The grunge era is famed for stars who didn’t survive. The documentary Hit So Hard tells the story of one who did—but only just. Drummer Patty Schemel joined Hole after auditioning in 1992—leaving a steady job at Microsoft, to her mother’s horror—and stayed with the band until 1998. During that time she took a Hi-8 camera with her on tours, and into the house she briefly shared with Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, who became a good friend. It’s this footage, giving backstage insight into a circle hooked on drugs including meth and heroin, that forms the film—as well as interviews with Schemel and music industry friends, family, Courtney Love and other band members.
Schemel, who comes across as funny and likeable, started using alcohol and drugs from age 12, while experiencing the difficulties of growing up as a lesbian in a small town. By 1994 she was “strung out” on heroin; Cobain’s suicide that April prompted the first of her 11 rehab stints. As soon as she emerged that June, Hole’s bassist Kristen Pfaff suffered a fatal OD. Subsequent wild tours exacerbated Schemel’s substance problems. But it was after being cut from the recording of the Celebrity Skin album in 1997, her work rejected by a ruthless producer, that she hit rock bottom and “went to crack and heroin island for a long time.” She lived on the streets once her money ran out, stealing and even selling her body to score. Her eventual recovery—she’s now six years clean—was aided by the Musicians’ Assistance Program. These days she runs a dog daycare business in LA, where she lives with her wife and daughter, and also works to inspire more young girls to be drummers. Hit So Hard is directed by P. David Ebersole and hits theaters from April 13.