Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mohammad and the Global Gang Bang

The attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was an irrational, awful, horrific act of violence and the staff of Charlie Hebdo made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure that we can all say what we want, where we want, when we want. In the name of those lost artists, we must boldly stand with them and demand that they can continue to say whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. The free expression of ideas should never come to this.

Charlie Hebdo has been slaughtering sacred cows with joyful aplomb since 1970, and I applaud them for it. I love satire – without the opportunity to laugh at this absurd circus, I'd have lost my mind by now. Not only does satire prove cathartic, but it's one of the most effective ways to bring about real political change and, thus, it is an absolutely indispensable tool for a free-thinking democracy.

But I've also seen the caricatures of Mohammad that provoked the terror and, of course, I've now seen the cover that Charlie Hebdo published in response to the terror. Simply put, the images are ugly, racist caricatures. The fact that Charlie Hebdo is free to publish ugly, racist caricatures of a major religion's Prophet (over and over again) seems to be its entire point – courageous, perhaps, but not funny.

So, I stand beside Charlie…but I am not Charlie. Publishing images of Mohammad is a useful and even necessary exercise to protect our universal right to free speech -- publish, publish, publish until it is a futile, hopeless effort to suppress ideas through violence. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The publishing of Mohammad's caricature is reminiscent of 1989's art piece, Piss Christ. Piss Christ was an image of a crucifix submerged in urine. That piece offended a different religion's sensibilities. No one was murdered, but representatives of our federal government fought like hell to censor it. In fact, many of the Republican pundits who now rally around Charlie Hebdo are the same Republicans who used Piss Christ as an excuse to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. And don't get me started on all the hypocritical leaders coming to France, honoring the right to free speech with one hand, while suppressing it in their own countries with the other.

I've been avoiding the news coverage this time -- I know what it is. As with 9/11, legitimate grief that came out of the tragedy is being fetishized and exploited by the media. Once the ground is fertile with fear and anger, the grief will morph into something ugly. After all, Westerners have been sitting around with a collective case of blue balls for quite some time – the media feigns respect, but really, it doesn't like Islam – and neither do Westerners in general. Now, given the perfect excuse, the West is engaged in a global gang bang, forcefully spewing an ocean of white ejaculate onto three million ugly caricatures of Mohammad's face. More violence won't be far behind.

All I can say is I hope that the West feels like it's collective ball sack is sufficiently drained. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims, 1.599999999 are good, decent, moderate people just trying to get by. In Europe, as the newest and poorest minority, Muslims are the most common victims of hate crimes, not to mention the most common victims of fundamentalist Muslim violence throughout the world (see Boko Haram massacre - if you can find it). And, as with most Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc., moderate Muslims simply shrug when they see their Prophet demeaned and degraded, but it's still demeaning. It's still degrading.

None-the-less, we all have the right to offend anyone and everyone we want. So go ahead and make Mohammad your profile picture on Facebook, but know that once the courageous context is forgotten, it will stand as nothing more than the ugly, racist, hurtful image that it is.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Dear Editor,

I read the LA Weekly more-or-less cover-to-cover every week.

Last week, I particularly looked forward to reading your issue with the dim hope that you might cover the forced ouster of Damiano Mr. Pizza by "three of the biggest names in LA's food scene," Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. Your lackluster coverage of their hostile takeover turned out to be a journalistic embarrassment, unbefitting of Us Magazine much less a paper that prides itself on civic responsibility.

I first suspected the Weekly would be shunning its role as a voice for the community when I noticed a full-page review of Lefebvre, Shook and Dotolo's newest restaurant, Trois Mec ("three dudes" in French, as the reviewer Besha Rodell so helpfully points out). As I read the gag inducing hagiography and accompanying foodie felatio (which managed to romanticize a 97-dollar non-refundable reservation!), I started to think about Trois Mec, The Three Dudes and why they suck.

