Saturday, September 30, 2006

and we saw them as they fell

some of them fell into heaven, some of them fell into hell.

spent the night drinking out and about, watching Doctor Who premiere a year late and say hello to people I haven't seen for nearly two years. but my nights are only complete once i laugh and sneer, pointing out the fun moments of my friends and making sure everyone recognizes the horror of party hook-ups.

that said, what better way is there than to be at home drinking and realizing Ultraman has a better love life than you?

I don't know any.







not a single goddamn thing.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

all mama taught me had.



that's bout all that.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

wide awake and gondry

The Science of Sleep came out on Friday. My friend Eric grabbed the front page of the New York Press this week with a feature on Michel Gondry. That article can be grabbed here. The unedited, "better" (in Eric's opinion) piece is here.

Personally, I dig both versions. I myself did a feature on Gondry that relied too much on his quotes and not crafted that well. I took padding over actual content, which pisses me off in hindsight. My godforsaken piece can be seen here.

So at the end of it all, what's so nifty about SoS? It's getting mostly the same review: it's nifty, but jumbled. I do agree with that, except I find that looking through Stéphane's own jilted perception helps somewhat. We have a protagonist who is so deftly afraid to leave his TV studio that he needs to sabotage his life around him.

ah, whatever. go see it. you'll enjoy it, buy the DVD and then never watch "Eternal Sunshine" again--despite that being a slightly tighter version.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

transcript: steven blush, paul rachman

music is the insight to how people tend to see their surroundings. we use it to examine class, love, politics and--more often than not these days--brainless fun that gives an excuse to try and get laid. But in the 1980s, it could be considered much more tribal in how bands spread and what types of music affected those truly vindicated.
American Hardcore opened on Friday in New York and LA. It's essentially the reproduction of Steven Blush's 2001 book but brought about in a style so simliar to all those VH1 specials.
Luckily, director Paul Rachman sticks to his "upbringing" and replaces all the cute graphics with a very down-to-earth design and structure, filming most interviews in homes, offices (and in one great moment, H.R. from Bad Brains has a wedding progression taking place behind him.)

I spoke to both men last Tuesday. The article that ran is here. I was rather simple with the questions, trying my best not to ask them about A7 or how cool it was to travel around in a band and play shows. And to note, Rachman's next book, American Hair Metal, comes out October 1st. I brought it up to him at the start, but he really wasn't in the mood to discuss it. Still, the hardcore tribal scribe taking on hair metal...he did say it was more a "fun" thing to do, due to it's complete turn from his passion.

And then, I start out with a little aside:

ISO: So, I never knew that you guys called [people from D.C.] "Washingflorians."
Paul Rachman: [laughs] That was just what us New Yorkers called you.


When did you guys start to collaborate for film? Back in 2002?
PR: It was actually earlier than that. I had moved back to New York from Hollywood in 1999. I ran into Steve on the street and he said he was finishing the book, and I had this instant impression in my head of what the film should be. I had all this old footage of my own, we were both there. We started shooting interviews in December of 2001.

SB: It was a very easy decision for me. I had known paul from back in the day and we had kind of an on-and-off relationship just cause he had moved to L.A. and he had originally lived in Boston. We knew each other from the scene; Paul had gone to Hollywood and made some of the classic rock videos, like Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box,” Temple of the Dog “Hunger Stirke,” Pantera “Cemetary Gates.” Not to mention all the old Bad Brains videos, so it was really a no brainer for me. And I think we made the film with the same ethic, as the music was: totally do it yourself, independent, no funding and pure artistic vision.

What I found really curious was how the film parallels how the book was structured. I heard about the bus trips..

SB: You hear about the Georgetown Punks and all that stuff. That was what inspired me. I come from the New York area, I had caught the tail-end of the punk/new wave thing. it was very urbane and artistic driven. I came to D.C. and there was this new kind of punk rock and it was made by upper-middle class kids from Northwest DC or the outlying suburbs. It took a little while to wrap my head around the fact that we had always heard of the punk model of these kids struggling on the street, and here it was the opposite. What I realized very quickly was that if you’re alienated, anything’s valid. It’s a pure vision it has nothing to do with what kind of job your dad has. If you’re alienated or a misfit, you belong in the scene. That was very powerful to me, I think that’s why we separated ourselves from the original punk movement. We were the hardcore punks, the manifestation, the most intense punk. That’s what we got from it, we took punk and made it into an American form. That’s what was exciting to me about it, the idea that I’d listen to the Clash and they’d talk about all these things that were not American and were not anything I could relate to as much as I loved the music. That’s what I think what was so important about the hardcore bands, they brought in a pure American spirit to the punk rock ideals.

