Our expectations were high, but evidently not high enough. Rolling into Thursday's Q&A, while our camera crew was preparing to meet some of Tattoo Nation's biggest names, we anticipated something along the lines of a panel - we would walk in, the stars would be arranged behind a table, someone would have a list of set questions to ask, and we would simply film the ensuing answers. Imagine the shock and elation that overtook us when we were told that we'd have individual face time with whomever we wanted. At D&E Entertainment, in Hollywood, CA, Tattoo.com was allowed to speak privately, one on one, with the biggest names in the tattoo industry.
It's like going to Oz with the humble intent of sending home a postcard, only to find that you've been granted a private audience with the Wizard, or, in this case, Wizards.
John Corry, producer of Tattoo Nation, granted us our first interview. Eager and ready, we took our place on a narrow stairwell and filmed as John spoke candidly about what he hoped his most recent project would achieve. After his tremendous success with one of his earlier films, Forks Over Knives, a documentary that made huge waves in the food service and health industry, it was great to hear John speculate over the kind of similar currents Tattoo Nation would generate within the tattoo industry.
Next up was David Oropeza, a tattoo collector featured prominently in Tattoo Nation. Don't let the intensity of his full body suit or his imposing stature mislead you - behind those thick sunglasses and stern demeanor lies a man truly in touch with his heritage - you can tell because he wears it all over his body, proudly. The designs David sports on his chest, arms, legs, back and head aren't aesthetic in nature, they aren't "cool" badges made for boasting or bragging - they are elements of a story illustrating his life's tale - the culmination of his upbringing narrated with a needle and rendered permanently in ink. Ask David about his past, about his friends and about his ink and you'll find someone as soft spoken and humble as he is sincere. We shared the elevator with David on the way up to the press floor. He's also funny as hell.
Immediately following Mr. Oropeza, we had the opportunity to meet with Don Ed Hardy himself. Get the images of t-shirts out of your head and understand what this man truly represents - the impetus for a paradigm shift in the tattoo world. Who first dubbed black and grey "black and grey" ? You guessed it. If Cartwright, Rudy and Negrete embodied a savage blade forging a new path through the tattoo industry, Hardy was the stone that honed it's edge to razor focus. One of the most articulate, modest, thoughtful, well-spoken men I've ever encountered. Just watch the footage.
Corey Miller, the narrator of Tattoo Nation and a modern tattoo icon himself, took time out to discuss his views on how far the industry has come and where it's headed, all the while ruminating on his fame within the community and how tattoos have become more prominently mainstream, all the while without ever having lost their edge. And yes, he's as charismatic as you would expect.
Last, but certainly not least, was Danny Trejo. It's a strange sight to see the brutal Machete being prepped with lights and makeup prior to an interview, but then you realize he really is the only popular actor featured in Tattoo Nation. Get past the designer suit and the jeweled Machete interior inlays and you'll find someone who has earned his reputation. To go from prison stories, to his role in Blood In Blood Out, to the wealth of films he's currently working on, it's a wonder to see someone with so much under his belt lend a relevant perspective on the new life being breathed into the tattoo community.
After the unprecedented one-on-one interviews, it was time to head to the Red Carpet. We staked our claim on the appropriate side of the velvet rope and duly recorded as celebrities and industry figureheads filed down the crimson walkway to meet our beautiful camera girl Rachel, who managed to share a few moments with each of them. Negrete. Cartwright. Miller. Rudy. Trejo. Hardy. Corry. Hendricks. Engle. We got them all. Be patient, we'll have all the footage up soon enough.
Lastly, it was time for the industry premier of Tattoo Nation…