The Unlikely Story of Dean Zimmer, 'The Mean Dean Drumming Machine'

How one musician overcame physical limitations to develop a distinctive drumming style.

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You’d never guess it, but Dean Zimmer is a whirlwind on the drums. Zimmer has arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that makes it difficult to move his joints. In the short documentary Drummer Wanted: Dean Zimmer, filmmakers Ross Harris and Stanley Gonzales follow Zimmer as he rolls through Los Angeles in a wheelchair and then proceeds to tear it up on the drums.

Harris and Gonzales live in Los Angeles and met Zimmer at a shared band rehearsal studio. “He really is just an incredibly patient and sweet guy that takes everything in stride,” says Harris. “Circumstances that would embitter just about anyone he handles with an amazing positivity.”

There’s an undeniable musicality and precision to the way Zimmer drums, the passion written all over his face. “Play from the heart!” says Zimmer. “Probably the best way I’ve found [to play] is to step out of it somehow and try to leave all the physical stuff behind.”

Harris and Gonzales work on commercial and television projects in Los Angeles and hope to continue to document more people with disabilities that are achieving their dreams. To see more of their work, visit rossangeles.net and stanleygonzales.com.

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Sam Price-Waldman is an associate video producer at The Atlantic. More

Price-Waldman's documentaries have been featured by Vimeo Staff Picks, on PBS, and at film festivals including AFI SilverDocs and Full Frame.
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