PR: it was a very pioneering spirit, treading ground that had never been treaded. Coming up with music that had never been heard before, it was against all grain. It was a true movement rejecting what was around us. I’m from New York, but I went to college in Boston and I just didn’t fit in. it wasn’t the perfect fit to college life up there. When I was exposed to hardcore it just changed my life, something told me I identified with this. i felt it in my gut. I needed more, I wanted more. I needed to be part of “this,” that this was going to be a tribe I wanted to be a part of. It was very inviting.

The subtitle for the book was “A Tribal History,” but it’s that now it’s been taken off the posters.

SB: It’s funny because now it says “the history of punk rock ’80-’86,” which we never really intended to put out there but when it was put on there it actually made sense. That wasn’t really our idea. We used it somewhere else, when we were at Sundance we kind of said it--

PR: When we had a work in progress [at Sundance] we kind of sued it. Steven’s book is very, very detailed. Steven was able to take this underground, somewhat messy subculture moment in history and structure it into a chorological, historical order. He really served as a historian to the movement and that was not something easy to do for people who were within it. As much as we were a part of it, the knowledge of this national movement happening in perfect sync—we were unaware of that. Steven’s book was really able to put that into context. When we started the film, my vision for the film was to really differentiate the film from the book in the sense that the film needs to flow. When you write a book, you can edit words. You can reconstruct certain sentences, you can’t do that in film. You can’t cut—edit people in a certain way in a movie like you do for a book. I knew before we starting that the film was going to have a different flow, and we be able to hit upon moments similar to the book, like the moments about the Boston or Washington D.C. scenes. But people don’t talk that way, and the flow isn’t the same. the movie is an extension of the book, that it’s this is a first person accounting of these peoples’ own experiences set at a certain time. And that flow in a documentary, you come two [or] three years into a film and the film starts telling you what it wants to be, what it needs to be. Cause you go, “well technically THIS happens here,” but you cut that in and it disrupts everything. It was really important to create a film that just made sense in the context of what people were saying instinctually. We didn’t go in with questions that set ourselves up to get the same answers again that are in the book. There was kind of a little shift in that, that’s how the two things worked together, the book and the film work together but are different.

SB: The book is certainly for people who are fans of the music. It goes into excruciating minutia of facts and figures, times and places. We didn’t really feel that-- our film was for a broader stage. To bring to a larger audience, it’s not necessarily just for punk rock types or the initiated. We wanted the uninitiated to get what was going on, that this was more than music. It was a way of life, a defiant stand against conformity that had never been seen before.

Have you guys caught Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey at all?

PR: I hadn’t seen that yet. I know it’s been going to festivals a lot, and it had a limited release. I’ve just been so busy with this film, I haven’t seen any movies.

SB: I wanted to see that, but it’s been like 2 years since I’ve seen a movie.

It’s a weird coincidence since he uses a genealogy that the map in AH really seems to mirror, at least in terms of influence and scenes.

SB: You know, even with the book, the whole thing was about the geography of it. We were just up in Toronto [at the film festival] and people were saying “well what about the Canadian scene?” All I can say this was a purely American scene. It wasn’t like the Bad Brains could drive up in a van with no working papers and a bunch of crazy guys in a beat-up van and think you’re going to get through Canadian customs. There may have been places here and there around the world where it was kind of close to what was going on,. But it was something totally different, so the geography was key. The traditional model of music—anything that was cool, punk, underground in anyway—was New York, LA , maybe Chicago, probably San Francisco. What made hardcore different probably was the map. The idea that you could go from LA to San Diego to Phoenix to Reno to Seattle to Portland.

PR: And you had to hit all the little towns in-between to make ends meet.

You said research on the book was exhaustive, how did you work on this?

PR: It was a complete archival process. We go on the road, we’d shoot 10, 15 interviews. Come back and log them, digitize them, edit selects and find the story. Same thing with photographs: we had the archive from the book research and we found new pictures. I had a lot of footage I had shot in the early 80s when I was in college in Boston, we found a lot of footage. You reach a point where you start this film—I think 2004 was really this hard moment that now we have 80 hours of interviews—we ended up with about 120. We had 50 hours of footage, and it’s just sitting there, we hadn’t gone through it yet. We had to take the task and go through it all. When I say we made this film in a very old fashioned way, there’s a lot of patience put into it. And it was all very instinctual. We didn’t make logs, there’s no transcripts. It’s really the process of weeding out by pure instinct, we knew from the book and our own personal lives, we already knew the story. We weren’t these documentary filmmakers attacking a subject that we were just interested in and knew nothing about. We knew how to connect with the material, we knew what the people were saying beneath and in-between their words. So that was the process of making the film, it was a very, very intensely personal process. We didn’t have researchers, we didn’t have a staff. It was Steve, myself, a camera, a mike and a laptop computer at all times. We made it in the basement, locked in the closet with a big sign on it, “do not disturb until finished.” We took that cut to Sundance and the executive who actually acquired the film was the one who turned it down when I brought him the book, looking for financing. He’s the one who ended up with the film as a distributor. Sony Pictures Classics has not changed one single frame of that film.

