Seeing as how Ilona is needed more now than ever (just listen to any interview with the horrifying Rick Santorum), she will begin tweeting her thoughts on daily events. You can follow her here.
(It’s been a week…sorry about that, besides being on the road, I had to create an M&E for Friends With Benefits. That’s a music and effects track for foreign sales, which will allow for dubbing. But since most all of our sound was recorded live, all of the effects are surrounded by dialog. It basically meant I had to go in and pull or re-create every sound in the film, i.e. when Shirley puts a glass down on the bar, we need to hear the glass touching the bar, and not whatever Shirley might be saying. Tedious, so say the least. It was sort of like having your away-at-college kid show up unexpectedly for a weekend visit, and damn if you hadn’t turned their room into a music room, or screening room, or whatever your pleasure. Unexpected, but still you realized it was nice to see the brat.)
Ok…time to get sidetracked, as I was just in Cleveland for a few last minute cmo interviews and I finally had the opportunity to visit the rock n roll hall of fame, and ok, look, the Springsteen section was amazing, to see his old Tele (the one from the cover of Born To Run) was like seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night for the first time. Goddamn, did I want to touch it. The blacken neck gave me goosebumps. Every crack in the body’s finish seemed to bleed rock and roll. In my opinion it’s the most important guitar of all time. And I feel honored to have stood in its presence.
And look, sure it’s a gorgeous building, right on the lake, etc., and so forth…but we’ve all seen museums before. This one is supposed to be special! But aside from the Springsteen exhibit, which was inspiring (and the Bowie and Les Paul’s original electric displays as well), I was left wanting more. A LOT MORE. And y’know why? The punk section was closed because of remodeling, so no Clash, no Costello, no Sex Pistols, NO REPLACEMENTS, and yet I would still see shit like Steven Tyler’s or Stevie Nicks’ stage costumes, and countless FM radio crap, that all fell into the same genre. I’m sure that whomever creamed over the Lynyrd Skynyrd display likewise gushed over the ZZ Top. They were covered. But to put the most important movement in rock on the back burner because of remodeling. Fuck! Kill the goddamn Doors display. Or does anyone really care about Pink Floyd’s The Wall? Obviously, the powers that be at the Hall of Fame are as biased as the reporters on Fox News. And as always, the smart minority gets fucked. (Really now, you couldn’t have found room for even a hint of punk? Shame on you!)
Supposedly the remodeling will be complete in 2012, so anyone thinking of visiting should wait.
Ultimately was as the Hall of Fame disappointing? Yes. But would I go back? Sure, I’d give it one more chance to get it right.
My main issue with IndieGoGo.com (aside from how it’s now copied everything great about KickStarter) honestly stems from seeing one of its founders speak at a conference a while back in NYC. He was speaking about selling dvds, and why would anyone want to go with a distributor where sure you might sell 10,000 copies, but only receive $1 per unit, when you could sell them yourself, perhaps sell only 1,000 copies, but receive $10 per unit? To him it was still a profit of $10K, but you only had to move 1,000 units to get there.
I argued from the audience that his notion was idiotic. As an artist you wanted to build an audience, and it was certainly better to have 10,000 people buy your dvd as opposed to one tenth that number. NO MATTER THE PROFIT. That no one making an indie film was getting rich, but that we were hopefully developing a fan base. And certainly 10,000 fans was better than 1,000 fans. A number of people in the audience got it. He didn’t.
If you got into this business to make money, please leave now. There are enough whores in the entertainment industry. But if you’re here because you believe you have a story to tell, a story you have to tell, you will find your audience (or your audience will find you), and perhaps a fan base and career will eventually grow out of your passion.
(I once had an argument with another writer who explained he was livid whenever he found one of his books in a used book store, to which I replied, I loved seeing my books in used book stores, that it was certainly better than the original owner tossing it, and it might turn someone new into a fan, someone who might not be able to buy books at full price. He didn’t understand. All he cared about was the royalty he would not be receiving.)