After waxing poetic about the "pure white fantasy" of "a backwards creampuff", Ms. Rodell concludes Trois Mec's food "has moved into a realm where the pure pleasure of eating trumps all…it's hard to pay attention to anything at all, really apart from the exultant melody playing out in the space between your plate, your mouth and your heart."

Well Ms. Rodell, you write great foodie porn, but how about using your head to pay attention to the neighborhood that you're eating in. Rodell mentions in passing, sounding every bit the eco-tourist, that Trois Mec is "housed in a cheap pizza joint in a strip mall." We later find out the pizza joint was called Raffallo's. I see on Yelp that Raffallo's served cheap slices and beer. A local who used to hang out there can now get dinner in that same space…provided that they log online once every "fortnight" and throw down 97-dollars for a non-refundable reservation.

But, alas, my gripe is not even with the restaurant, Trois Mec. I love a deconstructed Bistronomie as much as the next person. What infuriates is what The Three Dudes have done to Damiano's (as it was really called).

If The Three Dudes weren't moving into the Damiano's space, I suspect the Weekly wouldn't have covered it at all, for the only mention was in a short blurb with the breathless headline, "A New Restaurant for Animal's Shook and Dotolo" – of course the blurb was also written by Ms. Rodell.

According to the blurb, The Two Dudes (minus Lefebvre) have no idea what restaurant they're going to open. The real news -- that they pushed the Fairfax landmark Damiano's out of business -- is told to us by Dotolo himself: they decided to take over the building because of a "somewhat difficult relationship with the tenant" and the space is "in pretty bad shape. We need to totally rebuild it." And then as quoted in Zagat, Dotolo goes on to say, "It's pretty appalling that they served food out of this place. That's all I'm going to say."

Dotolo’s arrogance is astonishing. First he unceremoniously puts a restaurant with 50 years in the community out of business. Then, showing no respect what-so-ever for the family or the people they served, he badmouths Damiano’s to the press. And the LA Weekly transcribes everything he says as truth, despite the fact that it is complete and utter bullshit.

Damiano's was in that building for half-a-century, over that time, the previous owners managed to get along with them just fine. As for the shape of things, it rated an “A” so the county thought it was clean enough. No, it was clearly more convenient, and much more profitable, to put Damiano's out of business -- tradition, heritage and community be damned.

And by presenting The Three Dudes' version of events as the objective truth, with not even a word of rebuttal from Damiano's management, the LA Weekly shows all too clearly where its true allegiance lies. At best you are guilty of lazily accepting the demise of Damiano's (and by extension the Fairfax district) as a fait accompli, at worst you are complicit in the thoughtless, unbridled promotion of hipster, foodie empire building.

Now I can already sense Ms. Rodell's eyes' rolling back into her head. "What a boring philistine! If he wants a 'cheap pizza joint' he should move to NoHo."

Well, Damiano's was not another "cheap pizza joint" and that stretch of Fairfax is the heart and soul of the entire area. Damiano's was an authentic late night NY pizzeria that had lived across from Canter's for 50 YEARS. Sitting in the window eating a slice at 2am was one of the purest pleasures LA had to offer. The pizza, the salads, the clams, the assorted microbrews and micro brewed root beer all moved me into a "realm where pleasure of eating trumps all." Having just returned from Italy, I can say without hesitation that it was the real deal --

A place to be treasured.

Or if you're The Three Dudes -- a place to be destroyed.

I understand that a community needs to evolve in order to thrive, but there is a balance that must be struck. New businesses have already pushed out most of the older Jewish establishments on Fairfax, now even the places with broader appeal are getting overwhelmed. There's not much left -- you kill a Damiano's, Canter's, Musso's or Philippe's and the heart and soul of Los Angeles slowly dies with them.

But clearly, The Three Dudes (and the LA Weekly?) don't give a shit about a community retaining the shared history that it's worked so hard to build. In the case of the Weekly, your coverage is particularly tragic given that you once gave us Jonathan Gold. Have you forgotten what makes a city magic?

