(Series Overview)

We edited this overview video, created for the 2018 WeWork Creative Awards.

Client: Epic Digital

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Open Source Online Mythology – The Slender Man

slenderman-228x300Today I read an article about the horrifying Wisconsin attempted homicide case wherein two 12 year old girls lured a friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times. A passing cyclist intervened, and thankfully the victim lived, even having returned to school this fall. So why did two little girls try to murder another little girl? Because they wanted to impress The Slender Man.

“Who the fuck is The Slender Man?” I wondered.

Thus began one of those internet deep-dives we all have into topics we know little about when we want to know everything. I wanted to know why this thin dude would lead two little girls to savagely attack another. This all led me to find out about the origins of The Slender Man and his growth into some kind of monster capable of reaching into the minds of little girls.

There are better places to get the specifics on The Slender Man’s story, but for brevity’s sake… Basically, The Slender Man was created by a Something Awful user named Eric Knudsen (aka Victor Surge) in 2009. TSM was an image of a tall, thin man, with a white, featureless face, wearing a black suit. He was inserted into a couple of photos of groups of children. Knudsen added quotes attributed to each photograph (which you can read at Wikipedia) that imply TSL is some kind of supernatural force that abducts children or kills them or worse. So a new bogeyman was born. But so what? How did this particular incantation of a familiar monster land in Wisconsin middle school girls’ minds?

Apparently the original Slender Man – he’s in the back.

The answer is that TSM developed in an entirely new way – his characteristics (impossibly tall and thin, sometimes with tentacles), powers (teleportation, mind-reading, ability to compel), motivations (ambiguous and morphing, but always dark), and mythology all being essentially crowd-sourced openly online. Like any of our fearful creations, his story and abilities were defined. But rather than the top-down way we’re used to, such as the basics of Dracula (and thus all subsequent vampires) being defined by Bram Stoker or the framework for Frankenstein’s Monster coming down from Mary Shelley on high, TSM was fleshed out by online stories and memes by users with no ownership or authority over the original idea. It was open source creation. And it’s new to us.

Or is it?

Growing up with the authoritative power of mass media, really since the invention of the printing press, we’ve been conditioned to learn our heroes and villains, or monsters and slayers, all the mythology around our favorite worlds and stories from the all-powerful creators, be them Disney, George Lucas, JK Rowling, Guillermo del Toro, or Stephen King. But before the rise of easily-made books and eventually radio, TV, and films, our stories and their heroes and monsters actually were crowd-sourced. They were told orally, interpreted and reinterpreted, added to and subtracted from, and retold with details or even broad concepts changing based on the perspective and preferences of the storyteller.

That’s very similar to the way TSM developed into his current state. Aaron Sagers even parallels the growth and development of Santa with that of TSM in a great read at The Huffington Post.

(The video above is a Slender Man send-up from online prankster superstar SA Wardega that has over 26 million views.)

The late literature professor and historian Walter J. Ong, PhD, asserted that this type of crowd-sourced mythology is the norm throughout human history. A very smart Danish college professor named Thomas Pettitt agrees and posits that we have just ended the Gutenberg era – a time period starting with Gutenberg’s printing press, leading us to massive amounts of literature being easily and affordably available and, essentially, the end of oral storytelling being dominate and the beginning of top-down, authoritative storytelling. But now with the advent of the digital age, we’re going back to the old way. It’s not that we’re only going to be telling stories orally, or that we’re going to lose stories being crafted and protected by Hollywood film studios or major publishers, it’s that we’re all now able to be actively in on the creation of our myths and characters and worlds and the stories that take place in the same way that the oral tradition allowed anyone to hear a story and then retell it making whatever changes or add-ons or edits that person saw fit. Pettitt calls the period of time we’re coming out of The Gutenberg Parenthesis, meaning that it’s a short exception to the rule, a blip in the history of human kind.

So who the fuck is The Slender Man? He’s a crowd-sourced monster, not all that dissimilar to any number of monsters past, present, and future. Why did these Wisconsin girls try to get on Team Slender Man by murdering a friend? Most likely, these girls are severely mentally ill. Most likely, they’d have found inspiration for their heinous crime in one form or another with or without this one particular bogeyman. This attempted murder of a child by two other children is horrific and sad, but the focus on TSM is unwarranted. Yes, he’s been cited by the two girls as motive, and he’s been pointed to as inspiration in other terrible crimes, but like other “causes” of criminal behavior and warped minds (when I was a kid rumors of satanism due to heavy metal music were rampant, then came the Matrix movies and Marilyn Manson and shooter video games and, well, you get it), it’s most likely he’s less a cause than a fascination of a mind in need of treatment.

