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Catching Up with Mike McGraner - by Pete Vogel

 

Mike McGraner has been a very busy man the past ten years.  

When he’s not working on his album, musing about his own movies, or traveling between Columbus and LA, Mike is seen with his childhood hero, Frederick Peerenboom.

Who is Fred Peerenboom, you may ask?  Hardly anyone knows him by his real name; he’s better known in these parts as Fritz the Nite Owl.  [Ah yes…THAT guy!]

For those reared in Columbus in the 70s and 80s, Fritz the Nite Owl was an iconic part of our childhood.  He’s been a staple of Columbus since 1959, when he took a job as the broadcast booth announcer for WBNS radio.  His smooth baritone and breezy, conversational style was his signature sound and anyone with AM radio could instantly recognize that suave and debonair voice.

Fritz moved to television in 1974 where he hosted a late-night movie program called Nite Owl Theatre, which lasted until 1991—6205 episodes in total.  What was most memorable was his Friday night feature called Double Chiller Theatre: It was back-to-back horror movies with Fritz providing comic relief in between commercial breaks.  

I remember Chiller Theatre vividly, because every Friday night my brother Andy and I would make it our goal to stay up and watch BOTH movies—which wrapped up around 3am—but we never reached our summit.  Fritz was always entertaining: his dry, comic wit, those silly owl glasses, and the campy background effects added flair to the broadcast.  Fritz was an iconic part of Columbus late-night television.  While WCMH-4 enjoyed Johnny Carson, WBNS-10 had Fritz the Nite Owl.

In 1991 Fritz moved to radio, where he broadcasted a late-night jazz program called Nite Owl Jazz, which continued until 2010.  When the show ended, many thought Fritz would fade into obscurity the same way as Flippo the Clown or Lucy from Lucy’s Toyshop.

Enter Mike McGraner.

Mike watched Fritz for the first time as a 6-year-old and loved the quirky host.  “He’s one of my heroes,” he says.  Mike always wanted to make a documentary film about Fritz, and when he heard that Andyman (of 101.1 fame) knew Fritz, they arranged a meeting.

“We spoke for 5 hours the first time we met,” said McGraner.  “We talked about making a film about his life and career, but Fritz said no.”

After some coaxing from his wife—and other colleagues—Fritz decided to proceed with the film.  Little to anyone’s knowledge—except McGraner—there was an audience out there that liked what Fritz the Nite Owl brought to the table.

Filming began in 2010: even though they shot plenty of footage, the documentary was never released.  They abandoned it to begin production on a new concept: bringing Nite Owl Theatre into the 21st century.  

Their idea was simple: Mike, Fritz and a team of writers would produce shows in the spirit of Nite Owl Theatre and release it on the Internet.  Local theatres caught wind of their concept and decided they wanted in: they offered to host these events in their movie theaters.  So Nite Owl Theatre, Version 2.0 plays on the big screen: Fritz is the on-air personality and Mike is producer, director and editor.  They make live appearances as well: Mike and Fritz appear in theaters across Ohio—Columbus, London and Miamisburg, namely—and do their retro act to a new wave of Fritz fans.

In Columbus, both Grandview Theater and Studio 35 provide opportunities to catch the quirky act: each month they host a feature and audiences of every age can enjoy the campy celebrity of Columbus’ very own night owl.  The schedule can be found at www.fritzlives.com.

“We figured we’d do 3 or 4 episodes when this started out,” McGraner says.  “We are currently at 63 episodes.  Our goal is to hit 70 sometime in 2018.”

What nobody expected was this local host actually had a national following.  Michael Dougherty, esteemed director of many A-list movies (Superman Returns, X-Men 2, Trick’r Treat, Krampus) is a native of Columbus and a huge fan of Fritz.  He took that fandom to LA with him and has opened up avenues for Fritz to have celebrity outside of Columbus.  “When locals moved out of town, they opened up opportunities for Fritz to become a national celebrity,” McGraner says.  “Every town had a Fritz,” McGraner said.  “And the production quality for his show was pretty good.  People dug his stuff.  He’s been exposed to a national audience for years now.”