However, despite your feeble reportage last week, it's not too late. I beg of you to use your pulpit and send a message to The Three Dudes. Impress upon them what they should have already gathered on their own. There is no restaurant they can open at 412 N. Fairfax that will be better for the community than the one that was already there.


Eric G. Johnson

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Henry Rollins' 2009 Sonoma College Commencement Speech

Inspiring words from a self-described troublemaker:

It is an honor to be in front of you today as we congratulate all of our graduates and welcome their families and friends. My name is Henry Rollins and the fact that I was asked to speak briefly to you all today is one of the highest compliments I have ever been paid and most terrifying propositions I have ever been given. I only hope my words have some meaning and merit.

I would like to thank you for going to college. I would like to thank you for taking years of your life and devoting it to study and the pursuit of knowledge. The world is in great need of people who can think, people who value ideas

For a moment, think of the person you were before you came here as a freshman or a freshperson if you will, and the person you are now. Of course, there was a large amount of good times, carrying on and engaging in behavior that we need not mention here. It is perhaps why the human brain is allotted such a vast amount of cells, so that it’s not a big problem when a few million fall off the back of the truck.

But amidst all the fun and frivolity there were infinitely long stretches of time where you had to hit the books and work and work in order to achieve. There was no one there to tell you to keep at it but you. And you did it, and here you are. You may not need every single course you ever took to get you though life, but the focus and discipline that was required to complete the course will be invaluable tools that you will utilize and that will hopefully benefit you and those around you for the rest of your life.

Your education and the time you spent here must be more than merely the means to a good job and financial security. Those are certainly important concerns but I am hoping for much more from you. To come all this way only to become content cogs in a large machine or merely indistinguishable threads in a massive tapestry is not enough. It just isn’t.

I know you are well aware of what is happening on planet Earth in 2009. Some say that we are in tough times. I believe we are in challenging times that are in need of bold thinking, fresh ideas and new ways of going about old things. This is where you come in. The future greets you today. You are a very big part of what it will be.

So, it is incumbent upon you to take all that you have learned and all that you have worked so hard to achieve and do something with it that is more than the gathering of items and the purchase of a place to put it all in. Because at the end of the day, that is a bit of a checked swing, isn’t it? You don’t want to retire into the dull roar that quickly and quietly, do you? I should hope not!

It is interesting, the excuses people give when they tell me why they don’t read as much as they used to, don’t travel or inquire as much as they did years before. They tell me they got tired, the kids, the job, the drive to work, the grind, not enough hours in the day, they say. When someone would tell the great philosopher Seneca that there wasn’t enough hours in the day, Seneca would reply that the gods had been quite generous with time allotment but that many people made poor use of it. Not a second of your life will you ever get back. Make every day count, or acquire a taste for regret.

I don’t understand how a mind that has been enlightened by years of study and immersed in an environment of such frenetic intellectual activity could ever suffer the crushing blow of complacency. I hope that none of you ever suffer this self-inflicted, greatly compromised condition. Not only is it inexcusable, it is boring as hell and no fun at all.

Your curiosity must never wane! Ever. You are, therefore you want to know, want to go, want to know more and want to go further. As college graduates, you know all too well how much there is to know and the incalculable amount of fascinating things there are to explore, from thought to geographic destination. It is your curiosity that you must enhance, strengthen and value, more and more as the years go on and on. It is your curiosity that you must guard against exhaustion, apathy and that awful plague called middle age. You are allowed occasional but brief vacations from your curiosity, DVD box sets of television shows and carbohydrate rich foods are permitted—but don’t make a career out of it! It is your curiosity that you will pass on like a genetic trait to your children, infect all those around you like a virus and inspire the anger of those who have chosen to admit defeat. One of the greatest and most powerful words in any language is: WHY.

When you stop wanting to find out, you’re done. There are few things more unendurable than being forced to spend time with someone who is intellectually incurious. This can never be you. Ask a question. Go forth. Arrive at the answer. Catch your breath. Ask Why. And then set off again. Never relent!

