"I am a singer and a songwriter but I am also a father, four times over. I am a friend to dogs. I am a sworn enemy of the saccharine; and a believer in grace over karma. I talk too much when I'm drunk and sometimes even when I'm not."
-- Bono, 2001 Harvard graduation speech
Filmmakers share stories of queuing up in a U2 General Admission Line
June 13, 2012
If you've ever queued up for general admission at a U2 concert, you can bet that you've had one of the most unique experiences on the planet. Furthermore, if you've waited all day in line for a great spot in the inner circle or up against the rail, you belong to a small fraternity of people who will likely talk about their experience for the rest of their lives.
The new film General Admission: Layin' it on the line for U2 chronicles the highs and lows of the GA experience. In this 46-minute documentary, first-time filmmakers Tami Falus and Dayna Shereck tell the story of what it was like to be No. 1 and No. 2 in line at the Toronto show on July 11, 2011. Falus and Shereck spent over 50 hours in line, witnessed a range of emotions in the crowd, navigated the politics of line management and made some lifelong friends.
In a recent interview, the filmmakers discussed their experience waiting in line and making the film. First and foremost, says Shereck, "This is a film by fans and for fans. It's not really about the band, it's about those who follow the band." With a budget of under $10,000, Falus emphasizes, "This was a labor of love. We want people to know that." The two filmmakers produced the documentary at their own expense, without the help of sponsors or investors. General Admission was directed, produced, written, narrated and filmed by these two energetic U2 fans. The idea for the film was born while the women were waiting together in line for the Red Zone at a Toronto show in 2009.
Throughout the film, Falus and Shereck focus primarily on the sense of community that is fostered by the GA experience. Shereck quickly learned that a spirit of camaraderie "began with the music, but extended to an identity comprised of friendships and a common outlook on life." Falus adds, "Coming together, intentionally, often from countries around the world, people commit to keeping in touch through Twitter, Facebook, email and other social media." The film includes accounts of parents who brought their children, people who have been to every show on a tour, and best friends who came to know each other at a U2 concert.
General Admission tells the stories of passionate U2 fans. Some of the stories are inspiring, others sad. According to Shereck, it was heartbreaking to watch a man arrive in line expecting to be much closer than he ended up. When he finally got his hand numbered, he broke down in tears. Falus, in contrast, recalls a beautiful encounter between a father and daughter. Now 15 years old, Emma was just 9 when her dad took her to her first U2 show, where she was pulled up on stage by Bono and had the memory of a lifetime.
The filmmakers noticed right away that @U2 readers were in the crowd. The film highlights a group of girls who first met in the forum on @U2's website, kept in touch via multiple forms of electronic media and, as a result, have been in GA together many times. Other fans who were interviewed also noted the importance of @U2 in helping form the community of U2 fandom. Some of the familiar faces in the film are Lori-Jo (AKA "Edgefest"), Cathal McCarron and Brett McMurrian.
A couple of defining moments in the film won't go unnoticed by those who have camped out in a GA line. For Falus, the moment security officials escorted them into the stadium was overwhelming, especially since they had been forced off the property a day earlier. Shereck remembers the sheer joy of settling into a spot at the rail, being exhausted, but then looking up and seeing a host of new friends around her who had also endured and made the pilgrimage. Many who read this article will understand the emotional ups and downs that can only come from a GA experience.
The filmmakers recently debuted General Admission at the Desert Rocks Music and Film Event on May 5 in Southern California. To their great delight, the film was received well and the audience was warm and receptive. "It was an honor to be included," says Shereck. The producers also have tentative plans to screen the film in England, though no dates have been finalized. They are looking for other venues and festivals to show their film, and are currently making it available for immediate download through their website, www.generaladmissionthefilm.com.
Falus and Shereck are delightful to speak with and show a passion for the U2 fan community. Their informal style, using a single handheld camera and onboard audio, limits the technical capacity of the film, but fosters a genuine sense of being "on the ground" with the fans. The loose camera is especially poignant when in a couple of clips interviews are interrupted by ongoing line activity. An original soundtrack by Canadian artists provides the background for numerous visuals and often mimics familiar U2 riffs effectively.
My strongest critique of General Admission is that the filmmakers' experience in Toronto was their first and only time in a GA line. This is advantageous in that they really capture their own excitement and zeal for a "first time" encounter (do you remember your first GA line?). However, the danger is that the film is not able to capture the full gamut of a normal GA experience, with all of its dynamics, politics, twist and turns. If you've been in multiple GA lines, you know that while they have common elements, they often differ greatly due to geographic location, social context of the crowd, venue staff and security, weather, etc.
The two women hope to combine talents again on another project. Though they probably won't work on a second U2 endeavor, they are brainstorming about other topics. Falus has longstanding interests in India's people and cultures and Shereck is committed to a number of humanitarian pursuits. It wouldn't be a surprise to see these interests come together in another film. But for now, they are thrilled with the results of their first foray into filmmaking and are as equally delighted that they chose U2 fans as their subject.
(c) @U2/Neufeld, 2012.