Smart Studios Story Premieres at SXSW

Our friends at Smart Studios finally get their due in a new documentary by Wendy Schneider, which just appeared at SXSW to great reviews. In this clip, we see our friends Donita Sparks (L7) and the September Club’s own Frank Anderson… who worked together on the score of our film “The Life of Reilly” in 2005.

And here’s a deep cut… one of several original music videos we did for Smart Studios back in the early 90’s, for the punk band Cosmic Psychos:

Cosmic Psychos | Dead Roo from Purple Onion Inc. on Vimeo.


Rolling Stone Names Jawbreaker ‘Dear You’ As #4 Emo Album Of All Time

Interesting. Influential ’90s bay area punk band Jawbreaker is in the news. Rolling Stone named the band’s 1995 album ‘Dear You’ the #4 emo album of all time. Why is that news at September Club? Because a feature documentary about the band — working title ‘Don’t Break Down’ — is being produced by Rocket Fuel Films and September Club, on track for a 2017 premiere.

But what was even more interesting… check out the #3 album on the list — The Promise Ring’sScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 9.05.01 PM ‘Nothing Feels Good’… featuring September Club’s own master editor, Dan Didier on drums.

Dan is supervising the edit on “Don’t Break Down”, working with Erin Elders (editor).


“Operation Allie” Screens At Big Sky

September Club founding director Manny Marquez‘s very personal short documentary “Operation Allie” is screening this week at the prestigious Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

The film features Manny’s own brother Anthony, a vet of the war in Afghanistan, on a quest to find one of his best friends from his days in combat – his bomb-sniffing dog partner, Allie.

The documentary provides intimate access into the life of a returned war vet, and a heart-warming story of old friends and their unlikely reunion stateside.

American Movie Receives Cinema Eye Legacy Award

220px-AmericanmovieSundance Grand Jury Prize-winner (1999) “American Movie” today received the Cinema Eye Legacy Award. The film was edited by our own Barry Poltermann, working with co-editor Jun Diaz.

At an awards lunch in Manhattan, Chris Smith (director/producer) accepted the award. There will also be a screening of the film at Hot Docs in Toronto with a special Q&A with Smith afterwards.

Previous Legacy Award honorees have been “Sherman’s March” (2010), “Grey Gardens” (2011), “Titicut Follies” (2012), “The War Room” (2013), “Harlan County, USA” (2014) and “Paris is Burning” (2015).

For more about Cinema Eye, see its website. A small excerpt follows here:

The Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking were founded in late 2007 to recognize and honor exemplary craft and innovation in nonfiction film. Cinema Eye’s mission is to advocate for, recognize and promote the highest commitment to rigor and artistry in the nonfiction field.


RAIDERS! Documentary Sells To Drafthouse Films

“Raiders!: The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”, a documentary by Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen and edited by September Club, has sold to indie powerhouse Drafthouse Films.

See the full story in Variety, but here’s a telling excerpt on future plans:

Drafthouse plans a limited theatrical release across North America in the summer alongside a variety of VOD and digital platforms, with a Blu-ray/DVD release later in the year.

Riverwest Radio Launches

You can now listen to “Cinema Fireside” (featuring Xav Leplae, Gabe Van Handel and Mark Borchardt) over the air. From today’s Journal Sentinel:

With a coveted FCC radio license in their hip pocket, a band of artists, activists and audiophiles operating out of a Riverwest storefront is taking to the airwaves New Year’s Day.

Riverwest Radio is among thousands of tiny, community-based outfits that collectively overcame years of debate in Congress and opposition from the likes of National Public Radio to snag a spot on the over-the-air dial. The station will occupy 104.1 FM, with call letters WXRW-LP.

What is Cinema Fireside?

Through the compelling conduits of extemporaneous thought and conversation, these good gentlemen explore the vast and intriguing terrain of filmdom from contemporary offerings to historic gold.

