New documentary What We Started chronicles 30 years of EDM history by focusing mainly on the diverging careers of Carl Cox, one of the scene’s founders who just announced his retirement from iconic Ibiza venue, Space, and Martin Garrix, currently ranked the number one DJ in the world.
Alongside Cyrus Saidi, the doc was co-written, produced and directed by Bert Marcus, whose Bert Marcus Productions is also responsible for such films as Teenage Paparazzo, How to Make Money Selling Drugs and Champs, the latter of which was one of Netflix’s five most watched documentaries in 2015. Simultaneously, Marcus is also in production on Apollo, a film about the storied New York venue that Lee Daniels is directing. WME executive Pete Tong is executive producer and music supervisor of What We Started.
For Marcus, a key impetus for making What We Started was to educate the public on a genre he feels is unfairly criticized. “The goal for us is to tell a story that is all-encompassing, dynamic, unexpected and certainly quite entertaining,” he tells Billboard. “I believe this is a misunderstood genre with a rich and robust 30-year history and we felt it needed to be shared properly with the world.”
The film does that by “weaving through the dichotomous stories” of dance music’s underground beginnings to its present-day commercial success as EDM. Adds Marcus of Cox and Garrix: “It was important for us to choose two characters that fully represent the birth of the music and the present of the industry. They were extremely enlightening and gave us unprecedented access.”
Though Cox and Garrix are the “two leads,” Marcus notes, they are joined by a who’s who of dance music stars, including Moby, Paul Oakenfold, David Guetta, Steve Angello and Richie Hawtin, as well as well-known collaborators Usher and Ed Sheeran.
All of the music names involved enriched the project and schooled Marcus constantly. “It was amazing for me to learn everybody’s roles and how they were able to help this music come along and fight the establishment,” he says. “That’s how we came up with the title What We Started. The anecdotes are endless. I was constantly impressed by the talent of these guys and the sacrifice that these guys made.”
That support will be in full effect the film opens, says Marcus, noting that all of the talent involved have promised to participate in the campaign. There is also hope for a run of shows to coincide with the release. As of now all of that is to be determined though as the film is still being completed. “The next step of the film is we’re weighing our options,” he says. “This is the first time we’ve announced the film or talked about the film, so those are our next steps. We’re just completing the film and have whole support of our main characters and cast.”