The world is in need of bright minds. Individuals who seek to spread peace and prosperity by the way conduct themselves and the value they place on the lives of others and on life itself. These people, by way of their concern and awareness, whether they know it or not—are leaders.

You lead through kindness, generosity, tolerance, innovation, the quest for knowledge and a basic, resolved goodness that is incorruptible, inexhaustible and undefeatable.

You do not lead by intimidation, by economic coercion, overwhelming military might or sanctions.

Brutality, oppression and the constant threat of violence only results in brutality, oppression and actual violence. The world has more than it needs.

A member of Ku Klux Klan doesn’t need a frying pan upside the head! He needs an Al Green record and some good books. He needs better information so he can make better decisions and reach better conclusions. He needs to be inspired. You could do that for someone else, you could do that for a lot of people. It might take a lot less and go a lot further than you think.

If you have noticed, I keep mentioning the people and the world around you. I have been doing this because you are surrounded. You are surrounded by millions of square miles of land, billions of gallons of water and who knows how many cubic feet of air. You share all of these finite and vulnerable resources with millions of people. Everything you do, affects someone else, perhaps more than you realize. I am hoping that you understand that your responsibility to yourself and your well-being must also somehow include the planet on which you live and the people you share it with because like it or not, it does.

And now it’s time for my self-serving op ed. Of course, everything I have said to you thus far, has been merely my opinion. Fair enough. Here’s something that perhaps has little to do with our topic today but this is something I will not allow myself not to say to you on this very important day: It is my opinion that all wars are avoidable and unnecessary and could have been prevented by more compassionate governance of peoples and the highest possible value put on life and human rights. I know that one day, war and torture will be relics of the past. That racial discrimination, homophobia and other intolerance and ignorance will be looked upon as primitive, half-baked behavior that no one could ever be induced to repeat. I know that future generations will look back and wonder, “What in the world were those people thinking?”

From that history they will understand that some of their duties as human beings are to pursue peace at all times, to make sure that famine and human suffering never return, and that the stewardship and care of the planet and its very delicate ecosystem is in everyone’s best interest.

But, I am an impatient person and can not, will not, wait for these conclusions and actions to be part of some distant future. I want them to happen right now and I want you to be a huge part of that.

I think you will, and I think you’re going to be great at it. I think that some of the decisions you will make and actions you will take will make things better. You don’t have to be a doctor or a hero to save a life and you don’t have to be a scientist to brighten the future. All you need to do is care and get involved. I know you will, and I can’t wait to see how you act upon every ounce of your tremendous potential.

This is a great day. It’s your day. And so are all the ones to follow.

Think you can handle it?
I bet you can.
The future is bright.
I know this.
I’m looking at it.
Good luck.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Gearing up for release of Deluxe Version!

Hi TC peeps,

In answer to many of your queries, Tweek City is currently available on DVD or by download just about everywhere - Netflix, Blockbuster, Amazon...even YouTube.

Unfortunately, the version currently available has been censored by the distributor which deeply diminishes the experience. I'm working on getting the uncensored version available by download, I'll let you know how that goes but one thing's for sure...

I'm organizing the extras and authoring a deluxe uncensored DVD version of Tweek City that should be ready late this year.

To celebrate the release of the deluxe version, Tweek City will have it's first theatrical screening in three years! The screening will also include the world premiere of the short film Temp City and a launch party! Everyone who buys a ticket to the screening and after party will get a free copy of the Deluxe DVD!!

This deluxe DVD will include:

- The complete uncensored film
- The short film, Temp City
- Deleted Scenes
- A short documentary on the making of Tweek City
- Director's commentary
- Stills from the shoot
- 5.1 Sound Mix

Thanks for becoming a fan of Tweek City!


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Punk Globe Interview

by Ginger Coyote

The following interview was done with up and coming film maker Eric Johnson. Eric took an idea, wrote a screenplay and made a movie. We at Punk Globe support young filmmakers and hope you will enjoy "Tweek City."

Punk Globe: Eric, can you give the readers some background about yourself.