Ultimately,“Cinema Fireside” provides for a robust symposium of filmic musings, erudite conjuring and all-around collective soul-searching. One never reaches for the dial – because they can’t. Yet. Tune in, be in, and live grandly and respectably.

Congrats to Mark and Xav.

RAIDERS! Closes the MIFF

Jeremy Coon (Producer, Napoleon Dynamite) and Tim Irwin (Director, “We Jam Econo, the Story of the Minutemen”)… whom we collaborated with on RAIDERS!, were in town today and we had lunch with Mark Borchardt. RAIDERS! is the closing night film at the Milwaukee Film Festival tonight.

We are all scheming together on a new project that we hope to announce soon. In addition, September Club is editing Tim’s documentary about the legendary punk icons, JAWBREAKER.

Jeremy directed RAIDERS! with Tim Skousen (who couldn’t make the trip). Our hope is that this photo makes Tim very jealous.

The Return of Surge Soda

Surge soda — a caffeinated drink from Coca Cola that had a cult following while it was produced between 1996 and 2003, is returning to the shelves. Why do we care? Because we (Barry Poltermann & Steve Farr) directed most of the SURGE commercials back in the late 90’s! (watch for the most inside of inside moments in “American Movie”, where Mike tells Uncle Bill “It’s a brand new soda form Coca-Cola, it’s called SURGE.”)

In 2014, Coca-Cola began selling limited supplies of the drink on Amazon. Sales were strong, but it wasn’t until three hyperfans—Evan Carr, Sean Sheridan, and Matt Winans—began a viral social media campaign that the so-called Surge Movement really got off the ground.

The campaign’s shining moment occurred when thousands of people donated to buy a billboard in 2013 about a half mile from Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters that read “Dear Coke, we couldn’t buy Surge so we bought this billboard instead.”

Some Surge spots we directed, circa 1997:

Surge LIGHTS OUT from Purple Onion Inc. on Vimeo.

Coca-Cola | Surge | "New Orleans" :60 from Purple Onion Inc. on Vimeo.

Surge | Snow Way

Surge | Hose


“Fast Company” Premieres in Nashville

“Fast Company” from director Jack Davidson premiered this Friday at the Music City Center in Nashville, TN. More than 300 drummers from across the world faced off in the 2015 World’s Fastest Drummer (WFD) World Finals.

WFD feet winner Josh RobinsonBraxton Burke, twenty-one, from Langley, KY, took home the title as the Hands Champion, with a 953 strokes-in-one-minute performance. Joshua Robinson, from Washington, DC, was named Foot Champion, registering 899 strokes in one minute.

Church’s Chicken celebrated the world finals by hosting several drumming-themed events, including the premiere of Fast Company. The film features the lives of some of the people who make World’s Fastest Drummer possible, including former champions and the founding members of the competition.

Festival Talk says:

“Fast Company is a fun short documentary film with a unique flavor. World’s Fastest Drummer is a competition that calls itself “extreme sport drumming” for good reason, how many drum beats per minute can a person bang out? If you think 100 or 150, you’d be way off. It can run into a thousand. Fast Company is a quick glimpse into the competition created by legendary musician and world record holder Boo McAfee. In 1981, Boo drummed for 738 hours. That’s not a typo, the man actually did that.

With short blasts of interviews with contestants and past contestants, we see inside this crazy fascinating competition. One that is growing each year in size and popularity. The whole thing was made possible by the “Drumometer” a cool piece of tech I quickly became fascinated with. Folks of all ages enjoy competing and revisit the competition each year. There’s a strong competitiveness with the contestants, you find yourself rooting for one or the other. The film, brought to us by About Face Media and sponsored by Church’s Chicken (because who else knows drumsticks better?) played at this year’s Milwaukee Show at the MKE Film Festival. It was met by rousing applause, especially when Boo himself took the stage with his fellow film makers for a quick Q&A afterward. We had a chance to meet Boo and asked him a few questions. He is a genuinely kind man who was grateful for the positive reception of the film. I did ask about the possibility of a WFD competition here in Milwaukee, Boo said its possible so start brushing up your skills, I know I am. I really enjoyed Fast Company, if you see it coming to your area, be sure to catch a screening.”

