Over the period of two years, filmmaker Dima Dubson documented the world surrounding musician Adam Green, as he dealt with a recent divorce and the promotion of his album, "Minor Love". As Green attempted to find new footing after this major life event, Dubson was allowed full and intimate access. In light of the film’s recent release, we asked Dubson to discuss How to Act Bad, and the long creative process of making the film.
Hi Dima, why did you decide to start filming Adam? Did it just happen organically?
Well Adam and I knew each other a little but we weren’t friends and then we would just run into each other in bars basically…
Don’t they say all the best things begin in bars?
Yeah. Well, initially a mutual friend of ours — this guy, Steve Paul, who is an incredible character — not just to call him a character but he’s also an amazing person and a New York City legend. He had a nightclub in the 1960s where everyone played. He was just — I don’t have time to describe Steve fully — but I was working with him for years and we did this great show that was filmed live at midnight, at 11:59 pm, for something like four nights a week. And we would broadcast it live on the Internet, on this online TV network called Downtown TV. Adam came as a guest. That’s how we met … I remember seeing him sometime after at Beatrice Inn and being like, “Hey Adam, how are you doing? I heard you got married.” And he was like, “Yeah, I’m getting divorced.”
And then the next time I saw him, we were at a different bar. That was after he came back from LA where he went after he got divorced and he recorded a record. And I wanted to hear it so he said to come by. So, I came over and he played me the record — which was nerve-racking because I was like, “What if I don’t like it?” I was just sitting in front of him. (Laughs)
Which album was this?
This was Minor Love. And so, we decided to try to make one video. At that time he had also just started painting. The first video is just Adam painting and then we just did a bunch of stuff. That whole process was very organic because I would generally have an idea — sometimes the night before — and then I would go and show up at his house.
What would the ideas be? Can you give me an example?
Well the first idea was that I wanted to film him creating a painting from start to finish; that was the first video.
The second idea was this song that has kind of a groove to it, it’s called “Buddy Bradley.” It has a danceable kind of thing. When I walk through Madison Square Park and look at that Shake Shack line, I’m always kind of blown away by it because those people are stuck in that line. So I thought, “What if I take Adam and get him to just dance and perform a song to the Shake Shack line and I’ll just be in front of him filming it and I’ll get people’s reactions and there’s nothing they can do because they’re going to be waiting in line?” So we did that.
And then I had an idea of sneaking one of his paintings into the Met, so we did that for another video. Once these were done and the record was about to come out, we showed those videos to some friends and one of them was like “Why don’t you guys do a documentary?” And so it was her idea — Alex Baker. We talked about it and said, “Well, why not?”
What was the time span of filming in total?
You’ve been on tour with other people before, haven’t you?
No, I had not. I mean I’d never been on a tour bus before. I’d never spent three weeks on a bus with a group of people… And it was an eventful tour.
Did you like that lifestyle?
I liked it, yeah.
Some people hate it.
Well, it was never boring. It’s a strange thing. I thought about it. It’s sort of like a suspended reality in a way. Because you board this spaceship for three weeks and then you just get off at these different planets. And you meet these people that, for whatever reason, just want to go and talk to you. … It’s a strange thing because it doesn’t really happen like that when you’re in your hometown. You go to a bar and nobody gives a fuck.
Especially if your hometown is New York.
Yeah. For a shy person like me, it was fucking great. You know, people just want to talk to you all the time and then you move on. You never see them again and you wake up and there’s a whole other bunch of other people that want to talk to you.
Over the course of those two years, how often were you filming?
Well, it depends. On tour it was everyday. But whenever it was possible, I would film. Whenever I thought it made sense, I would film. I started editing it after a year of shooting.
After you finished the filming portion of the project was it incredibly difficult to sift through all the material?
I often times find it painful to watch footage, especially for the first time. With that film — because I had never done anything feature length before — I didn’t look at a lot of the footage until after a year. And I just thought that I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
How long did the editing process take?
This has been such a long project for you and you’re only just now releasing it.
Well, I was looking for the best way to release it and I was working on other things. But then it just seemed like I should just set a date to put it out because I didn’t have a deadline. I decided I was just going to choose a date and stick with it. I thought. “What would be the day?” And then I was like, “Well, Adam’s birthday is coming up…”
Which was May 28th. How did Adam like his birthday gift?
He’s very psyched the movie is out. Both of us are.
This article has been edited and condensed.