Have you watered your barren farm of hope lately?
words & photos :: Lauren Graham
The first time I ever made a video for someone was for film director Spike Jonze…
Spike has made some of the best music videos of all time, and so many fucking insanely fantastic films. But this was back in 2004 and fact that Jonze’s epic film career spiked (see what I did there) from his start making skateboard videos was blowing my mind. I mean, even then he was mega talented and smart, but in the 90’s being cool enough to make skate videos was a door into music videos and then into films…it seemed possible.
First contact was through email—I think one time I had an agent (?..lol), and they gave me Spike’s email address.
I really wanted to interview Spike for my documentary about the Whiskey Snowboard Videos. (Check my story “Whiskey Dick” to read about that nightmare) So I paid a homeless man $5-$20 (I can’t remember—I really hope it was $20) to sing a song for Spike. I think we smoked a joint together after. Very hazy on that.
Commence to the email. In my 20s, I had a really bad habit of writing long emails. I even thought about naming a movie Painfully long emails to Assholes. Spike’s not an asshole, of course, but he still got a long email.
I don’t remember what I said—which I’m thankful for—but I remember the subject line…which was 100% the reason he opened it. It read:
“Have you watered your barren farm of hope lately?”
LIKE WHAT THE FUCK!?
I was so emo. BUT…it worked.
He wrote back. I also can’t remember what he wrote, but I’m pretty sure it was that he appreciated the note and video but was too busy to do the interview.
I didn’t really care. SPIKE JONZE KNEW I EXISTED. And it became a running joke for my friend Feet Banks and I to say whenever we had a dumb question: Dear Spike Jonze…Why am I so hungover? Dear Spike Jonze, Please buy me a sandwich. Dear Spike Jonze, Why am I such a loser? Etc etc etc.
Years pass and stuff happens, and I finally got to interview Spike for a documentary I was directing about Big Brother Skateboard mag (side note: this would be the 2nd doc I made to be shelved, out of my storied carreer of many shelved docs. As well, the doc about Big Brother did come out a decade later. It’s called Dumb and is on Hulu. I didn’t make it—I may have gotten some bullshit camera credit. I was too depressed & being a hater to go to the premier but I will say the director used my rough cut as his guide, so suck it director-bro. Who cares if you can skate? lol).
Anyways back to Spike. I had no idea I would ever interview him, but I was editing something at Dickhouse when Jeff Tremaine called my extension and said come to my office to do an interview for the doc (The Big Brother doc, the one that got shelved.)
I walk in completely unprepared to see Spike sitting there.
“Oh hey. Nice you meet you, I’m that weird girl who emailed you about the Whiskey doc a long time ago.” I blurt out.
Because I was always so stoned, I don’t remember what he said. But Spike is just happy and always positive in my recollection. We talked about Big Brother Magazine (which Spike worked on with Jeff— the editor.) The magazine was full of stupid shit and a little bit of skateboarding. It would go on to spawn Jackass.
The only actual conversation I really remember is that I had to say “Poocano” to Spike. (I dare you to Google “Poocano”.)
The other thing that always impressed me about Spike is how humble he is. He has no ego and always asks real questions like he actually cares. Most celebrities are super weird, Spike is an artist so he’s real.
I’d see him a few years later on the Set of Jackass 3D. He asked what I was working on. I told him a music video for Fatlip, from the Pharcyde. And he so innocently responded in his childlike voice, “Oh I made a video for Pharcyde once!”
Like uh, I know Spike (My video being an homage to his).
But that was the best part. Spike never acts like he’s better than anyone. After we spokem someone called him to set and I’m pretty sure he jumped on a BMX and rode away.
But the fun didn’t stop there. For years, I continued to email Spike Jonze asking for the DUMBEST shit ever—mostly for Kanye’s email. Bahahahahhaaha.
(Which I can proudly say I got on my own, thank you very much)
But so embarrassing regardless.