Seven years later, they’re still going strong.  What started out as a film idea that a local kid wanted to make about his hero, it has blossomed into a second life for Mr. Nite Owl and his legion of fans.

“We’re probably going to wrap things up after another 7 or 8 episodes,” McGraner says.  “Fritz will still do the live appearances, but he wants to be done shooting.  He’ll be 83 years old later this month.”  Who’s to blame him—he’s been Fritz the Nite Owl for 44 years!

Mike promotes another event alongside his work with Fritz: Terror From The 80s.  “It’s a monthly double-feature of two 80’s horror films presented back-to-back, Grindhouse style.  I have created a presentation that re-creates the feel of seeing a drive-in double feature.  Each month is themed but the movies remain a mystery.  You can see the series at Studio 35, Grandview Theater and State Theatre in London.”        

His plans don’t stop here.  “Next year I’m launching a series called The Director Series, an educational presentation of the complete chronological works of select directors (one per year).  The first director series will be David Lynch.”  

Mr. McGraner has plenty of irons in his fire.  He also has aspirations of finishing his album and producing/directing a movie based on a song by Quinn Fallon.  The movie is called Heartsick and Mike has every intention of finishing it someday. “If it’s the only movie I do, I’ll be okay with it,” he says.  

For now, it’s about continuing to devote a little more time to his hero, Frederick Peerenboom.  

www.facebook.com/niteowltheatre

www.facebook.com/terrorfromthe80s

www.facebook.com/thedirectorseries


  Pete Vogel is a professional musician, filmmaker and Pencilstorm contributor. Click here to read his excellent reviews of The Rolling Stones and The Who  

In Conclusion: The Movies of 2017 - by Rob Braithwaite

Watching 366 movies last year kind of broke me. I only watched 104 movies this year. Here are some highlights. [Law and Order noise]


OPERATION: DYNAMO

I don’t know how or why but there were three movies this year that featured the rescue from Dunkirk in some fashion, and they fit together so well that I suspect Kevin Feige orchestrated it all.

Darkest Hour

World War II is in its dawn when the unpopular English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is replaced by the not-as unpopular Winston Churchill. Churchill is almost immediately pressured to reach out to the Germans to ask for mercy. It is a concept so foreign to him that even his body rejects the notion of nothing short of victory in the face of the rising fascist force.

The movie has a few classic biopic trips when information and backstory need known. But there are stunning scenes and sequences. The makeup work on Gary Oldman is nothing but award winning, as is his performance.

The drama of Darkest Hour is political and personal. The rescue at Dunkirk is an element of the story, however it isn’t seen. Thankfully, there’s…

Dunkirk

I expected this to be a three hour movie in which the first hour was filled with clunky get-to-know-them-so-you-care setups. Nope. Just two hours of action and tension. It’s amazing. The dogfights especially.

Some didn’t like Dunkirk because there is too little context or they didn’t care enough about the people. I disagree. But, for context there’s Darkest Hour. For the personal touch, there’s…

Their Finest

England is very much the WWII mix now. Their troops are back on the front lines, and their citizens are adapting to routine air raids. Morale is low. Here come the movies to make everyone feel better!

The Ministry of Information decides to make a film about the heroic deed of two sisters who stole their father’s boat to rescue soldiers from the Dunkirk shore. Problem is, their boat never made it to Dunkirk. Catrin Cole, still seeing their heroism, fights to tell the sister’s story as it happened. And yet, the propaganda machine continues to distort the truth.

Maybe the most interesting thing about Their Finest is that as myth takes over the sister’s truth, the myth of the romantic comedy genre is exposed as propaganda itself.

Ignore the forgettable title. Ignore the terrible trailer. Ignore the awful poster. See this little gem.


THIS SEASON ON SUPERHERO SHOWDOWN

Franchise moviemaking has got me down more than ever. It all feels like TV programming now, especially superhero movies. I don't get event anticipation anymore. Still, because I do like them, I see them.

Never mind the comic book source, Logan is a great movie. I got a little misty at the end.

