Does Sioux Falls really have interesting things that happen within the city? You bet ya’! Filmmaker Dempsey Tapley has taken on the challenge of capturing these interesting things and people in the form of film–Beware the Locals. As time ticks faster, and as we approach another lovely Sioux Falls summer, I am genuinely excited to see all of the collaborative work come together. ~Hannah
Hannah: Dempsey, where are you from?
Tapley: I am from Spencer, Nebraska, which I came from before I came here for college. Like most small towns, it’s small in population. Also, it does not have that many people. There’s also not as many people as there is here, because it is a small town.
So you have schooling, which school do you go to?
I attend the University of Sioux Falls. I am currently majoring in Elementary Education, but that’s not really connected to the project.
What is Beware the Locals?
I think, Beware the Locals is a feature-length documentary that strives to capture the inspiration and artistic excellence that makes Sioux Falls exciting. That’s what the project is.
What are influences behind your processes?
Well, I’ve seen a movie before, and after seeing a movie I was just like, “well, I bet I can make a movie.” So, that’s that. I think it’s important to keep in mind that anyone’s work is an extension of them self. As human beings, being infinite creatures, there’s infinite complexities with that work. So, anything I say should be taken in the context that it’s not the full picture. I cannot give you a complete picture of the work without you just watching it yourself. That’s obviously going to be the most effective way to get a complete picture of what I’m doing. So, anybody who’s reading this should know that these answers are inherently incomplete. They’re just my perceptions of my own work. I could give information about intention, but the most important thing about something is how it makes you feel. That’s just artwork in general.
So, the intention behind Beware the Locals is changing, it’s very fluid. I think nature of a documentary it’s more of an exploration for the filmmaker as much as it is the audience. That’s a cliché and very well-known fact about documentary film making. That you don’t know the story until you’ve filmed it all, and then you pull all the story out of it. So, I’m not done with production yet. I have an idea of what I want the story to be, and where I think the story’s heading, but I think my lack of experience along with the inherent nature of a documentary is cause for this healthy of not-knowing where it’s heading. I don’t know what the project is in its entirety yet. I can tell you what my intentions have been in the past, and those have changed. Beware the Locals was an attempt to make a film without much infrastructure. I love film making, and I got a camera. To make a documentary, kind of all you need is a camera and a can-do attitude. I think just as much as that is a reality, there’s also a lot more that goes into that. It’s definitely a growing process. This is the first film I’ve made. So, to say anything about it is just kind of exposing my own ignorance. There are other topics in this area that I want to show people, that are interesting. I think because this is a little more experimental than I would like, I wanted to stick with something that I could be experimental with and still fit with the theme.
Beware the Locals is primarily an attempt to make exploring the artistic life in Sioux Falls a palatable experience, where you can just sit down in one sitting and really feel like you get to know an entire city.
Do you have more insight on your goals for how you want the viewers to react to the finished film?
For me, something that effected me in a very personal way was growing up in a small town which art wasn’t necessarily celebrated. As it is when you have a bigger population, simply because you have more individuals to celebrate art. I come from a town of about 500 people and within those people there just wasn’t an enthusiasm surrounding art. I felt illegitimate in my form of expression. I wasn’t very social, I have the social charisma of a dead animal and the social capabilities of a tree. So when you do have that kind of creative experience, they seem like they’re isolated. I definitely did, and it was always a struggle to find people who I could relate to in these things that matter to me. To me, it wasn’t film making at the time, it was poetry and performance art. I felt like my passion wasn’t legitimate because there wasn’t an audience to legalize it. So, what I want this to be is to show individuals that may be looking for that, it is in the town that they live in. I think an audience is the main factor that legitimizes art. I want to show my audience that if you do what you do well, then people will care, and that’s valuable.
Why Sioux Falls?
Because I live here and it’s convenience.
What has been some valuable things you’ve learned throughout the making of Beware the Locals?
I think the most rewarding thing about it, on a personal level, is I’ve gained a richer and more legitimate understanding of the place in which I live. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of my city and the individuals in my city. I say it’s a city, but in reality all a city is, is just a whole bunch of individuals. So, it’s more important to celebrate the individuals that make the city greater than the city itself. There’s really interesting, passionate people in this city. It’s not just about a city being interesting, it’s about people doing interesting things in the city. So, it’s a deeper understanding of what people are doing in my geographical area that’s worthy of support and time. There are things that are interesting here. So, I want to inspire people to be interesting enough to be worth making a documentary about. I think that’s one of the things I want to accomplish with this. I think we should strive towards those things that beacon recognition for documentation.
What are you working on right now; is there anything more than Beware the Locals?
I am existing. I think, some photography, and “videography.” Directing is more of a, not a hobby, but something I can’t do full-time. As of now, I think the only project that I would want to talk about besides Beware the Locals (that’s the most interesting thing I’m doing), I’m also doing 5 Minute Artist Development with Nikko McFadden, who is a hip-hop artist in Sioux Falls. With that project it centers around the idea of answering questions that kind of artists face as they continue to figure out what they’re doing in the music industry. I think being an artist is a very scary, overwhelming thing to do. Especially because you don’t start out doing it full-time, and so it’s something that takes as much time and energy that you do full-time but it’s not something you have the resources or the ability to cultivate as well as most artists would like. So, this is just a way to aid artists on that road to cultivate excellence and create a conversation in the community in which they can find some valuable insight, or some experience, or just someone who’s going through something similar thing. I think it’s important for artists to create that kind of information sharing thing, network, and at 5 Minute Artist Development that’s kind of what we intend to do.
What are some deadlines that you have for Beware the Locals? Is there any information you want people to know about, other than what’s presented in the trailers? Where can people find you for more information?
On the street, under your bridges, and jail cells, being the asshole with a camera in a crowd of people at a concert–mostly that. If people see me it’s mostly pushing them over at a concert. You can catch me on Facebook. I don’t update the page ever, so don’t expect anything. The last few months I’ve taken a break from it. At the end of the day I’m not a professional filmmaker, and that’s not what I want to be. I have other aspirations that I think are more important to focus on. Film making is not my main passion, but I’m really excited to see the people who it is their main passion. For me it’s not though. I’m far more interested in educated people, stuff like that. So, as the summer progresses, you can just search Beware the Locals on Facebook. There’s going to be some really exciting announcements as to where it’s going to be played, and stuff like that. There’s several venues where you might get the chance to see it. One of those might be a potluck, which I’m excited about.
Oh! Another thing with documentary film making and interviews in general, is the charming aspect of it. So, I am kind of a really aggressive introvert. There are people who say that because they think it makes them cool, and there are people who say that because it’s really inconvenient and it affects their everyday life in a negative way. I’m the last one. So, it’s really interesting for people to put up with my awkwardness in an interview. If you are a charming person who is above a six, you are already 98% way to be a documentary filmmaker.