Q&A: American Juggalo Director Sean Dunne on Drugs, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and a Pregnant Smoking Juggalette


Commercial director Sean Dunne brought a six-man camera crew to this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse’s annual psycho-porn amusement park, and returned with footage of predictably lowbrow hedonism: Juggalos drinking, inhaling, whoop-whooping, hallucinogenic tripping, shooting fireworks, sucking on nitrous balloons; a green-haired Juggalette too messed up on Ecstasy and vodka to get out of a car; a pregnant Juggalette smoking. Naturally, the 23-minute web doc went viral–the biggest surprise about American Juggalo was that it took someone this long to make it.

Dunne admits that he was hesitant to be so late. “When I thought of this idea it was before the Gathering last year,” the Greenpoint resident insists. “The shit hit the fan last year with Tila Tequila. And it made me be like, ‘God, do I want to be this guy who goes in there and does this still?'” Since he decided to be that guy, we spoke with him about getting pulled over the cops outside the Gathering, why there may be an Illinois arrest warrant out there bearing his name, and why people should give Juggalos a break.

Tomorrow night, Insane Clown Posse headlines Hammerstein Ballroom. Tickets are still available here.

Why’d you make this film?

I brainstormed this idea a year and a half ago, I thought of a title, and I thought it would be funny. Talked to a few too many people about it–to the point that I had to be like, “Goddammit, I’m gonna have to go and fucking do this thing.” So we decided to go this year. I had six people with me: two cameras, sound guy, a couple of associate producers. We just went and had a great time. Really.

You said you had an “idea” before you went. What was that idea?

To make a Heavy Metal Parking Lot-esque film. I wanted to do a presented-without-commentary, here’s-what-we-saw, and let people speak their minds without really editing them, and just present that world.

I watched Heavy Metal Parking Lot after we made this again and I think that some of the similarities are striking. But I hope it came off that we weren’t making fun of these people as much as they were in that film. Honestly, I love these people–every single person we met there. They have a special place in my heart. I’m surprised how much we were embraced by them, and we embraced them. It was kind of magical.

You said that before you went, you thought it’d “funny.”

To go to the Gathering as non-Juggalos, I just thought the idea of that was kind of scary. But in doing more research, I was like, “Oh, this is gonna be fine.” I think the idea of going there and kind of being embraced, and embracing it the way we did, was funny to me. And we did! We got swept up in the whole thing. We were on [the] Drug Bridge, and we did everything that you see in the film there. Hehe. A good amount of it.

Did you guys stay there on site?

No, we rented a cabin a half hour from [HogRock Campgrounds]. The first day when we were leaving, we got flagged down by the cops, which we did not expect. Everything’s just so free [inside the gates]. So we’re like, “Let’s get a bunch of drugs and go back to our cabin,” not even thinking about it. While you’re there, you kind of get desensitized to–well, this is illegal. So we get flagged down right away. The guy pulls us over and he’s like, “We’re gonna search the car.” We’re like, “Absolutely not, no.” He’s like, “Well, if you don’t let me search, I’m gonna bring that drug dog over.” I knew that we had weed, hash, Adderall, Percocet, mushrooms in there. So I was like, “Ahhh, you can search it.”

They actually just found an empty beer can and gave me an open container ticket. And had me pay the fine on site, in cash.

So you guys did drugs while you were there.

Yeah. Um. I won’t admit to it myself, but drugs were done by people who were there with me.

Okay, so people at festivals do drugs. So how would this be different if you had shot the Rainbow Gathering or Burning Man?

It wouldn’t have been any different, yet everybody gets on these peoples’ cases. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people hate them so much. I really could have gone to Burning Man and made the same documentary, I’m guessing, or any festival. But I think it was important to show that these people are just like every jackass who gets swept up in something. Being a Juggalo is like organized religion: it’s not for me, but if it gets you through the day, then fucking do it. These people aren’t doing anything that I don’t think you and I wouldn’t do if no one else was watching and judging.

You said you can’t figure out why people get on Juggalos’ cases, but then you show footage of a pregnant girl smoking. So you’re surprised that people judge them?

People have a preconceived notion about them, and a lot of those stereotypes come through in the film. But I think that the point is that these people are harmless. Let them do their thing. Get off their cases. Pregnant chick smoking? Yeah, I can see that definitely ruffling some feathers. It made me super-uncomfortable. But who am I to tell her how to live her life?

But your official description that goes with the film is that American Juggalo is “a look at the often mocked and misunderstood subculture of Juggalos.” How do you think your film helps to understand them?

I wrote that description in five seconds and now every single blog is like, “Not sure how misunderstood these people are!” Yeah, maybe that was a fuck-up on my part. I think that they should be given a break because they’re looking for what everyone else is looking for: some sort of belonging in this world. God, every one of these people has an awful background. Hard-luck stories like you wouldn’t believe. Awful things have happened to them and has led them to seek out this family. It’s a little bit sad, it’s a little bit uplifting, and I tried to get all of that in the film.

Where are those back stories in the film?

They’re not, but this is just when people are signing releases and they’re like, “Oh, my house burned down this week.” Or, “My mom died when I was four.” We have some of it on camera, but it’s not necessarily the type of stuff I was going in there for. It was more like, “Why are you here?” Just seeing where these people come from, I think we’re kind of lucky they’re not doing more awful things. They’re kind of just abusing their bodies, really. It’s kind of harmless.

You had everybody sign a release?

Yeah, every single person signed a release. People would come up to us and we’d be shooting an interview and they’d be like, “What the fuck you filming for?” Like they were gonna get up in our faces. I’d be like, “Oh, it’s just like a little independent piece I’m gonna put online for free.” They’re like, “Oh, hell ya, dog! Can I get it in it?” And that’s how we found everyone that was in it. I don’t think they fully realized what they were getting involved with–with how much that’s going to be out there.

[To someone in the background]: I get it! [Background voice: “Do you want anything from”–] NO! I’m okay. I’m doing a FUCKING INTERVIEW.

[Back to me] Sorry, I’m at my parents’ house and my dad’s like, “What do you need?” Here’s what I’m dealing with.

Why do you think you’re different than Juggalos? You’re swearing at your dad when he’s asking if you need anything. Do Juggalos even do that?

I guess I’m not. This is how I’ve been since I came back. I’m like, “Fucking this, fucking that,” and I’m like, I’m a normal person–I direct commercials.

You said you weren’t sure people knew how much this “would be out there.” It’s online, you screened it here in New York, where else will it be “out there”?

I just make these things to put them online. My other films have achieved some success so there’s kind of already a built-in audience. When I say that I don’t think they realize the exposure, I meant like, if my other films have a million hits, this is most likely going to get that and surpass those. That’s the way I thought of it. The subject matter is so rich and they’re such a part of popular culture now.

Are you making any money off this? Ads set up with Vimeo or anything like that?

No, no, no. I lost a lot of money on this. To take seven people from all over the country, and take them there for four days, and feed them, and pay them, and everything? It was not cheap. I don’t make money on these things, they basically keep my name out there. I just want to keep making films, and the way I can do that having people hire me to do commercials, and then I use that money to make more films. There’s no money being made off this.

American Juggalo has no affiliation with Psychopathic Records. See more of Sean Dunne’s work at Very Ape Productions. Insane Clown Posse headline the Hammerstein Ballroom this Tuesday, October 25 at 8pm.

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