They knew where they were going, but didn’t know what they would find, when Brian Walker and Brianna Spause set out on the road for 19 days.
Walker and his guitar, Spause and her video camera — together they knew they had the tools to make a great documentary. All they needed was an important subject and it didn’t take long to find it.
Early in their “Storyteller’s Tour”, the duo began noticing how music venues stressed the idea of safe spaces to enjoy concerts and shows. More importantly, the people they met along the way in 18 different cities in a dozen different states from Ohio to Florida were passionate about eliminating threats of sexual assault at shows.
“Originally it was just supposed to be fun, music video material and interview people about music in community,” said Spause, a talented filmmaker who lives in the Graduate Hospital section of South Philly. “But when we started talking to people, we started hearing about safe spaces and consent and preventing sexual assault and that’s what the documentary largely became.”
The road trip took place in 2019, when weekend music concerts and small weeknight shows were still nightly attractions and getaways for people of all ages. Using Walker’s network of friends and acquaintances during previous tours as a solo artist and as a member of the band A Day Without Love, he and Spause found lodging, mapped out their journey, crammed into a Kia Hiro and sent the odometer spinning.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania was their first stop and Walker and Spause began centering their attention on safe spaces, capturing scenes and documenting interviews. The collection is appropriately named “Safe X Sound” and will debut digitally in July. A three-minute trailer can be found on A Day Without Love’s YouTube channel.
“When we went into the documentary process, we didn’t have the concept of Safe X Sound,” said Walker, a Mount Airy native. “We just wanted to understand the relationship between culture and music and how do people experience that … A lot of the communities across the U.S. are here not to just to serve as a place for bands to play music. But they are trying to serve as a place where if life took a left turn, you could always come back.”
Despite being miles away, the topic hit close to home for both Walker and Spause who are both sexual assault survivors. Spause said she was happy to see people care so much about creating safe spaces to enjoy music, but she struggled in post production, admitting she is still affected by her previous experiences. Her beautifully captured intimate moments of people enjoying music in safe environments became tough to piece together when it came time to edit.
“Going out there and seeing it happening was like, wow, people really care,” Spause said. “There was no point on the tour where I was like, I can’t handle this. But when I got home and started thinking about how necessary it is, that’s when it became difficult. We found this beautiful segment of society that cares about people and wants people to have a safe space to dance and aren’t touched without their permission. And then coming home and going through my own healing journey was difficult because the thing about PTSD and sexual assault is that your feelings are deeply buried in all these layers of negative beliefs. It wasn’t until I realized what was happening until I said to Brian that I was struggling and I can’t do this. That was really hard.”
The project grew as they incorporated editor/animator Alex Stanilla on production and Katy Galvin for design assets. It will feature Walker’s music as he playfully strums his guitar and sings along with strangers, who quickly become friends. From bars to coffee shops, art spaces to basement shows, the documentary promises to approach serious topics of inclusion and consent with the backdrop of the East Coast underground music scene.
“No concert was the same,” Walker said. “We had smaller shows and bigger shows, but people were very supportive. And it started to feel like my day-to-day by the eighth day.”
Spause was tirelessly recording all those special moments.
“Those moments were easy to capture because of how safe all the places were,” Spause said. “We had made it known that I was going to be there poking around with my camera, but just the inherent nature of how safe and intimate and comfortable it can be at a show or someone’s house where you know rules are in place so no-one gets hurt, life just unfolds.”
She admits some moments were easier to find because she and Walker were able to crash at friends’ houses rather than sleep at motels.
“The place we stayed in Kentucky was awesome because after everyone left, they showed us this cool warehouse space that was attached to the venue,” Spause said. “And we were playing the piano and dancing and singing together and riding skateboards and if we had just left and gone to hotel, we would have never gotten to know those people. The cups of coffee in the morning and the late-night conversations really adds to it.”
The goal of the documentary is to spread awareness, and perhaps help others heal the way Walker and Spause did on their journey
“I’m so excited to bring this to the world,” Spause said. “I feel like it will be a new level of healing that I hadn’t experienced yet.”