Local Filmmaker Debuts "Out For Fame," A Short Film on the Ethos of Graffiti Art

Local filmmaker Graham Emerson Beck’s short, poetic documentary film “Out For Fame,” which meditates on the art of graffiti, premieres this week in the 2021 Short. Sweet. Film Fest.

“Out For Fame” shows on Feb. 28th at the Alex Theater at the Metropolitan at the 9.

Beck, who with his notorious ‘ginger’ beard and thick-rimmed glasses is the founder of “Fierce Beard Films," which he started as a way to present and market his work. .

This is not Beck’s first film but it’s the first film he's made since graduating with his B.A. from the Film and Media Studies program at Cleveland State University.

He hopes this short will be a springboard to a longer feature documentary about about graffiti and its early origins. As anonymity is at the heart of the art form, it is an important challenge for Beck to tell the story in a way that keeps the identity of the artists confidential. “This project is about the art and the artists and the opinions about graffiti, not exposing the artists," Beck says.

The short film intersperses scenes of graffiti with responses from graffiti artists, or ‘writers’ as Beck refers to them, along with quotes about graffiti. Influenced by Mannus Franken’s 1929 film Rain and Bert Hannstra’s 1958 film Glas, the film traces back the origins of graffiti art thousands of years to pre- Homo sapien cave drawings. The film begs the question, What is the difference between vandals or outlaws and graffiti artists?

“The only difference is those who are judging the artist," says Beck. “Are writers vandals until they make a million dollars and become a commodity? Do they then become vindicated? It just depends on who’s answering the question. I believe writers are artists, pure and simple. If you think about how long graffiti has been around, which is far longer than the laws that restrict it, then graffiti isn’t really vandalism. But that’s one opinion and I’m interested in every opinion surrounding that very question. That’s a main theme that will be explored going forward.”

Beck wears many hats and Clevelanders might have seen him slingin’ drinks at the local ABC Tavern in Ohio City or heard his prominent croaky tone from the ‘grunge’-centered radio show “All Things Flannel and Thermal,” which was on Cleveland State University’s WSCB college radio station on Wednesday afternoons pre-pandemic.

Beck draws on conversations with local artists.

“The idea stemmed from just seeing graffiti growing up," says Beck. “I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit so every time I would go downtown and cruise around the different areas in the city limits, there was always an abundant amount of artwork around, which would always catch my eye. So when I got into filmmaking and started forming relationships with some of the local writers in Cleveland I really wanted to create something that showed this art form in a natural, beautiful, and artistic light to try and stay true to what one would see if the artwork was right in front of them. To get to this point of shooting and releasing this short has been years in the making. The overall goal is to create and release a full-length documentary about graffiti, from the before the earliest days of humans to the present day and present every side of the fence.”

The 2021 Short. Sweet. Film Fest in its 9th season of promoting films under 30 minutes long with films which might have slipped under the radar of other film festivals.

“My hopes are that people revisit that question, What is art?” What is graffiti? Is it art? Is it vandalism? I’d like the audience to take all of their answers, long or short, and then ask themselves Why?” he says. "Or if nothing else, get out there and get up! Let’s see what you’ve got.”
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