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Published: Friday, 11/28/2008

UT students brave mosh pits to make movie on Ohio bands

Mike Murdock, left, and Nathan Elias spent the last year filming Cinema Musica: The Heart of Ohio. Mike Murdock, left, and Nathan Elias spent the last year filming Cinema Musica: The Heart of Ohio.

You try wading into a mosh pit with a movie camera.

Elbows are flying, spit and sweat and blood are spilled, and the dancing is really just an excuse for unhinged violence. You're lucky if you get out with nothing more than a couple of bruises, much less film footage that captures the visceral visual appeal and machine gun thud of a punk band playing at full steam.

Nathan Elias and Mike Murdock have been there and back, and the results of their total immersion into Ohio rock, punk, alternative and hip-hop music will soon be on the big screen. The University of Toledo students spent the last year filming Cinema Musica: The Heart of Ohio, which they're wrapping up now. The documentary is a tribute to independent Ohio music in all its ragged glory.

"A few times I had to have him and another person kind of bodyguard me because of mosh pits and those kinds of things," Elias said, motioning to Murdock, who was sitting next to him in a Toledo coffee shop.

"There were plenty of times we thought the camera was going to get broken."

The film is in the final edit, but the trailer reveals a movie that captures the grungy vibe of live music in small clubs - noisy, energetic, and intense.

Elias, a film major from Toledo, said the genesis of the movie was when he was casually filming various bands around the city. After awhile, he had a lot of footage and wanted to turn it into something more.

"We realized it was becoming much larger than that and then we started contacting musicians throughout the state," he said.

Most of them were eager to participate in the project and Elias and Murdock, with backing from Toledo musician and businessman Chavar Dontae, began traveling all over the state, filming bands in clubs from Cleveland to Athens and everywhere in between.

A theme emerged.

"I'm taking the most valuable thing each musician said - whether it's about their experiences, their opinion on music, or their thoughts on how to record or what good music is," Elias said. "It's turned out more like a through-the-eyes-of-the-musician kind of a deal."

Toledo bands and musicians in the film include We Are the Fury, Dontae, Toddx, and Rediscover.

A big part of the inspiration for Cinema Musica was a discovery Elias made as a teenager when he first heard the now defunct Toledo band, Lollipop Lust Kill. Elias listened to their "My So Called Knife" disc over and over for months, never knowing they were from his hometown until someone told him.

"To realize that something could be so big in your head and then to realize that it's homegrown, I think that's been a big inspiration for me, not just making this movie, but for any project I want to do," he said.

Elias and Murdock are wrapping up the editing of the movie, fixing problems with the sound, and preparing to send it out to small film festivals around the country. Screenings also will be presented in the various cities throughout Ohio where the filming occurred.

Elias laughed when he was asked about their budget.

"We never had a budget; it was whatever money we had in our pocket," he said. "Every savings that I've ever had has gone into this movie."

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.

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