TNC Archive 2015 
Interview

Stephen Kijak 
BACKSTREET BOYS: Show 'Em What You're Mad Of
Originally published in 2015

BACKSTREET BOYS Show 'Em What You're Mad Of is about a band, of course, but it’s more universal a story than that - it is about five friends, it is about sacrifice and redemption, it is about a reckoning with a past and a path forward into a new kind of freedom. It is about home and family, and how many different ways we define those things.

Hey Stephen thanks for talking to The New Current, how have things been going? 

Good thanks - we just got through the North American launch of the film and now we're gearing up for the International launch.  It's the widest release of any film I've done, so it's been pretty exciting to see the reach - we're getting it to almost every corner of the globe!

Were you surprised by the reaction the BSB film has been getting?

Well, we did some test-screenings with fans and they reacted very positively so I felt that we had a real winner in terms of the fan reaction and they really have embraced it. I saw tweets from fans who were on their 7th viewing in two days, that sort of thing. That's gratifying. The critical reaction, as expected, has been split! But there have been some very considered takes on it. I think it tends to catch some people off guard. I made sure to test it on my non-fan friends and they were surprised by how much they really just liked the guys, they come away with a great deal of empathy and respect for BSB that they were not counting on experiencing. 

What have been the biggest challenges you've faced putting the BSB film together?

Striking a balance between what would interest a non-fan (like myself) and giving the die-hard fanbase something that they haven't seen before. It was a lot of story. One of the bigger editorial challenges was compressing the story of their fame into a very small part of the film but still giving the viewer the sense of being on that wild roller-coaster ride with the band. I was more interested in the origins and the present moment, so a lot of the middle had to be compressed or cut out completely. The goal was not to make an illustrated Wikipedia entry, so we had to pick our moments. Factual information can be found if you want it, but we were trying to focus more on emotion, experience, and their cumulative effects on an audience.

 

Tell me a little bit about Backstreet Boys': how did the film come about?

The band approached Pulse Films, my producer Mia Bays teamed up with Pulse to produce it, and then she pulled me in! It took a bit of convincing but once I spoke to the band and got a feel for the direction they wanted to go in, I was sold. I really felt we could do something interesting with their story.

"Just keep trying, every successful project is littered with lots of false starts or ideas that did not quite work out."

What was the main inspiration behind the film? 

They wanted to do the Boy Band version of "Some Kind of Monster." And they wanted to document this moment, heading into a 20th anniversary with no record label but still with the desire to make music and tour and keep doing their thing. It was a great place to find them - there were problems (like Brian's voice) and uncertainties - and a need to reconnect with each other. 

What was the hardest scene for you to film?

Nothing was particularly "hard" to film - there were logistical challenges along the way, but they gave us great access and we just rolled with it.  Things got hard in the edit - but that's the case with all docs. 

When did you realise you wanted to make music documentaries?

It just happened. I started out more interested in scripted narrative. My first documentary "Cinemania" was the result of meeting a character who was too good not to film, the sort of "you couldn't make this up" sort of opportunity. Then I made the film about Scott Walker, that was my real passion project. From there, the films have come to me. I love music, I love musicians, I'm interested in the creative process and finding a new way in each time. It really comes down to whether or not there's a real story to explore.

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What has been the most valuable lesson you've learned so far? 

Just keep rolling. Every time you want to cut, just keep rolling because the best thing you're going to get is going to be that stuff that happens the second you leave the room! 

And finally what do you hope people will take away from the BSB film?

Well, the fans all seem to agree that it shows a side of the boys that they never really saw before, and for the the non-fan, I'd hope that they could come away with an altered and challenged perception of the Backstreet Boys - even if they are not into the music, it's really just the story of five individuals who had an extraordinary experience with fame and its fallout. There are themes of manhood, brotherhood, family and betrayal - but it also attempts to dig under the surface of the boy band construct to reveal craft, work-ethic, and musical roots that you may not have previously associated with an act such as this. And if you can't stop singing "Larger Than Life" for a week or two, no harm done!