This is art, not product. And the moment you become more concerned with the profits you make on each unit sold versus reaching out and touching someone new, well then, yes, you have become another entertainment industry whore.
Somehow almost a year went by, as I needed to finish up the tax credit paperwork (don’t get me started) for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), complete the film, do the sound mix, begin submitting to film festivals, then actually hit the road on the festival circuit. (I could blog about that, but instead watch the amazing indie film OFFICIAL REJECTION, and you’ll learn more than you will ever need to know about film festivals.)
But in August 2009 I posted an ad on Craigslist stating that I was looking for a co-producer. I got one worthwhile response from Jim Leftwich, who not only wanted to learn about production but was a huge fan of The Replacements. We sat down over pizza at Pepe’s and hashed it out. Jim would work the East Coast interview schedule.
I believe Adrian Correia, my cinematographer on FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) had always been on board. I had been turning Adrian on to new bands since hiring him to shoot that last film. Despite no up-front pay, Adrian jumped at the chance to work on CMO.
Sarah, Jan, Jim, Adrian…that was my crew at the start. It would change as we moved along…but for now, everything clicked.
And…yes, no up-front pay. Everyone including myself would own a chunk of the back end. If the film did well, we all did well. I did not want to spent months (or more) looking for investors. I didn’t want to do all this work on another film, and then when it finally sold not see a dime. And luckily a new web startup would help me achieve that goal.
The last interview of that first day was with Randy Ellis, down at a great old record shop, The Record Collector Store, in Bordentown , NJ. Randy booked the infamous City Gardens in Trenton, NJ. And one show in particular, known on bootlegs as The Late Bob Show, would eventually play a small but entertaining role in the film, as people came forward with very different, very funny, stories about what happened that night.
We conducted three interviews that first day, Saturday, November 21, 2009. Me, cinematographer Adrian Correia, and co-producer Jim Leftwich in my Jeep Liberty. We used a Canon XHA1 as our A-camera, and a Canon HV-20 as our B-camera, everything a two camera shoot, giving me the option to trim a story when necessary. The microphone was an Audio-Technica AT897, on a stand with boom, cabled directly into the XHA1, which itself was on a set of Manfrotto sticks. Adrian hand-held B-cam. Jim took notes. I asked the questions.
Then after what had to be a 12 hour day of shooting and driving, we headed back through the worst traffic I’d ever seen on the Jersey Turnpike. But it didn’t matter. I was already beginning to edit the film in my head.
Jack Rabid. He popped my documentary cherry. I had never interviewed anyone on film before. And honestly it had been over 25 years since I’d interviewed anyone at all. (My past as a music “journalist,” using the word lightly, creeps up.) So well-spoken, he recanted tales of this band that I so loved. This band that had probably saved my life, more than once. I wasn’t alone. There was other intelligent life on this otherwise seemingly barren planet. (Musically barren, at least. And I was in Brooklyn, currently home to the worst rock scene the galaxy’s ever known.) He talked about their first NYC gigs, the first time he heard the song Hootenanny, and concluded (as you can see in the first trailer), “Sure, they were just a band. But weren’t the Rolling Stones just a band?”
And listen, I know from a sales and cultural viewpoint, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan should stand alone. But they don’t. There’s a fourth member to that elusive group. And here’s why. The Replacements rocked harder than the Stones ever could, they epitomized what rock always was, always would be. They could out fuck-you Mick and company to a laughable degree. Likewise, Paul, Tommy, Bob, and Chris had personalities as distinct as John, Paul, George, and Ringo. And like that band, they could break your heart one minute, then rock your soul the next. And as great as Dylan was with the word-play, Paul Westerberg could beat him at what was seemingly his game any day of the week.
They were just that good. Perhaps this film will help everyone understand that.