Wonder Woman proves DC can make a great superhero movie. After seeing Justice League, I’m convinced they can’t. I’m sure Wonder Woman succeeded because no one at the studio thought much about it (“Oh, let them have their Wondering Woman.”), and Patty Jenkins & company went largely unchecked.

I’m not going to shit on Justice League. The movie does a great job of that on its own. But I would like to laugh at some horrible and frustrating product placement in it.

Bruce Wayne has successfully recruited Barry Allen. They both get into Bruce’s expensive car. Bruce says the “because I’m rich” line from the trailer and then the movie cuts to his hands gripping the steering wheel. The fingers of his right hand stretch out to pull up on a small lever. The car starts up, and the movie cuts to his expensive car driving toward the camera for all to see which brand had this ingenious feat of engineering.

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen -- they weren’t in costume or in any danger -- but it seemed like something was about to happen. Turns out they were just going… Where were they going? Jesus! They weren't going anywhere!

Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun. I like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 more than the first one. I’m in the minority opinion of Thor: Ragnarok. It is mostly pointless and too jokey, I say. It would have been an amazing surprise had no one known Hulk was in it.  


IN OTHER FRANCHISE NEWS

There are parts of The Last Jedi that I love. And there are parts of The Last Jedi that I ignore. If you’ve seen it once, you could miss the first 45-60 minutes forever and enjoy it even more.

War for the Planet of the Apes closes out the rebooted property. Easily one of the best series of the 21st century.

Transspotting 2 and Blade Runner 2049 prove a quality sequel can be made decades after the original. My fingers are crossed for Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues.

John Wick: Chapter 2 raises the stakes on the hitman world built in the first one. I couldn’t be looking forward to Chapter 3 more.

Alien: Covenant balances its philosophical and action elements better than Prometheus did. There’s a great middle sequence and final moment.


REST MY WEARY EYES

Enough blockbusters. Give me a movie set in a natural and practical environment where people interact with each other.

Lady Bird is a wonderful movie. I’m afraid it’s going to take away some attention from The Big Stick in the mind of people who give awards to things. Both are worth anyone’s time. The Big Sick does not let itself off the hook with an easy ending. Lady Bird will go down as one of the best director debuts, as will Jordan Peele’s debut, Get Out. He set the bar incredibly high for himself and his next movie.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri takes a brutal look at festering rage.

Marjorie Prime should probably be avoided if a loved one recently died or is suffering from dementia. Even without the recent experience of those things, this examination of memory and legacy is like a mule kick.

It Comes at Night and mother! both have trailers that misrepresent what really happens. I wouldn’t recommend mother! to many people, even though I do like it. It Comes at Night is an excellent story of how isolation can breed mistrust and paranoia.

The pace of Logan Lucky is unlike usual heist movies. It’s a little slower and not as flashy but no less engaging. The wealth of the community of characters reminds me of the comic Southern Bastards.

I’m a sucker for movies set in a single location. Ben Wheatley double downs on that idea with Free Fire by making a movie-length shoot out.


THE LESS YOU KNOW THE BETTER

Movie trailers don't respect you. You should pay them little mind. This year I tried not to watch trailers online. Very rarely has a trailer completely ruined a movie for me, but wouldn’t it be nice to see something in a movie you aren't expecting? If you trust me, watch these five movies without watching the trailers or reading more about them: 

Brigsby Bear. A 20-something guy is obsessed with a children's program. Co-written by and starring Kyle Mooney and directed by someone else from Saturday Night Live.

Better Watch Out. Christmas horror/comedy.

Colossal. A woman returns to her home town to get her life in order.

Good Time. Robert Pattinson received rave reviews in this crime drama.

The Girl with All the Gifts. Horror/thriller. I wish I could have seen it with that much information.


SOME OTHERS I LIKED A LOT

Split, Raw, Life, It, Murder of the Orient Express, The Disaster Artist, The Shape of Water.


THE OVERLAP

There are a few movies that open in select cities at the end of the year to be eligible for award season. They will receive a wider release in January. I, Tonya and Phantom Thread are the two I’m most interested in.

Here’s to movies in 2018!