What I’m saying is that The Slender Man is not exceptional in any way. He’s a pretty standard monster. And he was created and developed in a way that harkens back to telling tales around the campfire. The only exceptional thing about this creature is that he’s made me and likely others really look at the way storytelling is changing – or rather returning to its roots.

I hope that in the story of the two little girls who attacked their friend, and who reportedly still believe The Slender Man is real, the ending is one that involves mental health treatment for the perpetrators and a happy future for the victim.

-John Murphy

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“Psychopath” World Premiere

523407_10151231492772068_368418173_nManny Marquez’s first documentary feature had it’s world premiere this week at the Milwaukee International Film Festival.

“Somewhat reminiscent, in a good way, of the excellent documentary The American ScreamPsychopath is a real gem. Directed by Manny Marquez and executive produced by Jack Turner (We Are What We Are, Cold in July), it chronicles Manny’s uncle Victor’s attempt to construct a haunted house theme park, The Psycho Path, in rural Oklahoma.

Victor is a garbage man who always dreamt of moving to Hollywood to get into the makeup effects business. Along with his wife Suezette, he buys some land and pours hundreds of thousands of dollars into an extremely elaborate attraction featuring a large cast acting out scenes from Sleepy Hollow, The Ring, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and many more.

Prior to opening, Victor encounters a number of obstacles, including but not limited to hunters, grumpy neighbors, money shortages, and legal issues. But he soldiers on, and it’s easy to root for him and his band of misfits (best friend Mike, overeager local kid Kage, a local acting coach, his supportive family). Poignant, funny, and ultimately a classic underdog tale, Psychopath is a compulsively watchable tribute to a man who wants nothing more than to scare the living crap out of people every October.”


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Mark’s New Music Video

From the Onion’s AV Club, news that our good friend Mark Borchardt recently brought his gore skills to a new video by Milwaukee band Tapebenders (who were known until recently as Elusive Parallelograms, and whose new album, Chasing Ghosts, is out August 26). In this awfully simple setup, the band members go crazy and murder each other.

Also, check out Mark’s pilot for his new web series… directed by his daughter Dawn.

Mark Borchardt Out and About #1 from Mark Borchardt on Vimeo.


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ESPN 30 For 30 Documentary “MECCA: The Floor” Premieres

30 For 30September Club-produced short documentary “MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous“, directed by Chris James Thompson, premiered today on ESPN. The film was edited by Michael Vollmann and co-produced by Jack Turner and our friends at Matador Content.

The documentary chronicles the controversial beginnings and hallowed history of the floor that artist Robert Indiana designed for the Milwaukee Bucks at the MECCA Arena in 1977.

ESPN 30 For 30 is an award-winning series of sports/sports-related documentary films.

For more on 30 For 30 and to watch more of its great docs, see the 30 For 30 home page.

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“The Emperors of Wyoming” Play Mile of Music

We spent the weekend in Appleton, WI with four of our friends — Phil Davis, Butch Vig, Frank Anderson and Peter Anderson — who were playing together for the first time as “The Emperors of Wyoming.” The occasion was The Mile of Music festival.
The four of them live in four different cities, two in California and two in Wisconsin. They created the 10 country-rock tracks on the album in their respective home recording studios, posting tracks on a shared FTP site for the others to hear, each building on what the other had done.

We also got time to catch up with Wendy Schneider, who is making a documentary on Butch’s SMART STUDIOS, which Frank is helping on. Can’t wait to see it!

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Miranda’s Story

(Documentary Short Series, 2014)

Pedigree unveiled its See What Good Food Can Do documentary video series at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. In this third video from the series, Miranda Lambert showcases the impact people can make in dogs’ lives, especially shelter dogs, with some extra attention, good food and loving care.

Grammy award-winner Miranda Lambert knows what it takes to record a number-one album – she’s had four of them. And as a mom to six adopted dogs, she also knows what it takes to help the nation’s more than four million shelter dogs find their loving homes.

That’s why the country superstar teamed up with the Pedigree Brand to launch a search for the next communities to benefit from The Pedigree Feeding Project: an initiative started in Nashville and Chicago that supplies participating shelters with 100 percent of their core dog food needs, at absolutely no cost.