This is the two year anniversary of one of my saddest days. The day my dog Kilgore Trout died. I don’t think a day has passed since in which I haven’t missed the way he always made me laugh. I even had him tattooed to my forearm, so on dark days his face would peek out over my sleeve and crack me up. What follows (below the photo of my tattoo, and the shot of Kilgore which inspired it) is one of the best thing I feel I’ve ever written…certainly the most heartfelt. I present it again as originally written. Hug your pet, grab a box of tissues and read on…
A tumor the size of a grapefruit. I saw it on the x-ray, filling the space between his liver, his spleen, and his stomach. Perhaps encroaching on his lungs as well. Suffocating Kilgore Trout from the inside out.
At first we thought it was a reaction to Previcox. A drug given to him just about four weeks ago to help with his hips. He was having the worst time walking, this glorious pup who would jump, would bounce, like on a trampoline whenever he saw me.
(watch the clip that now opens my website as proof…it’s 45 seconds that will make you smile.)
At first the drug did wonders, until he stopped eating, starting vomiting. Side effects all, so many serious side effects. How could this fucking killer pill be on the market?
I am angry. I am seething. I know Previcox did not kill my dog, but it certainly didn’t help there in the end. A shot of Pepcid did for a while. But still the appetite nowhere near the vacuum cleaner-like enthusiasm with which he used to eat. Less and less every day. And the vomiting returned. Bile, from his mostly empty stomach.
More Pepcid. But it didn’t seem to help this time. Finally a trip to the vet. You could see it in her face as she checked him stomach. Perhaps we should get him x-rayed…now. The normally busy hospital would take us NOW.
So I dropped my wife at home so she could tend to our other dog, and drove Kilgore down to Central Hospital in New Haven. It was quick. He sat by my feet afterwards as I waited on word. The receptionist said the vet wanted to speak with me. She gave me the news. None of it good.
How long does he have? I asked. A few days, was the response. Or perhaps to the beginning of next week. (This was a Thursday.) The x-ray technician showed me the tumor. It was massive. All encompassing. There was nothing to do but make him comfortable during his last few days.
But a small meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken pulled from a breast was all he could manage. A few strips of it really. And a little water to follow. That would be his last meal. My dog who could eat anything and everything, from a full edition of the Sunday New York Times to financial magazines (he especially loved to “tear into” MONEY and KIPLINGER’S) to, well…anything he could find in the yard., gross or not.
Whenever I put a 12-pack of beer away, he’d wait patiently, then snatch the empty box as I pulled out the last beer and put it into the fridge. Then he’d play keep-away with it, or tug-of war. Or he’d lie right down and start ripping it to confetti. He especially loved Rolling Rock boxes.
But he could eat anything and everything, always without repercussion. Now, nothing…
He walked around on his own on Friday. Venturing out into the yard, up on the couch with a little help. He wagged his tail, but mostly slept a lot.
That night, Friday, what would be his last night (october 24), I slept on the couch with Mr. Trout. Well, he slept on the couch. I was mostly on the coffee table, but that was ok. He rested his chin on my leg, I scratched him behind his ear.
My wife and I kept asking anyone we knew…how would we know when it was time to put him to rest? Well, he told us.
Kilgore got up twice that night, went out into the yard, slowly, but surely. But then came the morning. Almost two days now without food or water. And when it came time for him to go outside, he made it through the door, but had to lie down after only a few steps. He couldn’t get up. We knew…
We had already made an appointment at the vet for Saturday morning. Originally for a check up to see if there was anything else we could do. But now I needed to call them, and change the appointment until late in the day. The last appointment of the day.
He couldn’t really walk, so I carried my friend out to my Jeep and laid him down in the back. And, the three of us took his final ride. My wife sat in the back with him, as I went into the vet office to make sure everything was ready. Then I carried him in and laid him on the table.
After a while the vet came in an asked if we were ready. No, how could anyone ever be ready? But I knew he was in pain, I knew he was so tired, and I certainly didn’t want that thing inside of him to burst.
He lay, as he always did at night, two paws straight out in front, his chin resting perfectly centered between them. I squatted down so that I was nose-to-nose with my friend. He never took his eyes off me as the doctor administered the drug that would put him to sleep.
