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Freshman filmmaker directs documentary for downtown venue

Josef Rodriguez documentary
Film freshman Josef Rodriguez stands in front of The Trunk Space, the subject of his most recent documentary, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in downtown Phoenix.

The Trunk Space, a downtown venue providing an outlet for new artists, actors and playwrights, celebrated its 11th anniversary on April 10 with 500 songs performed in a row. 

Over the course of three days, film freshman Josef Rodriguez filmed the experience for his documentary, “Indie 500.”

As a young boy, Rodriguez struggled with stuttering and failed to get his message across clearly. In an attempt to help, his mother gave him his first guitar in 2005.

“I was always a very communicative person, so I was looking for a way to get my words and thoughts in my head out,” Rodriguez said. “At a certain point, I played all the time and started to write songs. And they were bad at first, but eventually, it became something really real.”

Rodriguez said the Trunk Space inspired him to perform his first show at the age of 14.

“I played 15 minutes," Rodriguez said. "It was terrible, obviously. I was so scared actually that I had my friend up on stage with me, just to make me feel better. Now I’m on stage probably twice a week.”

He has come a long way since his first performance, and his third studio album, “This is Too Much Pressure” will be released Thursday. While the first two albums, “Home Recordings” and “No Gin Oligarchy,” fell into the “folk” category, Rodriguez, who goes by Josef Henry on stage, strives to not put a genre label on his music.

“For this album coming out this week, it’s kind of '80s, pop music,” Rodriguez said. “It’s so not what the first two were and that’s totally OK. I don’t necessarily want to have a style I’m known for. I want to keep expanding and experimenting.”

During his first few years of performing, he joined a film club at his school solely because he loves movies. After years of shooting, the Tribeca Film Festival accepted his film submission during his senior year of high school.

Shortly after, during a visit to Phoenix, Rodriguez heard about the three-day show at the Trunk Space and said he spontaneously decided to repay the venue for their generosity by combining his two passions through a documentary.

“I was thinking, ‘Thirty six straight hours of music? That could never work. I should film this,’” Rodriguez said. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. It was a true testament of human will just to see it happen.”

He said his goal was not only to showcase the various types of artists, but also to point out the mood and purpose of the space. The Trunk Space, which is located near ASU’s downtown campus, offers college students a creative outlet with its no alcohol policy.

“You don’t have to be at the stage and watching the show,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not that kind of place. I don’t know many places that are like that, where it nurtures that creative kid inside you. I think that the people who are always there are a community and I wanted to capture how they all interact and what makes this place unlike any other in Phoenix.”

Because volunteers run the Trunk Space and tickets sell for at most $10, Rodriguez said he hopes his documentary will share the raw, welcoming emotion that the venue exudes.

“When I started, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Rodriguez said. “I knew that I was OK with a camera and could make it happen. I will say I wish I had more equipment to work with. But I think that all of the stuff that made this production so cheap is also what made it so interesting. “

Trunk Space owner Stephanie Carrico said a positive exposure that featured a one-of-a-kind show appealed to her.

“I know there have been a lot of festivals and long shows but I knew that a show that lasted two and a half days was not something you hear of happening very often,” Carrico said. “I knew the whole thing was going to be crazy and unpredictable and we would end up sleep-deprived lunatics by the end, but I was happy that he committed to following through on bringing it to fruition.”

With a show this extensive, Rodriguez’s friend, graphic design junior Ariel Shamas, offered to assist in filming, editing and cutting the documentary down to a reasonable length.

“Josef is the complete package when it comes to filmmaking,” Shamas said. “He has a vision, and the ability to make it happen. His films are human; they portray events and ideas in a very real way, the way that you might process them as you live them or you might see them in your memory.”

Those interested in watching the premiere of "Indie 500" can visit the Trunk Space Thursday and purchase Rodriguez's latest album.

Reach the reporter at or follow @natalieorr19

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