The See What Good Food Can Do series features real stories of dogs in shelters, their caregivers and the dogs’ new families – and brings to life the outcome that Pedigree food can have on the lives of shelter dogs.

The campaign mixes brand awareness combined with a specific call to action, with distribution across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and live events at the Sundance Film Festival.

For more about our brand documentary work visit About Face Media.

AGENCY: Weber Shandwick

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Investor Day

(Trailer for Branded Short Series)

This trailer for “World Beyond Cash” features government officials, business people and typical customers who are migrating to a cashless system through prepaid products.

POWER OF PREPAID is a MasterCard initiative created to stimulate collaboration and innovation in the prepaid industry. From Mexico City to Dubai, MasterCard is delivering innovative prepaid payment solutions that are evolving the ways organizations disburse social benefits and payroll.

The subject is a complicated one, and video storytelling brings it to life with the faces and voices of customers in this 2011 documentary project we produced for the creative agency 50,000feet.

World Beyond Cash features government officials, business people and typical customers and their experiences. The project illustrates both the success stories and challenges of migrating to a cashless system through prepaid products and raise awareness for the many opportunities for prepaid in these markets.

Our filmmakers travel the globe with MasterCard Worldwide to document how their prepaid products are helping governments reach unbanked and underserved consumers and move them toward cashless transactions that are convenient, flexible and secure.

We visit Mastercard customers in Dubai, Mexico City, Bratislava and the United States, hearing first hand how Mastercard Prepaid solutions are making a difference. We see how various prepaid solutions, including government issued prepaid card products, can empower consumers.

The series consisted of two videos, primarily utilized as investor relation’s communications. One video was a worldwide overview, and the second video focused on the products impact in the United States, going deeper into the story how the US government is adopting a cashless system to distribute social benefits.

AGENCY: 50,000feet

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A Month of Horror


Victor Delorenzo gets slimed in “Aswang”

Another blog (Row 3) stumbles upon ASWANG:

Shot like it’s an old 1970s relic, it has a similar feel to many of those slow paced, yet engaging horrors from that time period – until it picks up its pace substantially. A great find.

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Horrorphilia Reviews Aswang


One of the best ASWANG reviews ever:


“Worth a watch. Pretty decent.”


“With the limited amount of characters, you don’t get all that many death scenes.”

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The Philadelphia Project

(Branded Documentary Short)

InSinkErator and the city of Philadelphia had a remarkable idea – if we put garbage disposals into more homes, will the food waste that now doesn’t go to landfills make an environmental impact? Will it make a financial one? It was a bold study, and InSinkErator wanted to tell the story and show the results.

The city of Philadelphia has an ambitious goal – to become the greenest city in America. And part of that goal could be reached in the form of water treatment and renewable energy.

InSinkErator came to Philadelphia with an idea of one way to reduce food waste – by installing garbage disposals that would produce food waste-into-renewable-energy for water treatment plants. It would also reduce the food waste that is landfilled. And it would save the city money each year for reduced garbage collection.

At least, that was the plan.

A video called The Philadelphia Project was produced over the course of more than a year to witness implementation of the project and its results.

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A Day at the BBC

(Brand Web Series)

Meet the Johnson Controls Facilities Management Team that runs the BBC’s Broadcasting Center, Marc, Nisha, and Karina, and see how they spend their days constantly on the move, solving problems, and putting out fires.

To mark Vision Week 2013, Johnson Controls wanted to emphasize the impact its personnel have on their customers. The result was a series called Our Impact that went all over the world to show great JCI employees doing great work for their customers.

This series was used internally to educate and inspire JCI personnel.

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Ten Days In December

(Short Brand Documentary)

Sweat it out with core MIAX personnel as they open their brand new options exchange for its first trading day. Years of work and countless tests have come down to this moment. Time to sink or swim.

In December of 2012, the Miami International Options Exchange, or MIAX, launched with its first trade. But the world had never heard of the MIAX, and so it also launched a series to create an image, establish a brand, and instill credibility.

This video is a condensed version of the original 24 minute opus produced for investors in the exchange to celebrate it’s opening.

This shorter version was aimed at the entire financial world, from investors and exchange employees to financial press.


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With a Purpose

(Branded Documentary Short)

Medtronic needed to show that, from top to bottom, its people are always working to help patients live healthier, fuller lives.