Eric Johnson: Well, let’s see. I grew up in LA. Moved to Santa Cruz for college where I majored in film and then after college ended up in San Francisco where I managed a sound stage, worked as a grip/gaffer, acted a bit and partied a lot. I wrote a screenplay about the scene up there and then came back to LA with the delusion that someone in Hollywood would throw money at me to make a scatological black comedy about a schizophrenic speed addict.

Well, that didn’t happen and I quickly fell in debt while writing a couple more screenplays and finally took a job at Sony Online Entertainment as a writer for the online versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Thankfully, that was 1997 and during the dotcom boom they couldn’t throw money at me fast enough. The whole time, I continued to act and direct and when 911 cost me my job I put all the money I had saved, put it on Tweek City and spun the wheel. Four years later and it’s still spinning…

Punk Globe: So "Tweek City" is your first release. Is it true that the movie is based loosely on a friend of yours life?

EJ: It was definitely inspired by the scene I was in and a couple close friends in particular. But while they helped inspire the main characters, the story is completely fictional and there are probably many more of my own experiences in the film then from other people.

Punk Globe: How long did it take you to write the film? Did you do a lot of re-writes?

EJ: It was a long journey. I moved to SF and promised myself that I wouldn’t leave until I had written a screenplay. I started with the most basic plot. After thirty pages, I threw almost everything out and didn’t look at it for a year. I started again and finally came close to finishing a draft. But I still didn’t have an ending. I took off and drove across the country and when I got back, I settled down in LA, sat down and finished the first draft – that was 1993. My first draft was called Shit Happens. It was very different from the script that I shot 10 years later. Every couple years, I’d come back to the script and develop different ideas. I made minor changes all the way up until the month before we shot. Then, the editing process was like starting all over again…

Punk Globe: I remember running into you at Al's Bar and telling you that we should have a part in your movie and low and behold a year later you emailed us about filming.

EJ: Yeah, I saw you around 1992 in San Francisco and thought you guys were the perfect band for the character Jerm to be fanatical about. I loved that you were a full on punk band but had a total sense of humor. When I realized that I was going to have to make this motherfucker myself, I jumped on the internet and found out that not only were you still going strong but that you had moved from SF to Hollywood. That blew my mind. So I tracked you down at Al’s and the rest is history. You were just about the first people I approached to become involved.

Punk Globe: How long did casting take for the movie and who did you hire to help you as a Casting Agent?

EJ: Patrick Baca was my casting director. He was a great collaborator. I had never done formal casting sessions before and he really helped me get my bearings. He was on board for months but the actual auditions went on for four weeks.

Punk Globe: I remember referring my pal the ultra talented Amy Carlson ("Law and Order Trial By Jury") and I mentioned the film to Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite") and he wanted to do the film but he had an obligation for a film with Nick Nolte.

EJ: Amy was fantastic and gave a really moving audition. I’d love to have the opportunity to work with her someday. I always felt Jenna and Bill do the things they do, due to youthful confusion and thoughtlessness. To Amy’s credit, she came off as more mature and together then Jenna. As for Jon, I’d take the film w/Nick Nolte too!

Punk Globe: You were trying to get Jeremy Piven for the role of Jerm. I thought he would have been great as well as Jon Gries but Keith Brunsmann was good also.

EJ: We made a lot of pie-in-the-sky offers for all the principal roles but those never felt real to me and none of them materialized. When Keith read during the call back he just brought a blast of the greatest energy and it was immediately apparent that Giuseppe loved him too. Keith is so generous as an actor and he really supported Giuseppe in the same way that Jerm supports Bill. Casting has as much to do with chemistry as anything and if Jerm and Bill weren’t believable as best friends the whole film would have sunk.

Punk Globe: How many actors did you see for the lead Bill Jensen?

EJ: Well over 100.

Punk Globe: Giuseppe Andrews was great as Bill. I remember his work from "American History X" and of course "Detroit Rock City"?