A Public Service Announcement for KISS Fans: Mandatory Holiday Viewing - by Anne Marie

My son is a huge James Franco fan and he recently suggested Why Him? for family movie night.  Why Him? came out last December.  Set at Christmas time, it features Bryan Cranston as Ned Fleming, Hollywood's version of a Midwest normal dad, going out to California with his wife and son to spend the holiday with his daughter at Stanford to meet her new boyfriend.  As a comedy, it's pretty much a ripoff of the Meet the Parents storyline, but it has some funny moments and I especially liked Keegan-Micheal Key's character, Gustav.

As we watched it, and repeated reference was made to the fact that the Flemings' favorite band was KISS, and KISS was on the soundtrack and worked into the very fabric of the plotline, I thought, "How has Colin not mentioned this? This must be on his annual holiday watch list."  And when I asked him, I was floored when he responded, “I don’t know that one!  You have one-upped me on KISS!  How is that possible?”

How is that possible?!?  This is the dude whose blog has more than 30 articles devoted to KISS, who has himself written multiple articles about the band, one in which he describes an entire Sunday morning devoted to Googling Kiss setlists and then watching the videos on Youtube and another in which he compares the finer points of Paul and Ace’s respective solo albums, and who can expertly steer any conversation towards the band, to wit this recent Facebook discussion which began as which Rock Hall nominees would become inductees in 2018, and then became which bands were fully formed on their debut album, and then somehow became an all out KISS-o-mania celebration:

James Baumann I always think of The Pretenders and The Clash as the answers to this question. R.E.M. is a good choice as well.

Colin Gawel Scott Carr I don’t think they really hit stride until Heaven Tonight. Love the debut but it’s pretty quirky.

Matt Walters KISS’ debut is pretty hard to beat, although they weren’t really “fully formed” in the sense they weren’t a whopper with cheese yet. 😉 The Jam, The Beastie Boys, Exploding Hearts (RIP), Television all have 5/5 debuts, too. I might also throw Franz and TVOTR in there too. Also You Am I but nobody’s ever heard of them.

Peter Nichols Colin Gawel Sh*t, I forgot "Get The Knack".

'Twas brilliant!

Peter Nichols I mean, the drumming alone deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

James Baumann Matt Walters Love me some You Am I.

Steve Elshoff Van Halen.

Steve Elshoff Jeff Buckley.

Colin Gawel Matt Walters KISS is but sonically it just doesn't have the goods. Alive is really the record in my opinion.

Colin Gawel Van Halen ! duh. Facepalm.

Kyle Siegrist Metallica Kill 'Em All

Kyle Siegrist Colin Gawel IMO the Kiss debut lp is their best, but I agree Alive put them on the map.

Colin Gawel Kyle Siegrist best songs no doubt but I always play Alive for folks. Actually, they probably hit their peak on Destroyer. Artwork - sound - songs - all that jazz.

Colin Gawel Or possibly Crazy Nights.

Scott Carr Rock And Roll Over beats Destroyer all day long.....

Colin Gawel Scott Carr now you are just trolling me. Everybody knows I’m a Destroyer guy.

Scott Carr hehe....

Kyle Siegrist Remember I'm not really a Kiss fan like you or Scott. For whatever reason I personally just like thier debut best. I also really like The Elder.

Colin Gawel In other KISS related news I guess the greatest book ever written is being re released and I’m not talking about the Bible.

Scott Carr Colin Gawel I thought you were a Crazy Nights guy????

Scott Carr that book is anazing...

Colin Gawel Guess the author was on Eddie Trunk and an updated version coming out. And rumor has it Vinnie Vincent is on the cover. Seriously.

Matt Walters vinnie's also on the back cover! It's a commemorative edition specifically highlighting how overrrated he is by certain fans of the band ;)

Matt Walters I think this discussion about KISS vis-a-vis the "fully formed on the debut" comment is really interesting. On KISS boards, the debut typically is a solid #2 among fan aggregate polls (behind RARO - usually Hotter than Hell is third and Destroyer is f...See More

Colin Gawel Kyle Siegrist I think reasonable people can agree The Elder is better than The Wall.

