Yeah, I've been busy. Good thing the despondency-inducing holidays came around when they did.
Mill Ave Inc's got "legs": It's gonna be showing again in quite a few more theaters the next few months. And, don't tell anyone, but I entered it into a big film festival. One reason for this is that in all the years I've been making movies, it turns out IMDB will only recognize movies that are officially in festivals or in those goofy 48-hour competitions. Never mind the other movies I've done with stars who are already all over IMDB. This odd prerequisite explains why all these bad "zombie, hitman, vampire" no-budget and/or student films end up on IMDB. I get it, but abhor the idea of this.
Back to a good note, thanks Scott and Rob from the Gin Blossoms for championing Mill Ave Inc. It's helped a lot. I'm still getting lots of emails from all over the place, thanking me for creating this. Our editor/co-producer Chris redirected the AZ Republic to me to do an interview. Good article on my "take" on Borders' closing on Mill (and many more other corporate chain stores soon to follow). Do a Google/Yahoo search for my name, or go to azcentral.com and search for Mill Ave Inc or Borders, etc.
Funny thing about making movies in AZ. As I've told quite a few Names in the L.A. industry who think it's odd that I can act, write, produce, UPM, shoot, and everything else I do: "In AZ, you have to learn EVERYTHING in movie production just to get a job doing ANYTHING!" Which is the opposite in L.A., where you generally can only get a job if you "specialize" in one role.
And it's even more frustrating for me. If it ain't unique, literate, visceral, well-researched, and sincere, I won't do it. So there ain't a whole lot of people who get it, and so my pool of resources to draw from is pretty small. So I generally gotta get the whole thing going myself. Despite all the accolades Mill Ave Inc's received, I don't think I can do another "nico-does-95%-of-the-work-over-many-years-and-then-dump-it-all-off-to-an-editor."
The Dark West has been a little like that. The longer it's dragged on while the revolving door of producers spins, the more people drop off--people who have come in at one point or another and contributed (sometimes, like Bryce, a lot), and there's nothing tangible to show for all these efforts. There've been so many people (Ryan Q, EE Moe, Eric S, Rodd W, Heather A, Gary B, Elliot R, Earl B, Grace R, Dan R, Jason R, Toby B, Jarrod W, Josh B, Gabby G, and many more) that put in a lot of work at one time or another over the years, and many of them simply couldn't wait, or had to drop off due to frustration. The ones that have stayed on (I think they've stayed on), haven't, by human nature, been able to retain the zeal they had at the beginning of this adventure.
God, it almost seems like Dante's all over again. I CAN say, though, that those who were with me through the 5+years it took to see Dante's realized, know that I WILL make The Dark West, one way or another.
But (or more accurately, so) I digress.
The last few months, I've been working with and befriending a lot of said Names in the industry. Also started "Main St Inc" doc installments in other cities. Look for Delmar, Inc (St Louis), 4th Ave, Inc (Tucson), 6th St Inc (Austin, where the most tangible example of commerce vs art is evident) in the next year. Problem is, I can't BE in those places, so progress is slow. It's hard rounding up each of the cities' Names and community leaders from here in Tempe. But I'll persist. SOMEONE'S gotta take down these corporations! I'm doing my part ;) And it didn't require any actions that the Patriot (aka Sedition) Act would label me as a terrorist. Wait. Actually, since I'm disagreeing with the obvious non-separation of church, state, and corporation, I guess the Bushcroft Administration would label me as a terrorist. Ha.
Now for something I think is really funny. Working on adding it to my repertoire of oddly comical goodies. I'll integrate the following "product" into my compendium of goofy shit that hasn't seen the light of day. Just gotta figure out which website(s) to put them on ;)
Enjoy, especially you, Kane.
In a conversation between Nico Holthaus and Dan Reisinger, Weds morning 1-7-09
Dan: "I had a big argument with the guys at work about the new Friday the 13th comin' out..."
Nico starts to say something, but pauses to hear him out, seeing where this was gonna go.
