Matt Miller’s documentary, Ya Heard Me, provides a historical and cultural view of New Orleans bounce music, complete with sensual shaking and vulgar popping.
But will you get to see it?
The first-time director ventured to New Orleans three weeks at a time for two years to complete the project. That effort culminated into a film that includes interviews with approximately 100 artists, scenes of block parties and sweaty night clubs and a debate over the originator of New Orleans bounce. However, the film currently sits with no distributor and some clearance issues.
“Right now it’s hard to feel total satisfaction and no frustration, because there are still some bridges to cross,” Miller says.
“At this point, we are giving all that we have to get everything cleared because we want to be able to represent the music as it was and is. It takes a while, because they won’t listen to you unless you throw a bag of money on the desk.”
Miller says that he can’t speak in detail about which songs have and have not been cleared because there are still negotiations going on. The difficulty in getting bounce music cleared is that the music itself is sample-heavy, so he has to get the rights to use the samples as well as the songs that incorporate them. Miller says that he is also having difficulty finding out who owns the rights to some songs. An option that he is considering is cutting parts of the film that contain songs that have not been cleared.
The importance of getting songs cleared is heightened since distributors are reluctant to pick it up without clearances. So far, Ya Heard Me has made stops on the festival circuit. It played at the San Diego Black Film Festival in February, and it showed for one night at the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival.
“It got a pretty good response,” says Miller of the film’s showing at the Black Film Festival. “I think the people either love it or hate it, like they do with bounce in general. Either they feel where it’s coming from or it seems wild and obnoxious.”
Even if the film is further edited or only shown in limited release, Miller feels that it has relevance.
“We were filming stuff that a lot of people took for granted. I don’t know about right now, but I do feel that in 10 years, 20 years, people are going to look back at this as a document of the last days of a certain style of New Orleans life that isn’t there anymore. I am satisfied that we tried our best and gave it an honest chance to show it like it is. That to me was more important than having it as a huge blockbuster.”