Rick Kinsinger Am I the only one who suspects that Colin's motive for this entire thread was to turn it into a discussion about the KISS discography?

Kyle Siegrist Colin Gawel yeah that's a no brainier

Nate Puderbaugh Oasis "Definitely Maybe"

Pete Vogel Some of my fave debut albums: VH, Boston, Foreigner, The Cars, Tom Petty, Led Zep. All broke new ground, IMO.

Scott Carr Rick Kinsinger isn't that why all Facebook threads are started?

Colin Gawel Matt Walters I can't find pre order for updated KISS touring history? Can you help a brother out?

Scott Carr ColinGawel I think the only place they are taking orders is through pledge music.....

Colin Gawel Scott Carr good tip. Stumbled on many other Kiss books in my quest. You read that Elder one?

Scott Carr yeah The Elder one is good. If you have the solo album book, it's done by the same guy. Lots of info....

Matt Walters Colin Gawel I believe it sold out. Let me check the FAQ

Scott Carr Colin Gawelhttps://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/alive-forever

So if you, like Colin, are a KISS fanatic who hasn't seen Why Him? yet, or if you are just looking for another Christmas-themed raunchy comedy to pass a couple of hours, Why Him? is currently on demand.

 

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

* * *

DO NOT EVEN GLANCE BELOW HERE OR WATCH EITHER OF THE VIDEO CLIPS IF YOU WANT TO BE FULLY SURPRISED BY JUST HOW KISS "PLAYS" INTO THE MOVIE.

Review: Mock and Roll Premiere at Gateway Film Center - by Pete Vogel

 

“We are the best damn Black Owls parody band in the land!” shouts Bun, the drummer for Liberty Mean, a band of hapless Millenials from Columbus, OH.

This line pretty much sums up ‘Mock and Roll’ in a nutshell.  The movie begs as many questions as it answers and it spoke to me on many levels at its Columbus premiere at Gateway Theater this past Sunday: It took a few pages from the theatre of the absurd, sprinkled it with a dash of comic tomfoolery and marinated it in pure goofiness.

Mock and Roll is a mockumentary film about the band Liberty Mean, a four-piece unit of clueless Millenials—comprised of Robin, Tom, Rick and Bun (do you get the joke yet?)—who parody another local band, The Black Owls, for a tiny crowd of followers at various dive bars around Columbus.  The band is basically using their minimal fame to cobble together a documentary that Robin’s brother—Sully—is filming for the band’s archives.  

[Again, this begs more questions than answers, such as: 1.) Why would a local band parody another local band; and 2.) Why would anyone DOCUMENT a local band parodying another local band?]

Such is the theme of ‘Mock and Roll.’  In the spirit of ‘Spinal Tap,’ ‘Best of Show,’ ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ and ‘Fargo’—‘Mock and Roll’ follows the life of the band, who come up with insane ideas on how to expand their audience (and revenue).  At first it was parodying bigger acts—such as Foghat and Cheap Trick—but those never got off the ground.  Then they decided to parody their favorite local band, The Black Owls (read: minimal fan base), and rewrite lyrics to the band’s tunes.  

Like most bands, Liberty Mean (who get their name from a lyric from The Black Owls) want to expand their fan base by playing to larger audiences, so they come up with the crazy notion that they should attend South by Southwest (SWSW), the largest music festival in the US.  They have no plan other than to attend the event in Texas: they aren’t booked for the event and have no contacts there.  But they feel they have to go, as if Austin was Mecca and all other details would miraculously fall into place.

The band makes several failed attempts to raise money for the cause: their crowd-funding page (managed by the guitarist’s girlfriend) only raises $27.50, and their gigs pay slightly more than that.  They decide to lend their bodies (and minds) to science in an attempt to raise quick cash, but the ensuing acid trips administered by a local quack only have negative effects on the band (especially Bun).  Bun has a bad trip, quits the band, and considers a solo career (“I can sing too!” he bellows).  After a brief hiatus, Bun rejoins the band and comes up with a third plan: his cousin needs help delivering art, so he talks the band into taking on these shady courier jobs.

This is where the movie takes a page out of ‘Fargo’—but you’ll have to check out the movie to see what I’m talking about!  