SB: we were even, “ a few things are a little too crazy, we’ll tone it down.” And they were like, “no, that’s your art. You stick with it.” And it was very impelling to have that.

PR: It wasn’t even that. Literally, the first public screening was at Sundance. Nobody saw this film before Sundance in January 2006, maybe 5 people. It was a true, true premiere. And you just kind of second guess, but then by hearing the reaction and watching it with further audiences, it was like, “you know what? We got it.” We set out to make the film like the music was made, and we had an opportunity to keep it that way. And that’s the decision we made. It is what it is and that’s what it remains.

SB: You asked about if this was all over encompassing and how overwhelming and intense the book was to write. This was the same way. It was, maybe even more so, we both ahd to push each other.

Was it hard to go back and talk to the same guys from 2 years ago?
SB: No, you know what it is? It’s like we have their trust. It’s kind of like a fraternity or being a war veteran. You share this weird past, once you had been a part of this you were kind of accepted. All these guys that are big and scary and tough, they were our friends. It was tough--

PR: it’s a very different process, coming into a person’s home with a camera and talking about this stuff. It’s a little more intense, a little more in your face. You have body language [coming] into play, you have this presnence that comes into play. It becomes a multi-dimensional rather than a voice, it heightens the experience.

I want to come back to how you call hardcore an “American” style. And you said before that Ronald Regan is the reason why hardcore emerged.

SB: I think that’s where it coalesced. Would there have been hardcore without Regan? Probably—I don’t know. But he was the center point of everything. Like they say in the film, every flyer had a picture of him, every poster, every song [Paul] just got a phone call out of the blue from the guy from Wasted Youth—he’s the guy with the bloody face on the cover [of the book.] Thier record was called Regan’s Hymns. So everything was about Regan. I think it was like what he represented, and what he represented was all the great progress that we had made in society—women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights—they were all being eroded with his election. That’s what it symbolized. Like they say in the film, it was a return to these bullshit fake 50s values and we weren’t having it.

PR: When Regan was elected in 1980 it was a joke, it really was a joke at first. It was like, “what the hell, how did this happen?” It’s like “Bedtime for Bonzo,” it wasn’t real. It felt so phony, it felt so unreal that it was the perfect thing to make fun of. We wanted no part of those values. It really was, “let’s turn the clock back to 1955!” And we absolutely did not want that. We were very, very clear about that. There was no second guessing that, so that fueled the energy within, I think.

I found a quote [Steven] said, that “Punk is not a D.I.Y. movement. It’s a bunch of guys doing coke on tour buses."

SB: Yeah, well. The original punk bands had raised the word “D.I.Y.” There was a movie called “D.I.Y.” and there was this idea of doing it yourself. But the punk bands really weren’t D.I,Y. They were on major labels, they had big agents. I remember a moment really blowing my mind was the Clash, a band I had really embraced as—I had seen their first American show, I had every record, every single. And all of the sudden they’re on tour buses opening for the Who at Shea Stadium. And thinking this is so far removed from what it was. Yeah, they were still “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” and we were—we loved the music but we were not a part of that culture. That’s what I was talking about there.

In the same vein, now that Henry Rollins has a show on IFC..

SB: We’re friends with all these guys and I’m a big fan of Henry Rollins. But I think even Henry would admit there’s a little bit of irony that the singer of Black Flag is a major TV host. The thing about Henry Rollins speaks to the heart of hardcore: everybody looked at these guys with shaved heads and thought they were a bunch of thugs and idiots. The movie proves, and I think these guys’ careers proved that they were really brilliant. You had to be smart to be a part of this scene for as ugly and as violent as it could be, we were all pretty smart in our own way. You had to be smart enough to know that you didn’t want to be part of mainstream culture.