Anne Meara


Anne, me, Frank Anderson, and Jerry Stiller at the premiere of “The Life of Reilly” in 2007

I met Anne Meara at the Provincetown Film Festival in 2006. I randomly ran into her in the lobby of our hotel. I was eating breakfast and there was nobody there but myself, her and her husband, Jerry. She looked over to me and asked if I was there with a film, and I said, “yes… The Life of Reilly”. She paused and said, sadly… “How’s Charlie doing?”

She remained a friend, was one of the first people who called me after Charles died, and later came to support the premier of the film at the New York premiere.

The clip above, from “The Life of Reilly”, features a story about her and Jerry. She will be missed.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Comedy legend Anne Meara died Saturday at the age of 85, and a number of Hollywood stars paid their respects via social media.

Meara was half of the comedic duo Stiller & Meara, with husband Jerry Stiller, and they were known for radio commercial campaigns and appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.

She had recurring roles on numerous TV series, including ALFKing of Queens and Sex and the City, and she appeared in such films as The Out of TownersFameAwakenings and Night at the Museum, the latter directed by her son, Ben Stiller.


“IngerUcker: Beyond Fingerdome” Debuts

September Club’s own Manny Marquez‘s new documentary short is playing this weekend in Portland at the FILMED BY BIKE Film Festival.

Manny is a cycling enthusiast. His love for the sport started while filming a September Club documentary for Trek at the 2009 Tour De France. It has since changed his life – he went from 300 pounds at the time when he began cycling to 170 today. He is happier and healthier. And he made a documentary about his hometown, Hood River, Oregon bike race as a love letter to cycling – and the fascinating people involved.

This week, his film, “IngerUcker: Beyond Fingerdome”, plays the Filmed By Bike Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Animals Trailer Launches

The trailer for ANIMALS dropped today, and The Dissolve says:

The first trailer for Animals makes it pretty clear why the film struck such a chord with the SXSW audience. It’s not over-the-top, melodramatic, or cheap, and despite a short runtime—less than two minutes—it delivers the maximum of emotion and story. It’s a good trailer, but it looks like it’s advertising an even better film.


RAIDERS! Premieres At SXSW

Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen’s documentary “Raiders!: The Story of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made” premiered this week at SXSW. We edited “Raiders!” here at September Club… with our own Barry Poltermann taking the lead.

IndieWire: Raiders! is an exhilarating documentary for anybody who has dreamed big.

SlashFilm: It’s a beautiful, inspiring story told with a ton of excitement and context. Plus, in the end, you realize this isn’t just about making movies. It’s about the struggle and accomplishment of fulfilling your dreams.

Variety: Often poignant, occasionally pathetic, but never short of entertaining, “Raiders!” captures the obsessive hold movies have on young people’s imaginations…

Congratulations to the whole team!

More on the film at its official site.

CNN Acquires The 414s

the414s_poster_epkCNN has acquired “The 414s: The Original Teenage Hackers” out of Sundance. The short documentary was directed by Michael Vollmann (our Senior Editor) and produced by Chris James Thompson (“The Jeffrey Dammer Files”, “MECCA: The Floor”)… one of our most prolific directors.

From Filmmaker Magazine.

The documentary will lead off a new CNN initiative – a short-form series. More info at Deadline.

Congratulations to Michael, producer Chris, and the entire 414s team!

UPDATE: You can watch the film on CNN here.

Hacker Documentary The 414s Premieres At Sundance

September Club director Chris James Thompson and Head Editor Michael T. Vollmann‘s newest short documentary, “The 414s: The Original Teenage Hackers”, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week.

The film, directed by Vollmann and produced by Thompson, examines the first widely recognized computer hackers, a group of Milwaukee teenagers who broke into dozens of prominent computer systems including the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1983, and inspired the term “hacker.”

