If you were to have asked director Don Argott as a child what he wanted to be when he grew up, the occupations astronaut, fireman, cowboy or even superhero would have never entered his mind. For Argott, it was all about being a rock star.
“I have been a musician my whole life,” Argott told me via phone from Austin. “I always wanted to be a rock star. I felt that was what I was going to be. Obviously, that didn’t work out.”
Instead, Argott, now 32 years old, decided to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia to pursue a career in his life’s only other passion – filmmaking.
With “Rock School,” Argott’s first feature documentary, the young boy that grew up listening to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin can now relive his dreams of becoming a musician – even if he’s doing it vicariously.
In “Rock School,” a sort of real life “School of Rock,” which starred Jack Black in 2003, Argott, who is credited as director, producer and cinematographer, follows a group of 7-19 year-old kids who are enrolled in the Paul Green School of Rock Music, a Philadelphia after-school music program. Known for his unconventional teaching methods, Green, the school’s founder, is an in-your-face instructor whose uses insults and his fair share of expletives to inspire his young protégés to play everything from Carlos Santana to Pink Floyd to Frank Zappa.
Although many people might find Green’s techniques too extreme as he repeatedly breaks kids down emotionally and builds them back up again, it’s the type of motivation that Argott said kids need these days.
“Whether you agree with his message or not, the results kind of speak for themselves.,” Argott said about the many talented students that attend the music school. “Everybody is so afraid to take any chances and light a fire under kids’ asses. There is so much coddling and there’s a lot of kids that are not inspired because everyone is just so careful with them. I liked the fact that Paul pushes them and basically doesn’t say, ‘You’re really great.’ He says, ‘You suck!’ and it’s because a lot of them do suck.”
Despite Green’s tantrums, at the end of the day, Argott wants audiences to know that the film’s lead characters are still the kids.
“These kids were so much fun to be around,” Argott said. “I was so inspired on a personal and artistic level that I would go home after a day of shooting and pick up my guitar and would just want to practice because these kids were so much better than I was.”