When his eyes finally closed, I kissed his head. Something he so hated until a few weeks ago. I’d always do it at night, and he rub at the top of his head with his paws as if I’d given him cooties, or something. It was a ritual. But he was wagging tail. And in my heart I always believed he was perhaps embarrassed in front of the other dogs, like why was I kissing his head in public?
But this would be the last time I’d get to kiss the top of Kilgore’s head.
Goodnight, my sweet prince, perhaps one day we’ll meet up on the other side.
Next day I pitched my way to save the film to Hansi. I don’t know if she bought it completely, but I think she believed in my passion and talent. Or perhaps I was her only hope. I don’t know, never asked. But we started working toward an agreement.
Now for anyone who’s read my earlier blog posts, you know I don’t play well with others. And I am a control freak. I know this about myself. It’s the way I am, the only way I can be about what I create. And I’m not about to change. (I have no desire to.) So I knew I could never co-direct a film with anyone.
So, how to approach this. Though I appreciated Hansi’s original footage, I had different ideas on where the film should go. Her version seemed more light-hearted. Mine, serious. I wanted to make a great testament to the band, their story, their history from that first demo tape through to their final concert in Grant Park, as told through the eyes of those who were there, who followed, who were inspired by, and who befriended them.
It took about a year to get it all rolling. I was finishing up Friends With Benefits, and hitting the film fest circuit with that film. But Hansi and I eventually came to terms, and I would not be using any of her footage in the film.
So, I was starting fresh. With the FWB fest circuit almost over, it was time to test the waters, to see if this crazy idea might work. And in late 2009, we conducted our very first interview. Ten minutes in, I knew we had a film!
It happened like this. Hansi Oppenheimer was making a film about fans of The Replacements called COLOR ME OBSESSED. One evening a few years back now, I received an email from her asking for help. It more or less said she had no way to finish the film, and no rights to the music, so she was probably just going to post a thirty minute version for free online, and be done. Could I think of any way to help save the project?
Now I had always wanted to make a documentary. But I would only do one on a subject about which I was profoundly passionate. I really only have three: animals, new haven brick oven pizza, and rock music, most specifically, The Replacements. But I really didn’t want to do something VH1-ish, y’know “where are they now?” And I could think of no film on an extinct band that was anything more than that. The best music docs followed their subjects around in the here and now. I needed to come up with a unique take.
It didn’t take long.
That night while lying in bed with my wife Kristine, I started thinking how the Mats were Gods in my eyes. And though I don’t believe in God, a lot of people sure seem to. Yet it’s all blind faith, they never see or hear God. “What if I make a documentary where we never see or hear the band?” I spoke out loud to my wife who was reading a health magazine. “What if I give them God-like treatment, and make the viewer believe?” I honestly don’t remember her response. I think at that point I became lost in the possibilities of the myth. It was a crazy idea. And the more I thought about it, the more I loved it.
It’s been a long time, but I have good reason: COLOR ME OBSESSED, my feature-length documentary on The Replacements. Over the next many months I will try to take a look at the film, my process, my motivation, etc and so forth. I’ll begin by trying to answer the question I’ve thus far asked 139 times: Why The Replacements?
I could say something simple and to the point, that they are the greatest rock band of all time. That their music is timeless. Their rock purity unmatched. But it’s more than that. The Replacements transcend simple greatness. They are the cure for my cancer. (They’ve cured my cancer many times over.) They’ve kept love alive. They’ve re-invented my life. They walk on water, feed the multitudes with a single loaf of bread, and cry tears of blood. They are my religion. Jesus Christ didn’t write Here Comes A Regular. He didn’t play the guitar solo on Color Me Impressed. And he certainly didn’t sing If Only You Were Lonely. It’s the Replacements who gave my life clearer meaning, who gave me something in which to believe. So, yes, when the opportunity arose to make a film about the band, I jumped. It was like being born again.