Dan: "They asked me if I was psyched to go see it....and I said 'No! I'm not gonna see it' and they asked why. I said, 'First of all, Kane Hodder isn't in it! Second, it's a remake! And third, Jason isn't even IN the first Friday the 13th!"
Nico: "Right. Here's why I won't see it. Michael Bay is producing or directing it."
Dan looks at Nico funny.
Nico: "Michael Bay...Pearl Harbor, etc, THAT Michael Bay."
It sinks in.
A sour look comes over Dan's face.
Nico: "Ya might as well have Tom Cruise as Jason. 'Ch-ch-ha-ha...' (Nico finishes the seminal Jason sound with "a two guns pointed at ya" and cocky grin.)
Both laugh. Hard.
Nico: (dropping into Jerry Maguire): "Help me...kill… you!"
Regales of laughter.
Nico: "We should make What Would Jason Do? bumper stickers…."
More dumb laughing.
Dan: "Yeah! Do it."
Nico: "Oh, I'm gonna get right on that."
Nico immediately runs to the computer to write this, and to start making WWJD stickers.
I'll probably delete this blog soon, as it's not as important as the other ones, as this deals with topics more about "me."
But here's a brief history of the time of Oct '07 to date:
First, I'm doing great. Fatigued as hell, and been fighting off a cold or something for about 3 weeks--not quite sick, due to tons of garlic, Vit C, and zinc--but not totally healthy either... Doomtown at Rawhide was a huge, huge success, but drained me. Many of the 20,000ish people who came down to witness my latest realised madness said it was the best Halloween experience they'd had this year, beating high priced places like the Nest, Uncle Alice Cooper's thing, Knotts Scary Farm, etc. Several of you came out to see this, but unfortunately most of you came on nights we were understaffed. There were a few other nights where I was especially proud that we were able to pull off what we did, even if personal friends weren't there to see it.
But it did come at a cost to me. Been exhausted and sick from lack of sleep (about 3-4 hours a night on average) the past month, plus sealing up financial details on the Dark West movie, which evidently will be showing on hundreds, maybe thousands of big screens next year.
Tired. Sick. Tired. But happy overall.
WGA strike. It became official today. I've been talking with some "big name" writers (and others less directly involved with it but are big players in the industry) all day about it.
My biggest fear was that the WGA strike would lead to a SAG and DGA strike, as the past shows that when one goes, the others go soon after.
This would really complicate The Dark West movie, as even though we have most of our actors, letters of intent, etc, we could lose them, and we're almost at the point of shooting. We've got all kinds of investors and interested distro prospects, but are negotiating with all parties on the who-gets-whats.
Anyway, it sounds like SAG won't strike until June, so Dark West is safe. Dunno about the movies we have in the pipe afterward.
was awesome. It occurred to me that I hadn't taken even a weekend, non-film-work-related break from Phoenix in two years. Even though most of my work is also play (kind of), it has been taxing as hell. Everything I do, say, and think is in terms of movies, writing, haunting, or music projects, present and future. One of these days I'll find that perfect gal who understands. Poor girl. Poor unless she's in that .0000001 percent of the population that does at least a few of the things I do. Ha. So, let's see...she has to be uniquely intelligent, hot, generally selfless, sweet, make movies in some capacity, and/or haunt houses/towns, garden, make candles/soap/oils, make totally different-than-the-norm music, and write novels, kids books, or something else publishable. And administer good footrubs while quoting Nietszche after we've both cooked something. Yeah, she's out there. ;) I'll keep holding my breath. Kidding about most of this, of course. I'll take a beautiful (on the inside, mostly, followed by not-too-close-second beautiful 'on the outside') woman with at least three of the above.
But back to Jerome. Jasmine drove me up there and gave me the energy and companionship I'd needed after being so burned out for so long. She and I had a great, great time, both fun and relaxed, and the whole trip only cost like $40 total in necessities (gas, food, and rum and cokes).
It was great running into Heather (Dark West Project Coordinator, et al), Dr Carlos Santo who I hadn't seen in 5 years, and other friends I didn't expect to see in Jerome. Loved hanging with my Tempe musical cohorts, and playing with them at the campfire at Gold King Mine all night til the sun came up. Thanks esp. to Marsh, PC, Dave the insane drummer, the kick arse guitarist of Chocolate Fountain whose name I didn't get, for all playing with me.