My next encounter with Spike: I’d see him at a wrap party…? I think It was for The 30 for 30 doc “The Birth of Big Air” I worked on. About BMX Legend Mat Hoffman. I had just gotten off set filming a behind-the-scenes video with Rihanna for a video sponsored by Doritos. (Side note:When my friend Lawrence & I filmed Rih for her interview she said myself and the sound girl were CUTE. RIHANNA SAID WE WERE CUTE. And yes, we screamed and high 5’d. Anyways, I digress.)
So at this wrap party, I see Spike and tell him about the Doritos video. He asked what my favorite flavor of Doritos was, and I said “Cool Ranch”.
Then him and Knoxville proceeded to mock me for a while ‘cause they thought I said I had a “cool rash.”
But anyhow, at the party I kicked back with some free Stellas and then Spike came to sit with me on a bench—A BENCH—and proceeded to tell me about a doc he thought I could direct and had referred me an artist friend of his, Sonny.
“Whatever you do, make this doc, just keep filming and don’t stop,” he said.
Whatever Spikey wants, Spikey gets.
So I meet with Sonny, who’s a crazy talented illustrator and artist. We hit it off gloriously but didn’t really work on the documentary much. We just would go for pancakes and talk about Terminator 2 a lot.
I didn’t really have any money at the time, I don’t think I had a job. And I remember emailing the producer Spike had said would help me with the film, and asking for some money.
They just wrote me back and told me to beg, borrow and steal, do whatever it took to make the movie. MMMmm ok. I can’t even afford a gun how am I gonna rob someone?
I didn’t even have money for a hard drive to copy the footage me and Sonny did get. I remember I had to throw away old footage from my earlier in my career just to back up our dumb interviews.
Then Sonny decided he was in love with me (he wasn’t, he’s just an idiot), and went mental and said we couldn’t finish the doc. I remember I was on the freeway when I got the email (I know, I know, so unsafe) and I felt like a tidal wave hit the 101. I imagined all the cars being lifted into the air from the tsunami, flipping backwards towards me as I’m swept away into my own fucking stupidity.
Maybe if I wore pants, or like wasn’t sexy? Or nice? I don’t fucking know, but this wasn’t the first or the last time this was an issue for myself and male collaborators.
But I blamed myself—as always—and said fuck this. I didn’t want to deal with that shit either.
So, I guess I let Spike down.
Sonny and tried to be friends afterwards, but he eventually sent me a dick pic which to this day I swear was photoshopped. My boyfriend at the time saw it. So that ended that. (He’s my husband now. I didn’t ever ask if he thought the dick was photoshopped. He’s still mad.)
I did end up tattooing the name of Sonny’s art show over my first husband’s name that I’d put on my arm. Which I still think is one of the funniest things I’ve ever done because now it says “I HOPE IT DOESN’T SHOW”
The idea came ‘cause Sonny and I really were obsessed the Sparks song Angst in my Pants and that’s the first line of the song.
I probably emailed Spike a few more times about dumb shit, but mostly I was just over all of it. I needed to get my life together and stop expecting Spike Jonze to help me. I actually do think I asked him to meet for coffee and he said he was booked for the rest of the year. LOL…I got the message.
But he was always so nice, and I’ll definitely invite him to my movie premier. I’m finally shooting a scene this spring so I can get financing. I was gonna fund it myself but then I realized that’s insane, and also I have no money.
Thanks for being you, Spike.
And yes, I have watered my barren farm of hope lately, and the crops lookin’ Freshhhhhhh.
Our very first staff writer, Lauren Graham heads up the Pie Quarterly Hollywood desk. Originally from Chilliwack British Columbia, she’s now based out of Los Angeles, directs films, and knows more about Guns n Roses than anyone we’ve ever met. Lauren writes about her experience with Slash’s leather jacket in her tell-all periodic newsletter Dust-Bit: Tales of a Hollywood Never-Was. Her favourite pie is strawberry rhubarb.