The first time I met David Ullman, I didn’t really like him.
It was the first day of a Media Writing course in college and like any other first day, I was sitting alone in the back, reading comics and quietly judging everyone. It was a typical college class with typical college kids. The hung-over frat boy wearing flip-flops and pajama shorts. The bookish girl who printed off the syllabus a day or two early and had already put highlighter to textbook. The stoned hipster with a thin mustache and fat headphones.
They were all there…and so was David Ullman.
I remember him sitting across the room looking like Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape with a gruff-as-hell-lumberjack charm. His eyes had a depth that seemed endless. Eyes that looked off into the distance as if he were looking into a sea of ideas; eyes that probably made chicks swoon. But not even his eyes were quite as deep as the green of his then brand new boots. I recognized him immediately—-from posters that I had seen plastered around town and the student center; glossy black and whites that showcased a lone songwriter and his guitar on stage, looking like a college town Springsteen. When I first saw them, I was jealous, and here he was in front of me now. I guess it wasn’t that I didn’t like David Ullman, it’s that I didn’t want to like David Ullman.
SEE: Vintage David Ullman show fliers: flickr.com/photos/davidullman/sets/72157625729727042/
I didn’t talk to David until we were a few weeks deep into the class. I don’t remember how, but we got into a conversation about comic books and it led us to the movie adaptation of James O’Barr’s The Crow. I love The Crow, but to say that David loves The Crow is a massive understatement. He told me about a documentary he had made about the making of the movie and it was then that the guy on the posters at the student center became the David I know now—-a wildly passionate, self-proclaimed “sad bastard” folk rocker, who, above all, is a genuine, humble-as-fuck nice guy as warm as the flannel shirts he’s always tucked away in.
Over a few semesters, we bonded over comic book movies, U2 records and a mutual love for Kevin Smith in video production classes and always talked about collaborating on a music video but it never came together before he graduated and drifted into the abysmal void of post college life where we casually kept in touch but didn’t see each other often.
Years had passed in real world stasis before we randomly bumped into each other at a live recording of a Kevin Smith podcast. David told me about his album Light the Dark and a few months later, we were plotting music video ideas on the patio of a now defunct coffee shop in my hometown of Streetsboro, OH.
WATCH: Bobby and David talking about “Wise Blood”: youtube.com/watch?v=MeOv1cYvzNg&feature=youtu.be
Over sunset and a few cups of dark roast, we beat around a lot of overly ambitious, and ultimately forgettable ideas for videos until we began to realize what David Ullman really is. He mentioned that during performances of “Wise Blood,” he had gotten so into it that he almost stomped his now thoroughly worn green boot through a wooden floor. That was it. A guy so into the music that he makes that it makes him kick through the fucking floor.
That’s certainly a dude whose foot would stomp through a music video.
That’s the concept. The earnest songsmith playing his songs the way he plays them, giving it his all. The same guy from the posters in the student center that looked like the college town Springsteen. It’s his performance that makes him him and it’s the honesty and the intensity of the performance that proves what I’ve believed since I really got to know him—if Bruce Springsteen is The Boss, then David Ullman is The Assistant Manager.
SEE: Bobby’s original “Wise Blood” concept sketch: flickr.com/photos/film_makar/14895356981/in/photostream/
That performance is like breathing for David when he’s on stage and it’s in the videos. All I had to do is point a camera at it and hit a record button.
It’s a privilege to really know David and it’s an honor to get to work with him.
Filmmaker and David Ullman fan
Pick up David Ullman’s WISE BLOOD REMIX EP: noisetrade.com/davidullman/wise-blood-remix-ep