UPDATE: As I AM will be released theatrically on May 27th at New York’s Village East cinema and June 3rd at ArcLight Hollywood. The film will expand to other cities later this year.
At his peak, Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein was a technically brilliant, genre-blasting musician who helped pioneer mash-up culture and became the first DJ to sign a million-dollar annual contract. He almost singlehandedly turned Las Vegas into a club mecca while counting Madonna, Usher, Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise as his clients for birthdays and engagement parties.
But Kevin Kerslake’s As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM, premiering tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival, also shines a light on Goldstein’s more troubled side: the psychologically fraught man and recovering drug addict who once tried to kill himself and filled the void of a broken childhood with excess in every facet of his life.
When a 2008 plane crash left the DJ severely burned, PTSD-prone and hooked on medication to help with anxiety, his once-promising career began to spiral downward. Alongside interviews with Mark Ronson, A-Trak, Paul Oakenfold, Jazzy Jeff, Steve Aoki and Diplo, As I AM features chilling audio of Goldstein giving a speech-cum-life-story to an Alcoholics Anonymous group discussing his constant battles and hopeful optimism.
Kerslake, a prolific music video director for Nirvana, R.E.M. and Green Day, among many others, spoke to Rolling Stone about AM’s past, the DJ’s “rock star” status and similarities to Kurt Cobain.
There were many different aspects to AM’s life. How did you begin approaching the film?
I had met Adam a number of times over the last few years of his life. Following his death, I furnished the family with footage for a couple of tributes and got to know them. I had lost a number of friends in the music and film industry to somewhat similar circumstances and when it’s mixed with this tonic of fame and celebrity, it just becomes pretty deadly. I said [to myself], if I could do a film that not only celebrated his talents and his place in the universe, but also illuminated so many issues in a fairly meticulous way, then potentially it would help stop the bleeding. That’s the only way it’s going to help the cause.
How familiar were you with his story when you started the doc?
The forensics of exploring different stages of his life and really uncovering a lot of material that even his best friends and family didn’t know took a lot of prodding and looking around corners that nobody had peeked around before. Straight Inc., the rehab facility he was imprisoned in, was incredibly dark and disturbing. Adam’s safety mechanism was disabled there — because in a place like that, if you ask for help, you’re punished, and it was one of the elements that did not help him later on in his life.
[For As I AM], the decision ultimately was to try to include a bit of everything in order to tell the story correctly and comprehensively. Some of the afflictions that other kids have, in terms of ADHD and OCD, those were the “outsider” kids that were put in the corner. The irony here is that the outsiders, throughout history, really moved society forward.