I was so wiped (and not even hungover) Sunday morning that I couldn't drive back as planned. So the Energizer Bubbles that is Jasmine drove us back and helped me unload. What a gal. Gawd I'm glad she's in my life.
I'm sure there's other things/events/people I'm forgetting to mention. That's the price of spreading ones' self so thinly, no matter how fun the jelly.
Blew my ass away.
Worth the 25 year wait.
They even played Walking in Your Footsteps, my personal fave that I never would have imagined them doing live. Man.
Must. Meet. Copeland. You share the sentiment, right, Mr. Hessle?
5 a.m. I just get to sleep, after fixing my printer (kind of--I can now only feed each sheet manually) printing up all emails between myself and an insecure and misinformed ex, who's trying to sue me. My first court date ever is later at 10 a.m. About 100 pages total I'm printing up, piece by piece, to include emails, case histories, advice from lawyers and confidantes, etc. Each page costs me a minute plus of sleep that I'll need to be sharp enough for court.
6 a.m. I'm awoken by two guys talking in the living room. An odd sound. It's my friend who's couchsurfing, and one of my new roommates. Shouldn't be odd, but it dawned on me that because of all my past roommates the past 8 years here, I never heard people talking in the living room, unless I was one of them. I go back to sleep, thinking warmly, "finally, cool and sharing, gregarious roommates who don't shut themselves in their room all day."
7 a.m. My friend Jason Parker calls me:
Nico: (groggy) "hey man."...
Jason: "Dennnis is dead."
WIDE awake now. Dennnis Skolnick was unanimously Tempe's Most Annoying Character. So I liked him. I was one of perhaps 9 of the 60,000 Tempe residents who did. I Liked him enough to cast him in a major role in Dante's Arizona.
Dennnis's untimely passing makes the Dante's death toll at SIX, in 4 years.
I fall back asleep somehow. And OverFuckingSleep til 9...
9 a.m. Because of the patchy in-out sleep the past few hours, I sleep through the alarm, and have to rush (but still exhausted) to get to court on time. I should make it; it's only 20 minutes to Dreamy Draw Court, so I shower quick and run.
9:45 a.m. Line at the court clerk's desk, where I have to (I was told) sign in. There's never been a line here. I'll be late. First strike against me, no doubt. Turns out I didn't have to sign in, but to just go straight in. Like I'm an idiot.
10:03 a.m. The insecure, rich ex who's full of bad information and a bit of misdirected malice is there, sitting quietly near the judge, a cobwebbed, shaking old man who doesn't have the energy to even lift an arm to stop the other from shaking.
Judge starts recording. I'm prepared as HELL. Every lawyer I've talked to said I'll win...unless one or both of two things happen: 1. she lies. 2. the judge doesn't know or like contract law.
I'm armed to the teeth with case histories, damning emails, law research, and a slough of defenses proving that I don't have to pay back Ms. Insecure anything.
But, logic and hard work and my being the only one with the facts straight--and the only one in the 3-person court to listen and process it--gets beaten.
I walk away knowing that I won morally, because both of the variables had happened: she won because the judge didn't know (or accept) contract law, and because he sided with the young girl who was lying. But also, most insultingly, because he didn't bother to read (admittedly) any of the facts I'd given in the affidavit.
But I walk away smiling, knowing that I won on the bigger, spiritual level. I was right. I proved it in the affidavit they wouldn't acknowledge. And because I didn't lie. I can't lie, because it would eat me up the rest of my days.
I smile, and am even polite as hell, naturally, toward the ex, who was actually cool, and not gloating. This is the only time I've seen her gracious and bigger than she had been.
11 a.m. Met with one of my producers (and a kindred spirit); we talk about the BS that just went down, and more importantly about the movies' progress.
12 pm Drive to Dave's to get the FINAL DVD of Dante's. I can't help thinking of the irony that the very last day of Dante's production is met with news of another Dante's death, Dennnis.