We meet Medtronic GI Solutions UK Territory Manager Lin-Lee Aspin and hit the road with her on a multi-city tour as she fights an insidious killer, esophageal cancer. We also discover that Lin-Lee has a very personal reason for the vigor with which she does her job – a friend and colleague of hers died recently of esophageal cancer. We travel with her through England and Scotland as she meets with lawmakers and doctors to do her part in the fight.

This video is one in a series that highlights the positive work Medtronic, its people, and products are doing, all aimed at a broad audience ranging from healthcare professionals to the general public.

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Dear MKE

(Web Series, 2012)

We introduced our DEAR MKE documentary series with this teaser overview. “I’m Gonna Love You Until The Day I Die” by Bennie Cole and his Brother of Soul, released on the local MKE label Raynard in the early ’70s.

Produced & Directed by Purple Onion Productions. Editorial by September Club.

Photography by Jack Davidson, Joe Picciolo, Steve Roeder, Patrick Haley, Ian Anderson, and Frankie Latina

Produced by Steve Farr & Steve Roeder

Editorial by Michael Vollmann

For other music videos and odds and ends, explore the Attic.

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Ivy Funds Featured In The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article about fund companies using online video to market their products and brands.

Some of our work for Ivy Funds was cited as an example of this burgeoning trend.

The video series, called THE WORLD COVERED, was produced for creative agency 50,000 Feet.

Here’s an excerpt:

A serious video with a provocative title has helped Ivy Funds raise its profile among advisers and investors since the video was posted online last year, says Roger Hoadley, a company spokesman.

Called “The Piranha Tank,” it depicts the rigorous give and take at a morning meeting of the firm’s fund managers, economists and analysts. The session is chaired by Henry Herrmann, chief executive officer of Ivy Investment Management Co., who brings a no-nonsense, urgent tone to the discussion. “Are you afraid of Hank Herrmann?” the narrator asks one analyst. “Yes. I think everybody is,” the analyst replies.


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A Story About Johnny Carson & Charles Nelson Reilly


Johnny Carson and Charles Nelson Reilly on the Tonight Show

The new American Masters documentary on Johnny Carson debuted last night and it reminded me of a story that I was told by the late, great Charles Nelson Reilly. It was 2004, and Johnny was still alive. We were filming a documentary on CNR and some of us who were working on the film were hanging out at CNR’s house in Beverly Hills, discussing the film.

Charles liked to tell Johnny Carson stories. He loved the man. In fact, a significant scene in the film, The Life of Reilly, revolved around Charles appearing on the Tonight Show doing the “To be or not to be” scene from Hamlet:

When Charles told stories, you have to realize that he always put the story first… even if it involved a bit of a… let’s just say, evolution of the truth. One time he would say he had been on the show 103 times. The next time he would say 105 times. We settled on 104 times for the movie, but as best we could tell, it was actually 99 times. I guess he thought 100-plus something had a better ring to it.

Charles lived near the NBC studio, he told us, and he had a tux hanging in his closet standing by just in case Johnny called. When a guest was a no-show, Johnny called Charles and he came right over. The conversation was genuine and funny. Johnny would always ask about Charles mother. The clips are a riot. The loose, rambling, improvisational comedy seems very different than today’s late night world.

But the story Charles told us that night in his house came to mind when I was reading about the American Master film — the complication that was Johnny Carson. We asked Charles why he hadn’t appeared on the show for the last couple of years that Johnny was on the air. Johnny, Charles explained, had banned him from the show.

The reason? Charles had gotten a call from his good friend Joan Rivers, asking him to appear on her new show. He did so. And that was it for Charles on The Tonight Show.

I asked Charles if he ever saw or heard from Carson again? He had not. It was the late night death penalty. Charles didn’t seem upset about it. It was just show biz. Charles mixed us up another Manhattan and went on to tell some pretty good Joan Rivers stories. “My Joanie” he called her.

But when it came to making the film, we contacted Carson Productions to ask for clips to use in the movie. Their reply was swift and gracious. “We love Charles. Anything we can do to help.”

They sent over several great clips, free for us to use, although the one Charles talks about in the movie was gone… part of an NBC snafu where they bulk erased video copies of several years worth of material.

In the end we barely used the clips in the film, but several can be found on YouTube. They remind me of good times with Charles Nelson Reilly — a great and complicated talent himself. And his friend, the great and complicated Johnny Carson.

We miss them both.



