Interview with Chance Shirley of Delicate Cutters on filmmaking and heading back into the studio

Photos courtesy of Arik Sokol, Brandon Brown and Jonathan Purvis

BHAMFM: On top of being a musician, you’ve been an award winning filmmaker for a while. Have you ever had an opportunity to marry the two in any of your projects?

Chance: That opportunity has come up a few times, actually. The biggest was on Hide and Creep, my first feature film, co-directed with my pal Chuck Hartsell. Another pal of mine, Eric McGinty, wrote the music for that movie. And since I drum for Eric’s band the Exhibit(s), I ended up playing drums on several of the musical parts of the movie soundtrack.

Conversely, I’ve shot a few music videos for my band Delicate Cutters, including “Tilt-A-Whirl” and “Warm Beer and Sympathy.” You can watch them on the Delicate Cutters website.

BHAMFM: How long have you been a drummer?

Chance: I got into drums in my mid-20s. Kind of late. Of course, that was almost twenty years ago at this point, so I’ve had time to catch up. Before drums, I played bass and guitar. I learned a lot about those instruments from my dad, who is a really great guitar player.

I still like playing guitar, but drummers seem to be in short supply in Birmingham. So I’m too busy playing drums with these really fun bands to try to do any serious guitar stuff.

BHAMFM: You‘re a machine on Rock Band, as I’ve witnessed first hand. You were stoked when the Beatles’ music became available to play. What would be your dream Rock Band playlist?

Chance: Oh, wow. Tough question. I feel like the Side Two medley from Abbey Road is kind of a perfect playlist all on its own. So many great, short songs, brilliantly strung together.

But while we’re putting together a dream list, I’d add some deeper Radiohead cuts (“Morning Bell,” “There There”). And why didn’t they ever put any Wilco songs on Rock Band?

One more. “Devices” by fellow Birminghamians Vulture Whale would be a killer Rock Band cut.

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BHAMFM: A movie you directed, Interplanetary, was available to watch on Netflix. How is that process and do you think its accessible for most independent filmmakers?

Chance: Actually, Interplanetary isn’t on Netflix anymore. Those deals expire at some point, and I think we were on Netflix for 18 months.

However, we’ve moved on to Hulu, and that’s not too shabby. (

As for the process, somebody could write (and probably has written) a whole book about the intricacies of digital feature film distribution.

The way it happened for us was relatively straightforward. Mike Raso, a cool indie film distributor based out of New Jersey, picked up the rights to Interplanetary for his Shock-O-Rama label for three years. During that period, Shock-O-Rama sells DVDs of the movie, plus makes digital streaming deals with folks like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Shock-O-Rama gets paid for those deals, and they pay us a percentage of the profits.

It is possible for an indie filmmaker to deal with Netflix and other companies directly, but I haven’t done that personally.

BHAMFM: You’ve been with Delicate Cutters a while now. What are you guys working on at the moment?

Chance: Yeah, the Cutters are basically family at this point. The last few months have been fairly quiet for the band, but we’ve been itching to do some recording, so we scheduled a session with Les Nuby (he produced our last LP Ring and a lot of other cool recordings) for late 2013. We’re just gonna go in for a weekend and knock out an EP of some sort.

Recording Ring was a lot of fun, and I’m really looking forward to working on the EP.

BHAMFM: The Cutters have toured a lot and have scored some great exposure in the blogosphere and beyond. What’s been your best experience with the band?

Chance: Playing New York City was a high point for me. Just driving into the city–me and the other Cutters and all our gear packed into my Honda Element, Bruce Springsteen on the radio–seemed like a big deal.

Then the actual gig was at this coffee shop in Brooklyn called Roots Cafe. The other folks on the bill were locals and nice enough to let us headline. We were playing stripped down–I think I had like a snare drum and one cymbal. There were probably only twenty or so people in the audience, but the place was so small, it felt like a huge crowd. People were clapping and singing along. It was a fantastic show.

We also had a memorable show at Maxine’s, this bar/pizza place in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The venue has a super swank green room for the band, which is not something we’re accustomed to.

Our set that night was insane. I doubt many folks in the audience had heard of us, but from the first note we played, they were totally on board. I mean, those folks were serious about having a good time. The energy was infectious, and we ended up playing a really loud and rowdy set.


Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.18.56 PMBHAMFM: As a director, you’ve been in charge of film crews, scripts & filming. You’re a very laid back guy though. Do you enjoy being a background player in a band or do you prefer to be a band leader as well?

Chance: You know, I’ve never thought about it that way. I used to be the band leader back in my younger days, but I think I came into my own as a sideman. I’m a fan of Janet, Eric, and Brian Moon (who leads my other band, the Maisleys), and I feel lucky that I get to work with them and (hopefully) add something cool to their songs.

I think Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles

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and Alfred Hitchcock were all amazing movie directors, and they were all famous for kind of being control freaks. But I don’t really approach directing that way. I just try to put together a good group of actors and crew guys and let them do what they do. I’m mostly just there to make sure everybody is on the same page –figuratively and literally, assuming there’s a screenplay.

BHAMFM: You and your wife Stacey travel & go to comic/film events a lot. What has been the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at a Con?

Chance: Our con adventures have been relatively tame. I mean, there’s always a bunch of people in extravagant costumes, but it seems like I always miss the really wild stuff in person, only to read about it days later on the Internet.

We did get to meet Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for a moment back in 2004. They were personally handing out tickets to a sneak preview of Shaun of the Dead. They were just as British and charming as everybody says.

And I got to see a sneak preview of the pilot of Lost. Which was exciting, as I had no way of knowing the show would eventually run completely off the rails.

BHAMFM: What are the 3 things you’re most excited about in 2014 — films, video games or music wise?

Chance: I’m looking forward to Neko Case’s show at Iron City in January. Since I’m always like five years behind on music stuff, I just bought my first Case album a few months ago. It’s ridiculously good, of course. I’m actually excited about Iron City in general. Whoever books for that place has been pulling in some impressive acts.

As a Marvel Comics nerd from way back, I’m excited for the 2014 Marvel movies. Guardians of the Galaxy should be interesting (Guardians director James Gunn made Slither, one of my favorite horror movies of the new century), and Captain America 2 looks totally badass.

Last, but definitely not least, there’s Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival. I’ve been attending since year one and have seen lots of good movies and met lots of cool people there.


BHAMFM: Finally, you have a cat named Yossarian. This isn’t really a question, I just think that shit’s awesome. If you ever get the chance to name a baby or pet again, what literary homage would you make?

Chance: I can’t take credit for naming Yossarian. That was all (my wife) Stacey. Though I totally approve of both the name and the underrated Catch-22 movie. And I am ashamed to admit I haven’t read the book. I’m always way behind on my reading, even more than my music and movies.

I am a Vonnegut fan. How about a cat named Kilgore Trout?


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