EJ: His best scenes in American History X are in the deleted scenes section of the DVD. He’s had character roles in a slew of huge movies from Independence Day to Cabin Fever but he never had the opportunity to carry a film until Tweek City. I like him as an actor because he is totally genuine and unique and incapable of artifice. A lot of the actors who auditioned for Bill would get so caught up in the speed clichés – chewing their fingernails, talking really fast, etc. Giuseppe just came in and delivered the lines in his own way. When he was uncomfortable with a written word he used the word that felt natural to him. He was just totally different in an unforced truthful way.

Punk Globe: Who made the decision to film in video and film? It had some rippling affect for the movie.

EJ: I always knew that I wanted different looks to represent Bill’s different perspectives but I didn’t figure out exactly what formats I would use to get the looks until I brought on my DP Barry Stone. I had decided that due to the budget, I was going to shoot primarily DVCam but I wanted Bill’s self-image to look like his favorite 70s films (Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, etc.) because Bill sees himself as a 70s anti-hero. Barry had a Super-16mm camera and suggested we shoot those sequences on grainy Super-16 which I could afford to do since there was no dialogue in those sequences. I could go on and on about what we used and why but I’ll just say we used several different cameras, all for very specific reasons.

Punk Globe: How did you hook up with Caitlin, Barry and Yule? Caitlin and I email a lot I think she is brilliant.

EJ: I found Caitlin up in SF. It was so hard to get a line producer with experience to commit. I had 50 locations, 35 speaking roles and I really didn’t have any money. Caitlin came on and said that she could do it but we’d have to keep the production lean and mean. So that’s what we did – tiny crew and almost no equipment. Barry is one of the top DPs in the Bay Area and I didn’t really think he’d come on for the meager wages I offered but he loved the script and immediately jumped in with both feet. When he came on board, it made everything so much easier. His name carries a lot of weight in the Bay Area and it gave Tweek City a real boost. Yule originally came on as a 2nd AD as a favor to my AD (assistant director). He’s brought films to market before so we talked afterwards and I brought him on as another co-producer along with Caitlin.

Punk Globe: Exactly how long did it take you to film the entire film?

EJ: 20 days.

Punk Globe; You filmed in San Francisco and Los Angeles. But how about the Drive In scene? Luis Saguar was so good as the older Latino Man at the ending of the film.

EJ: The Drive-In scene was shot out in Marysville, CA -- totally in the middle of nowhere. You would not believe how hard it is to find an intact Drive-In. I love Luis. He came in with no rehearsal, no real time with me and nailed that part perfectly. It was so cold that night that Giuseppe (who was naked) had to sit in the car with the heater blasting after we got the master shots and Luis performed all his singles alone. He was also great as Draculino.

Punk Globe: I know the scenes we shot were at The Velvet in San Francisco which used to be the legendary Mabuhay Gardens. You show a lot of scenic sites in the film. I know at the premiere at the Dances With Film festival there were a lot of comments about nostalgic SF landmarks in the film.

EJ: I’ve never seen a film that portrays the side of San Francisco that I’m familiar with. You always see the Golden Gate Bridge and Russian Hill and Fisherman’s Warf but you never see where people actually live like the Tenderloin, or 16th and Mission. SF is gentrifying so quickly now that I really wanted to capture whatever was left of the city I loved in the early 90s.

Punk Globe: I also remember the house you shot the party scene at was in Bernal Heights down by the Safeway Store.

EJ: Yeah, that place was great – exactly like the places I hung out when I lived there. I think it was my assistant cameraman that hooked us up with that place.

Punk Globe: Adam P formerly of Thought Crime also helped with location spots right?

EJ: Adam was the best. He offered a bunch of places but the key location he helped me land was Ramon’s apartment, directly over Dr. Bombay’s on 16th Street. That was a key location in so many ways. First of all, it was right around the corner from where I had lived so it had the exact same layout as the scene I had written. Second, it was right over 16th St. where Bill has his big meltdown so we made it our headquarters for that entire day. I owe Adam some major props.

Punk Globe: You used music by White Trash Debutantes, Visitor 42 and Third Grade Teacher in the film. Who else do you have on the soundtrack?