12pm-3pm Burning dvds and playing director--lots of phone calls and appointments made, including getting my teeth fixed in Vegas tonight.
3pm Drive home from Dave's. Cancel dental appointment and entire trip to Vegas--too many variables. Which also means I can't swing by Maynard Keenan's (Tool) house to talk about The Dark West.
4pm to present (6:40pm): Recapping the past few days' events for people who didn't know what's been happening with me. My throat is sore, my energy is drained, but I press on, in true Dante's spirit. I'm looking up (like there's a god above me) and smirk. I win. By losing so much, I win. I feel ecstasy. There's nothing left you can take--because you can never take my integrity or imagination.
PS Here's an AZ Republic article on Dennnis Skolnick--who plays on immortally now as Roger Bacon (a character who'd screwed me over more than any other human being in my life) in Dante's Arizona:
'Mill Ave. Food Critic' found dead in his carKatie Nelson
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 8, 2006 03:03 PMOne of Tempe's most eccentric and recognizable fixtures has died. And no, he was not a politician, moneyed real estate, developer or hotshot athlete.
Dennnis "with three n's, the middle n is silent" Skolnick made a name for himself as the self-proclaimed "Mill Avenue Food Critic" a task that provided the formerly crack-addicted and homeless man a job and food to eat.
Skolnick, 51, was found late Saturday night inside his car, slumped over the steering wheel. The vehicle was running and parked at his apartment complex on Hardy Drive, according to police.He talked openly about being sober for three years after having a gripping cocaine addiction that had lasted for decades. But he recently relapsed, according to friends.
Temple police would not speculate on what caused his death. An autopsy is pending at the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's office. No funeral plans have been announced.
Skolnick was a man of contradictions. Some saw him as a nuisance who harassed pedestrians from the sidewalk intersections of Mill Avenue and Fifth Street. He was also regarded as a much-needed bit of color in the increasingly corporate downtown Tempe.
His shtick, first selling free papers and in more recent years his Mill Ave. Guide for money, was both loved and hated. Either way his outgoing, outspoken personality was hard to miss if anywhere in his vicinity.
He was very forward and very brash, and you know, he went through a lot of problems, said Lisa Cugudda of Uni-Print & Designs, where Skolnick printed the booklets and signs he posted at restaurants throughout the city. Really, he was always just trying to make himself a better person.
Skolnick was one of Tempe's biggest cheerleaders. He often referred to the downtown district as the Greenwich Village of the West.
He also made enemies: The restaurants he didn't favor received scathing reviews in his newsletter, and the Downtown Tempe Community merchants' group had a long-standing feud with Skolnick over his presence on Mill Avenue, that eventually resulted in police intervention.
Skolnick was a native of Manhattan who worked as a cabbie, photographer and film set employee there. In Tempe, he was a convicted felon and self-admitted drug user who counted some of city's powerbrokers such as Mayor Hugh Hallman, Police Chief Ralph Tranter and former City Council member Dennis Cahill as friends and confidants. They were among a handful of people who supported Skolnick's attempt to stay sober.
He was recognizable to Tempe's business owners and restaurant employees, coming in for free meals in exchange for pushing customers their way. At the same time he was also known within city circles because he frequently spoke during the public comment portion of Tempe City Council meetings. He would stride to the front of city council chambers straightening his rumpled Food Critic logo jacket before using up every second of the five-minute time limit.
Recently though, Skolnick had dropped out of sight. He hadn't been parking cars in back of the old Vienna Bakery building. He stopped giving the council blustery but articulate speeches.
He was extremely frustrated because he had slipped up, said Don Plato, a local builder who had dinner with Skolnick Thursday night. The pair was close because Skolnick helped Plato's 19-year-old son straighten up after struggling with drug use. Plato also owns the land where Skolnick parked cars recently.
The people he annoyed are probably going to be glad he's gone and that is sad to me, Plato said. He was the Mill Avenue Food Critic, Dennnis with three n's, the middle n is silent. That's creative. That's different. We need more of that. It's just too bad it's silent for the last time.