moment, recording Zoom conversations with friends in quarantine and capturing images of empty Portland streets—for what, he doesn't quite know.
As for Jackass, the goal is still to hit its July 2021 release date. He says the material they shot before the shutdown is "really compelling." But whenever shooting resumes, he expects they'll have to adjust to the reality of the times.
"There are these different pools of things that get shot for the Jackass films," he says. "Some of them can just be done in a backyard with a cheap kiddie pool we fill with water and do weird stunts into. I think there'll be more of that than flying to the middle of Tokyo to be in a crowded spot doing pranks on people."
See more Distant Voices interviews here.