EJ: Of course there’s Dean Friedman singing his classic, McDonald’s Girl. I love Deano. He has written some of the great, undiscovered classics of the 70s. All the psychotic Klezmer music at the wedding came from the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars. The acid jazz piece at the art party was performed by the Alec Haavik Quartet with my lifelong friend Robert Weiss on drums. Enablers perform a song and, of course, Ave Maria is sung by this amazing kid in England named David Meredith.

Punk Globe: You also make a cameo in the film as an Artist am I right?

EJ: That’s right. Unfortunately, that was the very first dialogue scene that we shot. So here I was on the first day of my first feature trying to direct my first scene and I have to act. I was a little distracted. But I ended up happy enough with my performance.

Punk Globe: Who did you get to help edit the film?

EJ: A friend of mine hooked me up with Sharon Rutter who, among other things, edited Roger Avary’s Rules of Attraction. She lived in the Bay Area, had her own experiences with the speed scene and totally understood the subculture I was talking about. But she got hired to a TV pilot so I assembled the first version exactly as I had written it. Then Sharon came on and cleaned things up, we struggled on version after version trying to work in the flashbacks (which I think she did brilliantly) and debating over what to cut, how much to cut -- a really vigorous creative process. We basically lived with each other for about six months. At some point she had to move on to another film at which point I worked with another editor, Quincy Gunderson, for a while and finally I finished up and moved on to the sound design – which took another six months. I was basically like a pregnant woman going through two years of totally intense labor. I’m amazed I didn’t die before the baby was born.

Punk Globe: When the film premiered in Santa Monica, California in May you got a good review from The LA Times, congratulations…

EJ: Thanks! I know reviews shouldn’t mean anything but they do. It makes it so much easier when I’m telling someone that I made a movie. Instead of telling them the whole fucking plot, I can just go, “Yeah, you should check out the trailer on my website. I also posted a great review from the LA Times.” By the way, go check out the trailer and the review at!

Punk Globe: I felt the film flowed well and although the subject was dark the film kept a sense of humor as well. "Tweek City' has strong similar ties to "Freeway" with Reese Whiterspoon, Amanda Plummer and Kiefer Sutherland.

EJ: Thanks. Believe it or not, I still haven’t seen Freeway! Not only have you made that comparison before but when you go to IMDB it says that if you like Tweek City you should also go see Freeway. I need to rent it. (Note: I've seen it now. Cool movie.)

Punk Globe: You are now waiting for other Film Festivals to answer right? I know Caitlin feels Europe will love the film.

EJ: Yeah, I’ve made a bunch of submissions. We’ll see. I’ve been told that a film has about 18 months to play festivals and find distribution so I’ll be trying to get it out there wherever I can. I always thought Europe would be more inclined to accept a movie like this. I hope I’m right. This country is just so fucking puritanical – both religiously and artistically.

Punk Globe: Any more local showings for people who may want to see the film?

EJ: Unfortunately, I don’t have any scheduled right now but I always post updates on the website and people who are interested should sign up to my email list. Hopefully, I’ll have a Bay Area screening in the next couple months and then another LA screening before the end of the year. Also, sometime, I’ll be putting together a DVD, hopefully with the support of a distributor.

Punk Globe: Congratulations on a good film shot on a low budget Eric.

EJ: Thanks, Ginger.

Punk Globe: You also were involved with shooting footage for the West Memphis Three Awareness Day" Thanks so much for your involvement. I wish Jeri Manthey had been able to come. Tell the readers about the project you are working on with her.

EJ: We have a mutual friend who wants to shoot an entire feature film in a weekend – totally improvised. We’ll see how that goes. We’ve worked together for years in different capacities so I’m helping him with the actors, trying to provide some structure for the improv and doing a little producing.

Punk Globe: Tell us what you think of of "The Comeback ?"

EJ: It feels so true that it’s uncomfortable – my favorite kind of comedy, and you‘ve gotta love Mickey.

