Michael Cain on His Dallas Documentary ‘The Starck Project’

Michael Cain

Michael Cain is a documentary filmmaker and the director of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize Winner TV Junkie. Cain is seeking funding through Kickstarter to acquire music licensing for his new documentary, The Starck Project.

“Scientists have proven music evokes memory. They say if you remember the ’80s, you weren’t there.” The Starck Project can help you remember.

Almost three years into the making of this documentary, I have come to learn we all have a story to tell. Many of us share common experiences yet our lives are very different. We can be jettisoned back to a place, a time, or an experience by just hearing a few beats of a song.

For a particular group of individuals music takes them back to a time where they shared an intense and common experience at the infamous Starck Club. Their memories are interwoven through an inextricable bond. They are Starckers.

In 1982, a visionary Dallas entrepreneur, Blake Woodall, collaborated with the obscure French designer Philippe Starck to build the best nightclub in the world. A desolate and abandoned brewery building in Dallas was chosen as the club’s site. Their team was certain they could create magic in this barren wasteland, which at the time was occupied only by dirt, debris, and chickens!

The Starck Club now resides in the annals as one of the most famous and exotic nightclubs in the world alongside New York’s Studio 54 and Manchester’s Hacienda. The Starck Club turned a cheek to the conservative ideals of 1980s Dallas and created an environment free of the judgment, pressure, and cultural expectations of the time. The club also became a Mecca for rock stars, movie stars, fashion designers, and politicians. It was also the hub of legal ecstasy in the world.

Unbeknownst to me, the seeds of The Starck Project were planted in 1986 when two Starckers, Wade Hampton and myself, shared a common experience. While we frequented the club at the same time, our lives didn’t intersect until 25 years later at the Sundance Film Festival when a mutual friend introduced us as “two people with a Starck script.”

After a year of suspicion went by we grew to trust each other and actually came together to make a documentary film, TV Junkie, which was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, premiered on HBO, and was part of the Governor’s Award Winning Addiction Series at the Emmy’s.

Wade and I soon realized we shared a passion for bringing the story of the Starck Club and its influence on rave culture and modern electric dance music to a worldwide audience. At first we wrote scripts and then we set out to make a second documentary—the Starck Project, which we announced at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. We were blessed to bring on co-director Miles Hargrove, whose love of music pushed this story to new heights, and award-winning producers Melina McKinnon and Dennis Bishop.

We have always known we would tell this story through music and that the images on the screen would complement the emotion and story arc created by the music. The question was, which music would most accurately represent the era and the Starckers’ common experiences?

Fortunately for us, the music of the time was mostly discovered and brought to us by Sire Records and the incredible talents of Seymour Stein, who not only discovered the hallmark bands of the ’80s but also coined the term “New Wave.” When co-producer Tom Huckabee brought Seymour, Andy Paley, and Risa Morley into the film, reality blew far past our original expectation and our budget—thus, Kickstarter!

Next, we defined the story based on the collective recounts of the Club’s founders, employees, patrons, and competition. Our crews travelled to Europe and across America to shoot over 120 interviews in an effort to establish the essence of the story.

The likes of Philippe Starck, New Order’s Peter Hook; Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club’s Chris Frantz; and Book of Love’s Susan and Ted Ottaviano, Paul Oakenfold, Jason Bentley, Edwige Belmore, Tef Foo and DJ Tommy Sunshine are just a few of the amazing characters who have helped weave the story together.

Some 17 terabytes of footage later, we’re still on the journey to deliver that special place to those who lived it and those who will never get the chance to know a time before cellphones, AIDS, and Facebook. A special time when a friend wasn’t someone you just liked and followed online, but someone who was bonded to you by experiences and the music you shared forever.

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