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Peak’s Picks

(Branded Web Series)

Meet Stephen Peak, manager of the European Focus Fund. He looks for value in European companies where many other investors don’t find it. Stephen is known as a contrarian, and that’s just fine with him. It’s what helps make him, as described by Henderson Head of Equities, arguably one of the greatest investors of his generation.

Henderson Global Investors is a leading investment firm headquartered in London. When the company wanted to raise awareness of its presence in the United States, a video series was born profiling the great minds and culture of Henderson.

This series introduced many of the key leaders at Henderson and was aimed at the North American market.

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A Coastal Trip

(Brand Web Series)

In Can-Am’s “Spyder 5” video series, a group of five strangers from different walks of life explore North America on their Spyders, taking in the scenic countryside.

BRP is the parent company for several iconic outdoor brands, such as Ski-Doo, Evinrude and motorcycle division, Can-Am. Can-Am, working with their advertising agency CK, wanted to build on their social presence as they were launching a new model of their Spyder line of three-wheel vehicles. They wanted a branding and cultural focus, and to show the world how well-suited the Spyder is for the adventure-seeker’s lifestyle.

The project began with Spyder selecting five riders from around North America to make up The Spyder Five. The five met each other for the first time with our cameras rolling — on a photo shoot and then a picturesque ride along the sunny California coastline. The series continued as we followed each of them individually as they explored North America. They rode, they ate, they met new people and got to know the advantages of the Spyders.

We were able to bring the audience into the world of Spyder by telling The Spyder Five’s stories. Where they’re from, how they live, and why they’ve got so much love for their Spyders. Blog posts accompanied each video release, along with social media support through a Spyder Five Facebook and Twitter presence.

The result is a series that provides credible evidence that the Spyder is a top choice for those living the adventure lifestyle. It’s credible because its coming not from the brand, but from the mouths of the real people who are using the brand’s product.

The web series was also closely integrated by CK within the surrounding television and print advertising.


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(Branded Web Series)

In the documentary series “The World Covered” we followed the Ivy Funds team from their home offices in Kansas City to points throughout the world.

In this pilot episode, meet CEO Hank Herrmann, a boss who doesn’t mince words. “People have entrusted us to look over their money,” he says. “We have a responsibility to execute.”

Ivy Funds was named Barron’s “Best Mutual Fund Family” for the past five years. To bring Ivy Fund’s powerful story to life we followed portfolio managers and analysts across several continents to see first hand the firm’s unique process in the Ivy Fund team’s own words.

The World Covered was fully integrated into a campaign developed by our agency partners, which spanned print, broadcast, digital and social, including print advertising that featured QR codes directing readers to a microsite where they can view the documentaries.

We even edited television commercials from the footage, which were broadcast on targeted financial channels, such as CNBC.

AGENCIES: 50,000feet / Swandog Marketing

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Aida, OH

(Branded Short Series)

Go into the Ada, Ohio Football Factory that makes all the balls for the NFL and meet the hard working Americans who work tirelessly to deliver the pigskins for the games on Sunday. Here we meet the people of Wilson, and see the impact working for a great American company has.

Part of the WILSON | “More Win” series.

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Gonzo Ballet Premieres on EPIX

Congrats to Pat Buckley, Bobby Ciraldo and Andrew Swant for the WORLD TELEVISION PREMIERE of William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet, an award winning EPIX Pictures original that takes an inside look at the staging of famed choreographer Margo Sappington’s ballet set to the music and spoken word of Shatner’s 2004 album, “Has Been.” Shatner produced and stars in the documentary which includes appearances by composer Ben Folds and actor/musician Henry Rollins.

The film was made by our friends at Special Entertainment and Big Screen Entertainment Group in association with Shatner’s Melis Productions.

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“The Life of Reilly” Now Available on Netflix

The Late Reilly on Stage in 2004

“The Life of Reilly”, Directed by September Club’s own Barry Poltermann and Frank Anderson featuring Charles Nelson Reilly. (Yeah, that Charles Nelson Reilly) is finally available streaming on Netflix.

The film is “Certified Fresh” and remains among the best reviewed films of 2007, but CNR’s words ring true today more than ever. Check it out!

Of course you can still…
Buy the DVD on Amazon.
Buy the Bluray on Amazon.
Buy on Itunes.

& connect with Charles on..