Punk Globe: Any future movies in the works?

EJ: I have a script that I’m rewriting which satirizes the American electoral process and another that I’m starting to write drawing on my experiences in the gameshow industry.

Punk Globe; Any last comments Eric? Thanks so much for taking time to answer these questions.

EJ: Thanks for helping me get the word out on Tweek City and let’s hope that when Karl Rove goes down he brings the whole house of cards along with him.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tweek City Press Kit: Visual Approach

We shot Tweek City in three different formats, on five different cameras. Each camera was chosen to provide a different look and represent a distinct point of view. When I brought Barry (My Director of Photography) on, we discussed what each different point of view should look like and hammered out the visual approach that would work within our budget.

Bill begins Tweek City on semi-solid ground but as the story unfolds, he slowly loses touch with reality, until in the end he is downright hallucinogenic. This required a thorough mapping of Bill’s state of mind throughout the film. As the audience is drawn into Bill’s journey, the clearly delineated perspectives become less clear until, when Bill confronts Sharon in the bathroom, they are visually existing in his nightmare world.

This sensory map of Bill’s psyche carried over into all facets of production and post-production, from locations and costumes to editing, score and sound design.

Super 16mm

When Bill is alone, walking the streets, we see him as he sees himself – a neo-noir, ‘70s anti-hero. At Barry’s suggestion, we shot all these sequences on Super 16mm. In post production, we dialed up the yellows and crushed the blacks to evoke the look of Bill’s favorite films. The time lapse material, the fog, the nighttime cityscapes were all shot in Super 16mm as an extension of Bill’s noirish mindscape.

We also used Super 16 to represent idealized moments. Bill’s one happy dream, the romanticized memory of his childhood sweetheart and the movie’s closing scene were all shot in Super 16 to maximize the visual beauty of these moments.


Bill’s involuntary subjective point-of-view as well as his more nightmarish memories of Mom are represented by a Sony PD150 – a small ½” chip, DVCam camera. This camera allowed us much more movement and flexibility than the others. At one point in the film, Giuseppe actually shoots his own close-up as he walks down the street. Any loss of resolution worked in our favor as it helped convey his deteriorated state of mind.


When Bill is locked down in the “real world” we used a higher end, ¾” chip DVCam camera that we outfitted with Barry’s favorite Super 16mm lens. The DSR500 in conjunction with the customized lens gave us a high resolution wider angle image that we used to represent objective reality. We usually locked this camera down on a tripod to further ground these scenes.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tweek City Press Kit: White Trash, Deano and Jerm

Jerm is personified by the music he embraces. Many people stepped up with great music that ended up on the Tweek City soundtrack but only Jerm’s favorite bands were specifically included at the screenplay stage.

White Trash Debutantes

Jerm’s stage dive has always been a key scene in Tweek City and when I wrote that scene over 10 years ago, I wrote it with one San Francisco punk band foremost in my mind – the White Trash Debutantes. The White Trash Debutantes are unique in many ways, not the least of which is their famously irreverent transgender lead singer, Ginger Coyote.

When I started putting the film together, I immediately began my search for White Trash. Imagine my surprise when I found out Ginger lived about a mile away from my Hollywood flat and the Debutantes were still active. I approached WTD after a gig at Al’s Bar in downtown and they were totally game to perform in the movie.

Once cast, Ginger began promoting Tweek City to all her friends in the San Francisco/Oakland area. Her contacts stepped up with key locations, additional music and also showed up as extras throughout the film.

Dean Friedman

Sometime back in the 70s, when Jerm was still a boy, he heard the cheesy genius of a Dean Friedman song and started singing along. When Jerm grew up, he found that everyone was too cool for Deano. That made Jerm angry.

When Giuseppe and Keith arrived in SF, the first thing I did was play them the collected works of Dean Friedman. Within minutes, I had two more converts. They were bound throughout the shoot, not unlike their characters, through Deano classics like Ariel, Marginal Middle Class and McDonald’s Girl. There is nothing so pure as the pathos of a Deano song.