The Treat: Writer Joe Coscarelli on indie rock film ‘Dig!’

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“A movie like [‘Dig!’] just really set the tone for everything that I've wanted to do in my journalistic career,” says Joe Coscarelli. Photo credit: Zach Sokol

For New York Times culture reporter Joe Coscarelli, one of the most impactful pieces of art is the 2004 documentary “Dig!”. Filmmaker Ondi Timoner followed two underground bands, The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, for seven years as they navigated the major record label system and tumultuous interpersonal relationships while trying to make it as rockstars. 

Coscarelli cites the film as inspiration for his book, “Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story,” released in late 2022. The book focuses on the Southern city’s outsized influence on the world of rap and hip-hop. 

“When I think about what that book became, I realized that I could not have done it without ‘Dig!,’” says Coscarelli.  

Listen more: Writer Joe Coscarelli on the complex and rich Atlanta music scene

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

I found [“Dig!”] when I was in high school, and I watched it over and over again, and I continue to watch it over and over again. And I think it was the first time that I really came to appreciate the fact that you didn't have to be a musician, you didn't have to be a crazy genius like some of the characters in this movie, to make impactful work about creative fields and about music specifically. 

The immersiveness of this film … was the first time that I realized I don't have to be up on stage, which was never going to happen for me anyway,  but I could be behind the camera, I could be behind the recorder

A movie like this just really set the tone for everything that I've wanted to do in my journalistic career, which is: find interesting characters, spend a lot of time with them, and really immerse yourself in their lives and in their creative practice. 

To me, it's a companion piece to another one of my favorite documentaries, “Hoop Dreams,” which I think functions along very similar lines, which is a lot of investment in people who are not necessarily famous, not necessarily the biggest names, but people through whom you tell a specific story and get at some some universal truths. 

So “Dig!” to me: extremely influential, one of my favorite films, and probably the only documentary about two obscure … bands that spawned an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” So “Dig!,” I think, works on a lot of levels.



Rebecca Mooney