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Aswang Review

aswang sawFinally, Decapitated Zombie Vampire Bloodbath got around to reviewing AWANG:

Things get sinister when they arrive at the mansion, which looks like it was designed by Stanley Kubrick. The only inhabitants are the sickly mother, who keeps sucking on oxygen, a strange Filipino maid named Cupid, and an exotic white chicken who roams the premises freely. Oh yeah, there’s also an unseen sister who lives in a cottage out back. Apparently, she’s “a little touched.” At this point, I’d probably call a cab and head back home, especially after seeing a painting of an aswang, a Filipino vampire who drinks the blood of newborns, given prominent place in the study. Fortunately, our heroine sticks around, ensuring our enjoyment of a fucked-up, unusual vampire movie.

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Maritime covers Depeche Mode – The AV Club

The AV Club just posted this new video from our friends from the band Maritime (including our own head of post-productin, Dan Didier). As the AV Club says

Maritime was born from the ashes of The Promise Ring in 2003–and has some big news to announce: They just signed to Dangerbird Records, home of Silversun Pickups, The Dears, Minus The Bear, and others. Their debut disc for the label (and fourth overall) will be released later this year. But first: the band’s mellow cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence,” complete with keytar from drummer Dan Didier. Oh, and they’d like you to know that they’re playing at UW-Madison this Friday, April 30.

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The Last Picture Show: The Ghost of Eric Rohmer

The old Crown Cinema in Collinsville, OK

When I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma, almost every rural town still had its own cinema. These theaters had seen better days in the 50′s and 60′s, but were barely holding on in the cable TV wasteland that was the 80′s, my time. Usually, it was just one screen, but the white dimming lights of the marque would still shine for one showing a night of whatever the most family friendly, mainstream film was of the time. The seats were all hard wood auditorium style, some of them broken, and the registration of the projector was so horrible it made your eyes hurt to watch it stutter. I didn’t mind, it made me feel like I was my own Antoine Doinel of The 400 Blows, I was in on the secret magic of the cinema! To everyone else this was just the movies, but to me it was a portal to the world outside my Oklahoma town. Sadly, many of these places are now abandoned, torn down, or have become churches, and the people have all moved to the multiplex! What happened to cinema for the sake of cinema!
The passing of Eric Rohmer brought a flood of memories back to me about my teenage years, and how I came about getting into filmmaking. There was a time when I thought films like “Armageddon” were what filmmaking was about. If you can’t show your movie on 4 screens, all day long, then what good is the thing you made? Eric Rohmer taught me otherwise, and he did it in a little town in Oklahoma that I can’t even remember the name of. I’ll get to that, but let me touch on Rohmer for a minute.He was born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer, Eric Rohmer was just one alias he used, and its the one that stuck in his filmmaking career. Mr. Rohmer was a teacher and novelist, that soon was writing film critique at the same magazine as Truffaut and Godard. He watched his contemporaries go into directing, and he was quick to follow. Before he knew it, Eric found himself at the forefront of the New Wave movement. Godard and Truffaut were more famous, and getting more attention with their love and re-invention of the American genre film, where as Rohmer was more reserved, observational, and literary. His most remembered films were made as part of a six part series called Six Moral Tales. While his friends were making more plot driven films, running down the streets of Paris with Aaton’s in hand, he was watching his characters in real time. He’d present them with an issue that they’d have to work their way out of…or not! As much as I love the freedom of the New Wave, I love the quiet he brought to the genre. If Godard taught me to run, Truffaut taught me to love, Rohmer taught me to listen.

French Poster for the last of the “Six Moral Tales”

Chloe in the Afternoon was the first Rohmer film I came in contact with, and the way that I was introduced is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. There was a Secret Film Society that met in a nearby farm town, as I said I can’t remember the name of, and its only secret because nobody knew it existed. This was before Netflix, and people would trade prints or VHS copies for underground screenings of films. I was invited by the high school art teacher in my home town. No big deal, except I wasn’t even in her class. She found out from other teachers how much I loved cinema and asked me if I’d be interested in coming to the screening. What added that extra bit of intrigue was that she told me I’d have to keep it secret, because if the school found out we were hanging after hours, she could get fired. Sounds like the perfect set up for one of Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales, doesn’t it?