Congratulations to Vollmann, Thompson, and the entire team that worked on The 414s!

“Psychopath” World Premiere

Manny 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.”


ESPN 30 For 30 Shorts Wins Emmy Award

We are excited to see that ESPN’s 30 For 30 Shorts won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Short-Format Non-Fiction Program. We contributed to the series with Chris James Thompson and Michael Vollmann‘s “MECCA: The Floor

30 for 30 Shorts was nominated alongside other popular programs “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” “COSMOS: A National Geographic Deeper Dive,” “I Was There: Boston Marathon Bombings,” “Jay Leno’s Garage” and “Park Bench With Steve Buscemi.”

Dan Silver, who oversees the series for ESPN, said this of the series after the win:

We started this series with a very simple, but ambitious goal: “How can we make, distribute, and monetize cinematic quality short-form content that is platform agnostic?” Meaning, these aren’t just pieces that live on the web, but rather, across all of ESPN’s outlets – web, TV, social, etc. So the reason why I’m so ecstatic about this win is that it’s a validation of the hard work and collaboration of many different people, from many departments across our company, essentially creating something from nothing.

Check out some of the series’ other great films at ESPN.

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.


Happy 35th Birthday, Manny

Happy birthday to the amazing Manny Marquez. From all of us at September Club.

Courtesy of Michael Vollmann.

September Club’s New ESPN 30 for 30 Short

In the newest ESPN 30 for 30 short “MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous” filmmaker Chris James Thompson has captured a unique, however unlikely, piece of Milwaukee sports and art history lore. The Mecca Arena, as it was once called, (now the U.S. Cellular Arena) was home to the Milwaukee Bucks (1970 – 88) and the Marquette Warriors (now the Marquette Golden Eagles) basketball teams as well as a venue for other events.

In 1977, the worse-for-wear arena floor was replaced, but it would be no ordinary basketball court because it just so happened that renowned Pop artist Robert Indiana was commissioned to design a new floor – a massive, utilitarian art work. That in itself, along with Indiana’s $27,500 fee, was a point of contention among many as well as a sense of fascination to others. Indiana had created the uber-famous “Love” icon which permeated 1970’s American culture, landing on hats, t-shirts and even a postage stamp. Now he was on to something else.

But until recently, that floor was languishing in a Missouri warehouse waiting to be sold off, until a few determined Milwaukee Bucks fans saved the day. Andy Gorzalski, Greg Koller, (who initiated the idea and sadly passed away) and his son Ben put themselves out on a financial limb to rescue the floor. And for one amazing summer night in 2013, that floor was reassembled to celebrate and relive a bygone era.

Chris Thompson, a venerated filmmaker whose last effort “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files,” (picked up by IFC) chillingly retold the grisly account of Milwaukee’s notorious serial killer, this time, along with a bevy of local filmmakers, portrayed a much more positive slant to the city in documenting this magical effort of recapturing the Arena‘s floor. Chris explained to me this fascinating story of the historic floor and its glorious return to form.

“What happened was Andy Gorzalski, who is a friend of mine and an avid Bucks fan here in Milwaukee…had just put his credit card down to purchase the Milwaukee Bucks basketball court from the old MECCA Arena in the 1970′s in Milwaukee for $20,000…but he didn’t actually have $20,000.”

But that little fact did not stop Andy…

Chris continued: “Even though he’s a hard working guy, he’s not a wealthy person…but he was so passionate about this floor and what it meant to him and having gone to games with his dad when he was a young boy and seeing the court and all his heroes for the Bucks playing on it. He just couldn’t imagine the court being sent away or shipped off to another country or chopped up…he really was passionate that it needed to stay in one piece and it needed to stay in Milwaukee.”

Obviously, that determination paid off and Chris realized as a filmmaker, that it was “impossible not to get on board with him and see where the story went…You know when you hear from a third party that someone bought a court for $20,000 it seems a bit ludicrous, but when you spend a few minutes with Andy it starts to make sense somehow.”

