Growing Up Gough 

Local filmmaker gets back to his roots

The only thing Michael Gough ever really wanted to be when he grew up was a filmmaker.

"I have wanted to make movies since I was 9 years old," Gough confesses. "I just didn't know how to get there."

But wherever that nebulous "there" is that Gough has been trying to reach since childhood, he's certainly headed in the right direction. When Boise Weekly spoke with Gough in the summer of 2005, shooting was wrapping up on his first feature-length film Autumn Angel, a psychological thriller about a young man named Adam, living through a curse that's followed his family for five generations. In January 2006, Autumn Angel made its world premiere at the Egyptian Theatre to a sold-out house.

"I worked on Autumn Angel for four years," says Gough. "It was really hard because I didn't know what I was doing. The premiere was a success, and after that, we toured it around, but it didn't make any festivals." Like any first attempt, making Autumn Angel was a valuable learning experience for Gough and, says the filmmaker, one of the best things to come out of the film was his name.

Whether it was serendipitous or just well-timed planning, the film's premiere coincided with the Idaho Legislature's 2006 vote on a tax rebate bill that would benefit the media and movie industry. Suddenly, film industry advocates like Rep. Jana Kemp, co-chair of the Idaho Film Task Force and sponsor of the bill, were promoting Gough's movie throughout the Northwest in an effort to gain support for the bill.

Once the film's buzz fizzled, Gough went to work on Gregory Bayne's film ibid, continuing his movie-making education while working as a grip, a gaffer, an equipment hauler and an actor. After ibid wrapped, Gough took an internship with the Boise-based Priddy Brothers production company under the direction of brothers Ed and John Priddy (39 Pounds of Love, 51 Birch Street and Purple State of Mind, which screened at True West Cinema Festival earlier this month).

In January 2007, Gough went to New Orleans as the production assistant for a Priddy Brothers' documentary and performed a variety of duties from lighting to grip work to on-site accounting. For Gough, that internship proved to be the launching point for his next project (and a first with his new company F Stop Productions), a documentary about the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps based out of Casper, Wyo.

"I hadn't been much for documentaries before working with Priddy Brothers," says Gough, "But I learned so much from that experience that I started formulating my ideas about making my own documentary."

Gough thought about what it was that had enabled him to go from being a kid who wanted to make movies to being the 24-year-old who did it for a living. The Troopers was his answer.

Founded in 1957, the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps is a nationally touring and competing elite marching band with 135 musicians ages 15 to 21 who spend rigorous 16-hour days during the summer practicing and performing while traveling to 21 states. Known as "America's Corps" for their patriotic uniforms and musical style, the Troopers have performed at professional sporting events, as well as at the 2001 presidential inaugural parade and, prior to that, for presidents Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. Gough was himself a Trooper from 2000 to 2004, including two years as drum major.

"It was because of the Troopers that I had the maturity to pull off Autumn Angel," says Gough. "Thanks to the corps, I had the leadership ability and the organizational skills to put a movie together."

When the Troopers shut down after the 2005 season due to financial mismanagement, its fans and former members—including Gough—thought the corps had reached its definitive end. However, only a year later, the corps was resurrected just in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary. That's where Gough and his latest project come in.

"After my experience in New Orleans, I asked myself how I could make a documentary about a drum and bugle corps that doesn't make them look like a bunch of band nerds running around all summer." Gough decided the best way to capture the corps at its core, wiped clean of all the stereotypes that accompany marching band, was to spend the entire 2007 season touring with the corps to capture those transcendent raw moments that make the corps a family for those who participate.

With a self-imposed May 1 deadline, Gough formulated a plan to film the documentary, hired two assistants (one for the camera and a second for the audio), and pulled in a hefty sum of funding at the last minute from his close friend, and well-known honkytonk musician, Pinto Bennett (who was also Gough's largest financial backer for Autumn Angel).

"Before Pinto, I really didn't think it was going to happen," admits Gough. "I thought I was going to have to squeeze it in to one or two weeks, but I really wanted to experience the tour start to finish. I wanted to go deep into the emotions of the group, and I knew that I could capture more emotion if I was there from beginning to end."

Gough and his crew of two followed the Troopers throughout the season, which ended August 9 in Pasadena, Calif., at the Drum Corps International World Championships Quarterfinals. (En route to California, the Troopers stopped in Boise on July 31 to compete in Boise State's Thunder in Boise.) And by the end of the three months on tour, Gough says what he's filmed is definitely more than a bunch of band nerds.

"I became friends with these kids. I built up a trust with them and with that, emotionally speaking, they would let anything happen in front of the camera," he says. "It's a comeback story for the corps, and I think I captured humanity at its best."

As for a working title? America's Core. Spelling very much intended.

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