The writer and producer, Mark Stewart, says he has no political or social message to convey to his audience, but after sitting in the theater for two hours I came away with plenty.  The first message conveyed to me was the fact that many Millenials use ‘magical thinking’ in pursuit of their artistic dreams.  I’ve seen this many times in my career: I’m a professional musician/instructor and have worked with dozens of Millenials.  They think that technology alone will make it possible for them to attain their goals in five easy steps.  Many think they can write/record/produce an album, put it on Spotify and become instant millionaires without ever leaving home.  Or they could show up at open mic, play a couple tunes, and hundreds of people will buy their EPs.  Or this: Go to SXSW, play a venue on Sixth St. and get discovered by the next Phil Spector (true story).  

Liberty Mean has plenty of these ideas, yet none are given proper reflection by its band members.  All of them are consumed with one thing: THIS idea will make us money!  Yet they somehow forget to learn the lessons from their decisions and ultimately pay the price.  Very Seinfeldian in that regard.

There are too many absurd moments to reflect on all of them, but I think my favorite is when the band meets a couple of future fans that are curious about the band.  They tell them all about their parody act.  “I’ve never heard of them,” says one female fan, when asked about the Black Owls.  “Well, they’re from Ohio,” says Rick in response.  Another absurd moment was when the band finally reached the conclusion that they won’t be able to make the trip to Austin due to limited funds to buy plane tickets.  [Hint: struggling bands don’t FLY—they rent vans!]  The absurdity is endless, and those who like pure silliness will find plenty in this film.

Without intent, Mark Stewart has something profound to say about the DIY movement and Millenials, but I’m sure those messages simply seeped through the movie unintentionally.  As a musician—and colleague to many Millenials—it spoke volumes to me.  Even the casual music—or mockumentary—fan will find this film a treat; it is definitely worth checking out.  There’s a profound morality tale built into the absurdist notion of these clueless characters.           

Of particular note, it was great to see a local filmmaker pay homage to Columbus in so many ways.  As a proud native, I was happy to see so many familiar places—and faces—scattered throughout the film.  I’m sure audiences throughout the country might appreciate the satire even more than its homegrown ones—it’s definitely making some noise outside of I-270.  

If you like music, comedy, satire and goofiness then this is definitely the movie for you.  It’s winning awards at all the film festivals and is planning on premiering at many more in 2018—definitely take in this flick and enjoy the ride.

Congratulations to Mark Stewart on a wonderful movie and a wonderful homage to a great music town: Columbus, Ohio.  And congratulations to local band The Black Owls, whose music is peppered throughout the film.  It’s always a treat to see kudos granted to local artists.  And it’s a rare treat to see filmmakers making their debuts in their sixth decade—pursuing art is pursuing the fountain of youth.  I am reminded of Glen Hansard’s two-word comment after winning the Grammy for Best Song from the indie movie ‘Once.’  He simply said: “Make art.”

Make art, indeed.  Make it.  Make it.  

Pete Vogel is a musician and filmaker who happens to write for Pencilstorm too. Learn more at Petevogel.com .

Mock and Roll: An Interview with Filmmaker Mark Stewart - by Pete Vogel

“Mock and Roll” will have their Columbus Premiere at Gateway Film Center on Sunday, November 26th at 2pm.  Tickets are $10.  You can get them online at gatewayfilmcenter.org.


Mark Stewart is not your typical filmmaker.

He did not attend film school.  He did not travel the world.  He did not starve.  He did not struggle making movies for other people before he embarked on his own project.  

Mark’s journey is a little different than most filmmakers: his career was actually spent in human resources, where he worked for various companies for 34 years before retiring early to pursue his creative ambitions.  

“I retired from Alliance Data after working there for 14 years,” he said.  At 57 he quit his day job to partake in a new journey: marrying his two greatest passions—music and movies—into an original film project.  After researching his options—and talking to dozens of people about the process—he began work on his idea.  At 61 he’s shopping his first film: a mockumentary called “Mock and Roll” which will make its Columbus premiere this coming weekend at Gateway Film Center.

