What We Do is Secret is a moving biopic on the 70's L.A. punk rock band The Germs. The film focuses on Darby Crash's 5-year goal of becoming a punk rock legend. A legend he became, but he wouldn't make it to the five year mark… The story begins when outcast schoolmates Jan Paul Beahm and Georg Ruthenburg decide to form a band out of sheer boredom. After recruiting some of their friends, they decided the most fitting band name would be The Germs. Creative stage names would be the next step: Beahm would be called "Darby Crash", Rutherburg took on "Pat Smear". Eventually The Germs make a name for themselves as a result of their love for anarchy. Fans couldn't get enough of their reckless attitude. Unfortunately club owners had a different agenda: The Germs were constantly thrown out mid-show and subsequently banned from playing the local hot spots. All comes to a devastating end on December 8th, 1980 when Crash takes his own life. However, the tragedy was overshadowed by an even bigger event that day: the assassination of John Lennon.
Director Roger Grossman did a fantastic job at recounting the story of The Germs. He makes a point of utilizing artistic camera angles and lighting to bring back the gritty late 70's punk scene. I particularly loved the numerous interviews done with the fictional band members, which really gave authenticity to the film. In addition, his cast selection fit the bill perfectly. Shane West makes a very convincing Crash, perhaps due to his own experience as front man of the punk band Johnny Was. Bijoux Phillips does an equally great job as The Germs' bassist Lorna Doom. Also look out for appearances by The Bronx as the band Black Flag and Mae Shi as The Screamers.
There is a lot to be said about the production of this film. What We Do Is Secret had been in the making for almost a decade before its release in 2007. Grossman second guessed some of his original casting choices and was forced to re-film. Surprisingly enough, the final result was completed in only 21 days of shooting and 3 production periods! Pat Smear (the real one) was one of the producers of this film. In order to make this film as authentic as possible, Smear taught the actors how to play their instruments and had the real members of The Germs record the sound clips for the film! Since his time playing with The Germs, Smear has continued to flourish in the music scene, playing with other legendary bands such as Nirvana, and currently the Foo Fighters.
Over the years, The Germs have continued to be remembered in the punk rock scene as the founders of L.A. punk rock. Grossman does a wonderful job at bringing the chaos back to life.