We drove into the town. It was the typical kind of place where farmers and cattlemen hung out. There was a diner, small bar, and most importantly there was an old cinema on the main street. I’m not even sure it was still technically “open.” So here I was with a bunch of people I didn’t know, and a teacher I’d only met in passing. Everything was yellow, and faded maroon. The carpet smelled of mildew and stale popcorn. I took my seat in the theater among maybe twenty other people in total. The lights dimmed, and the guy in the booth rolled the print. To the young naive Catholic boy I was at the time, Chloe in the Afternoon sounded pretty darn exciting. The print was battered and bruised, the audio was trashed, but it was cinema! It wasn’t anything like my mind had expected, it was everything else I hadn’t imagined. In comparison to what was playing at the AMC 20 in the big town of Tulsa, this was a life changing experience for me. The print kept breaking, I mean literally broke about twelve times. They’d splice it and try again. Eventually, we had to stop the screening because the projector was eating the print. I went home that night never again looking at cinema as something that you pay $8.50 to see, drink a soda in a room with 200 people, and forget. The movies are for entertainment, but Cinema was meant to get in your bloodstream, to tell you a story!

I’d like to think that I carry Mr. Rohmer’s observational qualities into my work. Let the people tell their story, let their actions and emotions guide your camera. Listen more than you question. Use the natural light. Thank you Mr. Rohmer for being a part of who I am today. After all, if you know me, you know I secretly want every piece I do to be its own little New Wave film.

Manny Marquez

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Jack Daniel’s Birthday Shave

This year is Jack Daniel’s 159th birthday. Manny Marquez made this tribute (shot by his girlfriend, the lovely Leigh Wilson).

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Trek Bikes DOCUMENT at the Tour de France

5900_109008012233_640282233_2724158_4677613_nWe arrived in France over the July 4th weekend to begin shooting the next phase of the “Document” series for Trek Bikes. Pat Buckley is producing the Tour de France section of the series and Manny Marquez is directing.

We began in Monacco. Manny hadn’t arrived yet, so Pat directed AND produced the first episode. Pat recently directed a festival favorite flick — “William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet”, so he was a great stand in while we waited for Manny to show up.

The folks at Trek had been working with us for a while and were cool with letting us upload the episodes directly to YouTube without review. This way we were able to get the videos up within a day or two of the actual shoot.

The first video went live on July 5th:

The strategy was simple:

  • Tell stories along the route of the Tour that seldom get covered.
  • Avoid standard race coverage.
  • Follow the human stories.
  • Look for the unexpected.

The next episode, shot in Montpellier in the south of France, provided a rare opportunity to see what it’s like to ride in the team “follow car” with coach Dirk Demol.


Joining Dirk is actress Christine Taylor. How Manny wrangled his way into the car with Ben Stiller’s wife is still beyond me.




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“William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet”

Pat Buckley recently produced and co-directed “William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet.” Produced by our friends at Special Entertainment, the film features Shatner, Ben Folds, Henry Rollins and Joe Jackson and is described on the Special Entertainment site as:

swant-dvd-dancers-at-top-3“… a documentary about legendary Tony Award-winning choreographer Margo Sappington’s quest to create a ballet set to the music of William Shatner’s critically acclaimed album Has Been (produced and co-written with Ben Folds).

The film explores the genesis of this unique artistic collaboration by fusing the music, poetry, and dance of the finished ballet, Common People, with interviews of William Shatner, Ben Folds, Margo Sappington, and Henry Rollins.

The World Premiere took place at the 40th Anniversary of the Nashville International Film Festival. The sold-out show received a standing ovation and extremely positive reviews from local and national media, as well as winning the 2009 NaFF President’s Impact Award. Shatner, his wife Elizabeth, Ben Folds, and Sheryl Crow were all on hand for the premiere.

William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet recently screened at the Marbella International Film Festival in Spain, where it won the award for Best Documentary.

Some early reviews:

“A surprisingly revealing doc that suggests the full depths of Shatner’s self-awareness and — no kidding — artistic aspirations.” — Joe Leydon, Variety

“When the lights went up, there were cheers. Shatner comes across as a true original.” — Mark Rabinowitz, indieWIRE

“Despite the jaunty nature of the title, William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet is a profoundly bittersweet work.” — Richard Ouzounian, The Toronto Star

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Hoppy Hopkins

(Brand Web Series, 2008)

The “Heroes at Home” series highlighted the work being done on behalf of our veterans and helped share Sears Holdings longstanding commitment to those who serve in the military.

Across the globe, on a daily basis, our troops make sacrifices in the line of duty – so do their families. Often time these military families face hardships at home, including emotional and financial stresses.

