Doug McCorkle shines in ‘I’m an Electric Lampshade’

Provided by Doug McCorkle
Provided by Doug McCorkle

Doug McCorkle, a buttoned- up, mild-mannered corporate accountant, decided to be a rock star at age 60. I’m An Electric Lampshade, hitting the festival circuit this September and October, is his story.

I’m An Electric Lampshade is a joyous, heart-warming and offbeat docu-narrative adventure starring Doug McCorkle, who retires at age 60 to become the world’s least likely rock star. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction as Doug puts his marriage, life savings and reputation on the line to chase his lifelong fantasy. An inspiring underdog story about finding your unique voice — I’m An Electric Lampshade is a film that proves it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. 

Check out my interview with Doug!

What kind of started you on this journey in not only becoming a rock star but also filming your process?

Doug: That’s a great question. The whole thing started when I did a music video for my supervisor’s retirement party back in 2014. I had never sung or danced before. It was the first time I did it, but I wanted to do something that was different. Most retirement parties are pretty boring affairs, and I got a standing ovation. It was a complete surprise for the person who was retiring, and I caught the bug. The choreographer for that original music video was John Clayton Doyle, who is the writer and director of I’m An Electric Lampshade. He and I continued to work together and for our next project, we were going to make a short film, but over the course of four and a half years. The film just grew and grew and grew in size and became what you see today.

What was it like switching gears and going from one thing to a completely different thing?

Doug: Oh, well, it completely took me outside of my comfort zone. It was scary, but it was also invigorating. I mean, one of the wonderful things about doing this is, in the accounting world and in the corporate world the people that you work with are pretty similar and so when you step outside and you go into this creative world, you meet people that you never would have had the chance to meet in your life. That was one of the most wonderful things. Their creativity, their vitality, their optimism, it was just so cool. It’s infectious. And I think that’s what made the film as great as it was because I was working with so many amazing people.

Provided by Doug McCorkle
This film was also a lot wilder than I expected it to be, was your first impression of the finished film?

Doug: It went beyond my wildest dreams. I just think the quality of it, we had a great post production team and so, you know, when you add the color, when you add the sound, when you have a great editor, Rachel Webster was our editor, it just came together magnificently. And, even for me, watching it, it’s just such an amazing journey and that’s what I really enjoy about it. 

This is not a documentary, it’s a docu-narrative. Can you just explain what that means?

Doug: Sure. So, part of the film is a true documentary. The beginning scenes in the film with me as a corporate accountant, the retirement party, where I retired from the company I work for, they’re all real. Other parts are real too, like the training montage where I’m working with dancers and performance coaches, that’s all real. My wife’s mental illness is real. Doug learning to be a performer, behind the scenes is real. But there are parts of the film that are John Clayton Doyle’s creative ideas. Sin Andre’s finishing school is not a real school, for example, in the Philippines. And certain other parts of the film are fictional, there are portrayals of the journey that Doug really went on but they aren’t in true documentary fashion. They don’t fit the bill. That’s why it’s called a documentary narrative.

You referred to yourself in the third person, is the Doug in the film different from you? Is he his own character? 

Doug: Well, for me, when I look at the film, that is really me. And since I’m not a professional actor, the dialogue that I’m portraying in the film is really me. I just find that when I talk about the film, I talk about Doug’s journey because the journey is this documentary narrative. The journey that Doug goes on isn’t my real journey, in real life. Like I said, Sin Andre’s school is not a real school. I think that’s why I use the third person and I talk about it in that way. But the transformation that Doug went through, I did look like that nerdy corporate accountant when the film started out, originally, that was really what my hair used to look like. And how I look now is part of the transformation. So that’s all real.

I like that you mentioned the nerdy accountant. What were people’s reactions to seeing you before and then seeing you now?

Doug: I’m laughing because I’ve been getting mixed reactions. Close friends and my wife, Gina, they love it. They continue to say, ‘God, I really can’t believe that you’re ‘60-whatever’ because you don’t like it and you don’t act like it.’ And that’s just a really cool thing. There were certain family members and certain people that knew me that looked at me and said, ‘what’s with the hair? What’s with the earrings? What’s with the different clothes? What happened?’ There was one person who said, ‘What happened to you anyway?’ You get different reactions. The fact that I love it and the fact that my wife loves it and the fact that close friends love it, that’s more than enough for me. The naysayers can be the naysayers, it’s fine.

Provided by Doug McCorkle
So, the title of this film is I’m An Electric Lampshade and that’s also the song that you perform throughout-

Doug: Actually the name of the song is “Hooked on Me” but ‘I’m An Electric Lampshade’ is the very first lyric in the song and it’s also the very first lyric that I ever wrote, as a songwriter. So, when we talked about what would be the appropriate title for the film, John Clayton Doyle suggested I’m An Electric Lampshade right away. We bounced around some other ideas but nothing really stuck, except for I’m An Electric Lampshade. And when you watch the film, it kind of fits because it’s the transformation of Doug from nerdy accountant to performer. I mean, what else could it be but an electric lampshade?