One would think a retired Human Resources professional would consider other pursuits, such as buying a summer cottage, traveling the world or refinancing his house.  But Mark had other plans: to write and produce a movie that would be financed from his own retirement!  

“I’ve always been a fan of music since I was a teenager,” said Stewart, a native of Millersburg, OH.  “I saw my first concert in 1973 at Massillon Stadium.”  It was an eclectic bill: Dr. Hook, New York Dolls and Mott the Hoople.  He was hooked instantly.  Stewart came to OSU in 1975 and followed Ohio bands (The Muffs, The Godz, Michael Stanley Band) and national acts (Montrose, Foghat, Black Oak Arkansas).  In fact, both Michael Stanley and Roger Earl (drummer from Foghat) made cameos in the movie.

“Mock and Roll” is a coming-of-age story about a local band called Liberty Mean, a four-piece unit comprised of hapless millenials who are well intentioned but clueless.  Liberty Mean parodies another local act—The Black Owls—whereby they steal The Black Owls’ music but rewrite the lyrics for their own purposes.  The lead singer, Robin, (played by New Albany native Molly Bhanja) sings the tunes and her backing band Rick (Chris Wolfe), Tom (Pakob Jarernpone) and Bun (Andrew Yackel) accompany her.  The band has a crazy idea: they want to attend South-by-Southwest (SXSW), a music festival that takes place every spring in Austin, TX.  They have no idea what to do once they get there, but that’s beside the point: every up-and-coming band needs to attend SXSW, because that’s what bands do.  They set up a crowd-funding page to raise funds from friends and family, but have no idea what to do once they reach their destination.  They haven’t been booked by SWSW and don’t know anybody in Texas who can assist them.  They only know one thing: We’re a band, and bands go to SXSW.  

“The movie is a marriage between ‘This is Spinal Tap’ and ‘Best in Show,’” Stewart says.  He has no political or social statement to make.  He has no agenda to share, no secret message to uncover about music, millenials and the DIY movement.  He just loves to laugh and he loves music.  

Stewart teamed up with fellow writer/filmmaker Ben Bacharach-White, who’s based out of Washington, DC.  “We basically collaborated on the idea, and out came this concept,” he said.  Bacharach-White is essentially the “other half” of the braintrust: he’s the film’s co-writer, director and editor.  “I’m lucky to be working with such an accomplished artist,” said Stewart.  

With the help of Bacharach-White, Leah Wharton, Tony Deemer and Jason Tostevin, this first-time filmmaker was able to glean experience from his team of polished veterans.  “I’m like a sieve—I just collected information from those who had the experience.  It’s been a lot of fun and a tremendous learning experience.”

Stewart financed the movie by himself.  “I accumulated some stock from my years working in HR, so I used my own money to finance the movie.”  He worked with a variety of talent, using interns, professional actors, extras, cinematographers and producers from across the country.  Folks from Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Grand Rapids, Granville, Columbus, Cincinnati and Akron participated in the project.  

Stewart has always wanted to make a movie about music; he’s been listening to local bands his entire life.  He particularly enjoys The Methmatics, Zoo Trippin’ and newcomers Lily and the Weeds.  But his favorite local band is none other than Columbus icons Watershed.

“My daughter brought their album home years ago and I fell in love with it,” he said.  “I love Joe’s book—I love Colin.  I just love Watershed’s music.”

So far the mockumentary has made some serious noise.  They’ve already been premiered at Orlando Film Festival, Oklahoma’s Eyecatcher International Film Festival (where they won Best Original Score), and Austin’s Revolution Film Festival (where they received six nominations: Best Comedy, Best Director, Best Male Lead, Best Female Lead, Best Editor and Best Movie Poster).  They also won Best Feature at Cincinnati’s Inside the Loop Film Festival earlier this fall.  They plan on hitting other festivals in 2018.

Mark is taking all this in stride.  “Our hope is to shop it around to all the film festivals where we think our movie is a good fit, then hope for distribution down the road.”  He knows it’s a long shot, but everything is a long shot in the arts these days.  He doesn’t seem fazed by the road ahead. “We are submitting to a number of other film festivals and are hopeful that our success thus far continues with additional official selections.”


