Roger Gastman’s Wall Writers closely examines the roots of the graffiti movement in New York City and Philadelphia with the help of the founders of the movement itself. What stood out about this film was that the subjects of the film itself gladly contributed to the film and even participated in the interviews.
Along with documenting the rise and impact of the graffiti movement, the film also provided a narrative to inform audiences of the impact of the movement. The movement started as children wanting to put their names on things with monikers to denote the artist behind the graffiti. “It was all about notoriety”, claimed a pioneer to the graffiti scene. Notoriety is what drove these young writers to cover their neighborhoods and their cities with their street names. But the scene blew up and newcomers arrived on the scene and stepped it farther and farther away from its roots. As the graffiti made itself more and more noticeable, the city government began to fight back with initiatives to prevent the spread of more graffiti. They allowed the writers designated spaces to let them paint and draw on like buses, murals, and rooms. The kids that started the movement identified as “writers” rather than artists, but it wasn’t until an artist appeared to them to privatize their writings. This artist sold their art for a large profit and gave them very little for it. But this was just the beginning of the movement, as director Roger Gastman said, “The graffiti scene hit other cities after the events in the film. It comes and goes in popularity. . .”
Following the screening of the film, Director Roger Gastman stuck around to answer some questions. Prior to the screening, he made it known that he himself is a graffiti artist and has had several commissioned works for large companies. Knowing that this was an area of interest to him I asked, ” Why did you feel this story had to be told?” To which he replied that the graffiti culture got its start from those people, and as time goes on the pioneers of the movement were slowly dying off and it would be harder to accurately tell the story without their side of it.