I was going to ask where that came from.

Doug: Well, I was working with one of my vocal coaches, at the time, Gilleon does some songs. And, you know, we were, we were, she said I want you to try to create some lyrics, she said, ‘don’t even think about it, just say the first thing that comes to your mind.’ and I don’t know, all of a sudden, right out of my mouth came, ‘I’m an electric lampshade’ and Gilleon just started laughing hysterically and she said, ‘I love that, that’s so good!’ And it just stuck. It just popped out of my mouth, spontaneously. I don’t know where it came from.

Provided by Doug McCorkle
Do you write all of your songs?

Doug: No, John and I collaborated on all of them. Some of the songs he wrote, like “Another Look,” that’s in the film, he wrote the lyrics and we all worked on the music for it. It was a collaborative effort on the songs. 

You mentioned earlier that this really brought you out of your comfort zone, what were some of the challenges you faced in this process?

Doug: Learning to be a performer, was, of all the things that I did, was probably the most challenging thing. I worked with a performance coach named Robin Dunn. Robin also appears in the film as my performance coach, and it took us over a year to really find Doug’s performance style that worked. She always kind of knew in her mind where I needed to go but, boy, I’m telling you, trying to get there was just rough. There were many times when, after coaching sessions and practice sessions, I’d come home and go, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m gonna get this.’ But we did, we got there. It was an absolutely amazing moment. I’ve got to give Robin a lot of credit. She really stuck with me and she kept pushing me and we finally got there which was absolutely fantastic.

Was it a lot of trial and error?

Doug: Yeah it was a lot of trial and error. We would try something and I mean, being a nerdy accountant and being a little more of an introvert than an extrovert, putting yourself out as a performer and being vulnerable, is pretty scary. Even when you’re performing in front of your performance coach and maybe a couple other people, it’s scary. But you’ve got to really step outside yourself. Like I said, get outside your comfort zone and just go for it. 

Provided by Doug McCorkle
You also wore quite a bit of costumes, what was it like taking Doug and putting him in these different costumes?

Doug: It was a pretty wild experience, I have to tell you. I remember when I was first putting them on, they brought them out and we tried them on to see what worked and what didn’t… And you know sometimes you put them on and you look at yourself in the mirror and go, ‘god, is that really me?’ I mean, it’s pretty amazing. But, it’s all part of the fun and it’s all part of the transformation. And, in the end, I really enjoyed it. Some of the costumes were pretty uncomfortable. When they tighten the corset for the drag performance, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to breathe at one point, I just said, ‘will you stop! I can’t feel my ribs anymore!’ And when they put me into the rope outfit for the live performance, and bound me all up, I can’t say that was particularly comfortable, but, now that you look at it on film, it all looks great.

Did you have a favorite costume?

Doug: Yeah. Although it was really uncomfortable, I really liked the drag costume. It took a while to figure out exactly what I was going to wear, I mean, we tried wigs and all that stuff and we ended up sticking with the bald look. And after looking at it, when you first see it on film, I was like, ‘wow, man, I look pretty good.’ That ended up being my favorite costume. I am in the live performance. 

What’s next for you? Are you going on tour, are you going to have music coming out?

Doug: That’s a good question. Right now, we’re still focused on the film because it’s doing a film festival circuit right now. It will continue to be in film festivals, probably through sometime in November, is what we’re expecting. Then we need to figure out a way to get it out there so that everybody can see it, so then we’re going to be working on distribution. That’s my principal focus now. Once we get that all settled down, then we’ll have to see. There’s been discussion about putting out an EP with some of the original music, maybe letting some DJs have some fun with the original music and making some DJ tracks with it. Whether I go on tour, or what my next adventure will be, is to be determined. We’ll see. But after doing this, you realize that hey, ‘you’re never too old to try something new.’ So we’ll see what happens.

Is there anything else that you’d like to say about your movie or your music?

Doug: The journey that Doug goes through is meant to be an inspirational journey and I hope that the movie inspires people. Maybe they won’t go out and make a film or become a performer, but I do truly hope that if people watch the film, that they walk out and say, ‘well, that was pretty far-fetched and that was pretty amazing that he became a performer. I’m not going to do that, but maybe I should try to do this thing that I’ve always talked about doing and have just kept putting off.’ And if people get inspired to do that, then we’ve been successful with this film.

Provided by Doug McCorkle
I’m An Electric Lampshade is currently embarking on a widescale festival run this fall across North America. It’s next stop is the San Diego International Film Festival and there will be more screenings announced soon!