  Pete Vogel is a professional musician, filmmaker and Pencilstorm contributor. Click here to read his excellent reviews of The Rolling Stones and The Who    

Daisychain of Horror - by Rob Braithwaite

It's October. Boo!

31 days, 31 links in a chain of terror and horror and a few laughs. Watch them all ...if you dare.

 

Boo!

The Changeling (1980)
Grieving the loss of his wife and daughter, a composer moves into a house that is obviously haunted.

George C. Scott also starred in...

Exorcist III (1990)
It's a better sequel to The Exorcist than Exorcist II: The Heretic.

Brad Dourif was also in...

Child's Play (1988)
The spirit of a killer possesses the coveted doll of a little boy.

Chris Sarandon showed up in...

Fright Night (2011)
A teenager grows suspicious of his new neighbor's behavior.

Anton Yelchin also starred in...

Green Room (2015)
A punk band is trapped by murderous neo-nazis.

Patrick Stewart was also in...

Lifeforce (1985)
Space vampires? It's a weird one.

Tobe Hooper also directed...

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The title is self-explanatory.

John Larroquette was present in...

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
It's like the TV show but a movie!

Joe Dante also directed...

The Howling (1981)
Things that howl: dogs and werewolves. This isn't Cujo.

Dee Wallace was featured in...

The Frighteners (1996)
A medium and two lingering ghosts are the only ones who can save the town they have been conning.

Jim Fyfe took up space in...

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
A investigator is hired to find a missing horror author whose books are driving people insane.

John Carpenter also directed...

The Fog (1980)
Arrrrr, there be danger in that fog.

Janet Leigh kicked things off in...

Psycho (1960)
On the run after stealing from her boss, a woman spends a night in a roadside motel.

Incidentally, Gateway Film Center will be showing Alfred Hitchcock movies throughout October. Check out the schedule here.

Bernard Herrmann also scored...

Sisters (1972)
A woman witnesses a murder from her apartment. No, this isn't Rear Window.

Margot Kidder was also in...

Black Christmas (1974)
A killer finds plenty of victims in a sorority house during Christmas break.

Leslie Carson was also in...

The Fly (1986)
A daring scientist fucks it all up in a horrific way.

David Cronenberg also directed...

The Dead Zone (1983)
If you could see the future would you change it?

Michael Kramer also scored...

Event Horizon (1997)
It's a ghost (space)ship. But where has it been?

Sam Neill also starred in...

Dead Calm (1989)
A couple's solitary voyage is disrupted when they take on the sole survivor of a sunken ship.

Nicole Kidman also starred in...

The Others (2001)
A woman is haunted by ghosts while she awaits her husband's return from WWI.

Christopher Ecceleston also eventually showed up in...

28 Days Later (2002)
It's not a zombie movie.

Brendan Gleeson was also in...

Lake Placid (1999)
A peaceful lake community is upended by attacks from the deep. ...however deep lakes go.

blink and you'll miss Bridget Fonda in...

Army of Darkness (1992)
Time travel, demons and a boomstick. Oh my.

Sam Raimi also directed...

Drag Me to Hell (2009)
I hope to never find myself on the business end of a curse.

Cinematographer Peter Deming also shot...

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Strange things are afoot at the cabin in the woods.

Sigourney Weaver was on the screen a lot more in...

Alien (1979)
It's the first Alien movie, dummy.

Jerry Goldsmith also scored...

Magic (1978)
Speaking of dummy, a ventriloquist's doll infects a man's mind.

Anthony Hopkins also starred in...

The Wolfman (2010)
Gothic aesthetic is on glorious overdrive in this vintage tale. (seek out the director's cut)

Emily Blunt also starred in...

Wind Chill (2007)
During a snow storm is a terrible time to break down on an isolated road.

Cinematographer Dan Lausten also shot...

Silent Hill (2006)
A mother searches for her daughter on an alternate plain full of dark corners and jump scares.

Alice Krige was also featured in...

Ghost Story (1981)
Every year four old men tell each other scary stories. This year they will be in their own.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boo!