This twenty-webisode series called Heroes at Home brings to life the many ways that Sears Holdings is doing something about this problem.

Heroes at Home is a program Sears Holdings created in partnership with Rebuilding Together in response to an urgent need to assist military families facing hardship. Rebuilding Together, the nation’s largest all volunteer home rehabilitation organization, is committed to bringing warmth, safety and accessibility to homeowners who do not have the financial or physical resources to complete home repairs and other necessary improvements.

AboutFace had the privilege of sharing the stories of these deserving recipients whose military service included WWII, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq. The series was shot all over the country, in the course of two weeks in late summer of 2008.

By providing necessary repairs or adaptations to homes, Sears Holdings improves the lives of military families across America. Heroes at Home is one of the many initiatives through which Sears Holdings acknowledges the sacrifice made by our troops every day in the line of duty, while supporting and honoring those heroes who remain at home.

For more about our brand documentary work visit About Face Media.

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Weird Combinations

final_boxHow weird is this: A post about unknown/forgotten gems on dvd that includes ASWANG, JOSEY AND THE PUSSYCATS (starring our friend Rachel Leigh Cook) and AMERICAN MOVIE.

Did you ever see this, John? You gotta show Rachel.


The unnecessary plot takes the East Asian baby sucker, and sticks it into a (then) modern Rosemary’s Baby meets Dracula narrative. This intriguing, but not totally unfamiliar setting is the second step. The third step is hiring passable actors, and with a few exceptions, these players are better than the majority found in low-budget horror.

The trump and final step to make magic without money is loading your feature with unexpected camera work, energetic pacing, and a bit of creative gore. Directors Wrye Martin and Barry Poltermann do everything in their power to make your film look like it cost more than nothing. Aswang is often compared to Evil Dead by its fans because of this energy and flare, and it deserves the praise.

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Purple Onion pushes Milwaukee’s film industry forward

imagesPurple Onion is the September Club’s “Mother Ship”.

And Andy Gorzalski is flying the flag.

Although Milwaukee’s collective film consciousness is arguably somewhat newly developed, Purple Onion’s stake in independent film is anything but. Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, the company began producing commercials in 1987, back when there was virtually “nothing like that going on” in Milwaukee, says Gorzalski.

“Now, everyone who has a competitive production company here in Milwaukee — and there’s probably six or seven that bid on a national level — has passed through these doors. It was a place that really pushed it forward.”

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Hubbard Street

(Documentary Series Pitch, Un-produced Project, 2005)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is among the most original forces in contemporary dance. As one of the only professional dance companies to perform year-round, Hubbard Street is continually touring nationwide and internationally. This is a brief glimpse into their life and culture.

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Mad Hot Ballroom

(Documentary Feature, 2005)

Eleven-year-old New York City public school kids journey into the world of ballroom dancing and reveal pieces of themselves and their world along the way. Told from their candid, sometimes hilarious perspectives, these kids are transformed, from reluctant participants to determined competitors.

This engaging film combines the warm charm of Spellbound with the kinetic energy of Strictly Ballroom. It will make you want to laugh, cry and do a little dancing yourself, maybe all at the same time.

Mad Hot Ballroom focuses on an annual citywide competition that encompasses the program’s five dances: fox-trot, merengue, rumba, tango and swing. The action, directed by Marilyn Agrelo, cuts back and forth between three public schools in different parts of the city. The film culminates in an emotional dance-off for the enormous trophy that goes to New York’s number one dance team.

The film’s fourth- and fifth-graders, still a few years from the mad hormones of adolescence, seem hardly likely to embrace the physical touch and constant eye contact ballroom dancing demands. But the wonder of Mad Hot Ballroom is that these kids embrace dance and even get to love it. `It’s like a sport that hasn’t been invented yet,’ one boy enthuses about ballroom’s so old it’s new charms.

These dancers get all but addicted to the chance to do something well and feel good about themselves in the process. And because they are so young, not old enough to dissemble and hide their feelings behind bland facial expressions, their disappointments and their joy are easy for us to read and to share in.

As the film progresses, we can literally see these young people start to feel better about themselves as their dancing skills improve. When one teacher says, between tears, `I see them turning into these ladies and gentlemen,’ you know what she’s crying about. Though the kids who don’t do well in the citywide contest often end up in tears themselves, the film makes you believe they are all winners. They just don’t see it yet.

Kenneth Turan, NPR

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