Upon his first meeting with Andy, the Arena’s history was fondly explained to Chris: Robert Indiana painting the beautiful floor, the Bucks winning the championship, Marquette winning a championship, and many great basketball players playing on the floor and other events that were happening in there, and how it was such a beloved venue, a MECCA in many senses of the word for so many people.

Yet before the intervention of Andy, Greg and Ben, it was amazing that some art aficionado didn’t snap it up first. Or was it because sports and art somehow don’t generally mix?

Chris reflected that “Robert Indiana is such a prolific artist, and the project itself was so unique: to paint every square inch of an entire basketball court had never been done before… (it could very well be) the largest pop art painting in the history of the world…There was lots of different opinions on how much it was worth…a single piece of art can be…priceless in some people’s opinions, and it could be completely worthless in other people’s opinions.”

And in reality, what could one actually do with such a massive and cantankerous proposition?

It’s an enormous floor, weighing thousands of pounds and it takes up so much space that there are very few buildings that it could actually be displayed in or even stored in safely.

“That was another part of the story, that more capital-minded art dealers, salvage people and scrap people thought…it could live on as maybe many different floors for different buildings or different rooms or even cut into table tops or even wall mounted pieces if you cut the wood small enough…which to Andy and a lot of Bucks fans just sounds like a nightmare.” Indeed.

As to the logistics of the task at hand, Chris informed me that “The floor belonged to an organization called the Wisconsin Center District which owns those buildings, the Expo Center and the MECCA…They were the ones that were trying to sell it and were the ones indirectly that Andy was purchasing the floor through, via a website called “Planet Reuse,” so once they found it that this is a local Bucks fan that was going to buy the floor and wanted it to stay as all once piece, I think they sort of worked in cooperation, realizing, hey there’s some interest here. It would be great to have a single night where we could display the floor again, and all these Bucks fans can come back and remember what this floor looked like in its original home inside the MECCA. I’m not sure financially what the agreement was, but I think they were all pretty friendly because they realized the significance of this night and how important it was to the city.”

And Chris, aided with a lot of enthusiastic Milwaukee filmmakers, helped capture the events surrounding the pilgrimage of the floor to make sure as much could be preserved of the story as possible. Along the way, such luminaries as Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee Bucks) and Doc Rivers (Marquette) weighed in with fond memories of time spent playing on that court.

Being older than Chris, I had to enlighten him that the arena was also home to the hard rock/heavy metal concert culture in the late 70′s and the 80′s. So, a lot of people didn’t know the arena as an exclusive sports arena but as a concert venue. And I related an infamous event to Chris: “It was around 1980, or ’81, and Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult were on tour and this is when Ozzy Osbourne had left Black Sabbath, and Ronnie James Dio was now their lead singer. Well anyway, a lot of fans were just so vengeful that Ozzy Osbourne wasn’t the singer – that in Milwaukee during the second or third song that Black Sabbath played – someone threw a beer bottle and it hit one of the Black Sabbath members.”

“Black Sabbath was taken off the stage and a riot ensued where they tore up the Arena seats, the sound equipment, and everything. That made headlines. That was a huge thing. The mayor I believe banned Black Sabbath from coming back to Milwaukee. Anyway, they ripped up the Arena.” Those were the days.

As for what’s next on the plate for Chris, he informed me that he‘s been “…really interested in learning about the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Also, the rendition program that the U.S. Government was operating in the early part of the 2000′s in trying to combat the war on terror. I’ve been exploring the idea of making a feature film covering some of those topics, and I’ve done some interviews and a lot of research for a few years.” Sounds like it’s back to the heavy stuff again.

As to the future of the MECCA Arena, the naming rights were just resold, so it’s a good guess that the venue will be around for some time to come even though it lives in the much larger shadow of the Bradley Center (which is now home to the Bucks). Ironically, in 2013 a new floor was installed in the Bradley Center to pay homage to the Robert Indiana floor. Not bad.

“MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous” premiered on here.

-Mark Borchardt


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

September 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.