PR: The movie speaks of a palace and time in history, and it clearly stays in that realm. The subtext, you walk out of the movie and go “wow, what the hell has happened? Why don’t we have this kind of visceral energy anymore?” That’s exactly what we want people to think of when they walk out. the environment changes, circumstances change. All the elements that allowed for hardcore in the early 80s, those intersecting elements of this visceral energy, this new music, this conservative government and a willing and excited audience, willing to carry it worth--all those things were in perfect sync in the early 80s.
I don’t think that’s true right now. Talking about these people’s careers or Henry and why he’s on TV, the environment changes. Opportunities change, you grow up. It’s just not the same anymore. It’s so many intersecting opportunities and circumstances that allow a movement to become. And there was this fusion of it all in early 1980 and that’s why it carried forth the way it did.

Well, you talk about the movement and especially today with youtube, myspace, all these promotional things—you have no reason for flyers anymore.

SB: There’s almost too much information. One thing that made hardcore interesting was there was no information network, it was very primal, there was no radio playing--WNYU had a show that Jack Rabid was on. You really had to cue yourself in, you had to dial into tis. It wasn’t just like passively sit back and get this information. You had to really dig. I think the fact hat you had to do that is why everybody embraced it so much. It was so all encompassing, but also so tough. It was really tough to find out about a gig or know what to do. I want to the George Washington University and I was probably going to end up a lawyer. Once I experienced this music, it wasn’t going to happen. I promoted punk shows, I became a writer. Somehow I ended up where I am today. It’s a very different thing, some people said to me “oh, it was very brave of you to step out of this conventional thing and not take that path.” It was scary, I starved and I’ve gotten ridiculed. I think all these guys share the same thing. I those guys you see in the movie,, you might say they’re heroes. Talk to them about how their life was 10 years ago when nobody cared about this stuff. It was hard, the Circle Jerks get laughed at. All these bands,. It was a bad time.

PR: It was very, very hard. What it taught me was to never give up, to stick by your guns. As a career as a filmmaker, you’re going to have your ups and you’re going to have your downs. If you give up, you’re not going to have that up. It really taught me that here is this ethic of like, “this is what I’m committed to doing and this is what I love doing and I’m never, ever ever going to give up. This si what I’m going to continue doing.” There was a certain ethic back then of being part of this underground and wanting to stay that way that still resides in me. As much as I went to Hollywood and had this music video career for 10 years and directed all these music videos at a time when MTV was still playing them, it was great. But I found myself still falling back into the underground with the Slamdance Film Festival and starting that. I always find myself falling back into that because it’s not a conscious decision, it’s just what I’m drawn to. The fact that it teaches you not to be afraid, it taught me not to be afraid of my failures, not to be afraid of my mistakes. Not to be afraid of any of that. And to never, ever ever give up. Because if you even think of giving up, you’re never ever going to get there.

Wrap up: you said you never made a documentary before, and said that the doc is the new “indie film.” What did you do? Out there watching old docs.

PR: Right, well, no. my filmmaking has always been instinctual. I’ve never modeled myself on something else for some reason. It was always raw instinct, and it’s because of the way I picked up a camera—I picked up a camera because of hardcore and started shooting. When I went to Hollywood--by 1988 I was in Hollywood, I was at this company, Propaganda Films, it was David Fincher’s company. It was like ego central. It was Hollywood ego central. I always had a challenge in my career: I directed 110, 120 videos. I swear to god, there was only 11 that I like. Part of my problem was, a lot of music video directors do a video and then do 10 that look alike. And you kind of know what you’re buying, “oh, I want the video that looks like this video and that guy who makes those videos that look like this.” You work a lot, you become popular on the air more. You look at my work and none of them look the same. I always went with my instincts and I took risks. Sometimes those instincts were horrible. If you get a mediocre song with a dumb band and you think you’re trying to make them look cool, it doesn’t work. But I would take those risks. That whole thing of when I started this documentary was I really looked at what I knew about the subject and I looked my experience, my experience as a filmmaker and particularly as an editor. My editing is what got me into directing. It was all about gathering the stuff and telling the story that resided. Everything was instinctual. I stripped away everything I learned as a filmmaker. It was like back to the raw basics, don’t worry about aesthetics at all, just throw them away. How do you transition from Boston to Los Angeles? Well, you cut. You make it hard and you make it loud and it works. There wasn’t any kind of special effects or how do we bring people into this? The thought process was purely simple. I think because of that, you really tap into this inner energy and you let your subjects do all that work. You let their words, the music and the images do all the work and you’re just organizing it. I think there was a certain purity in the process that allowed this film to have this kind of inner voice, this inner message, somewhat personal. I think everybody feels something within them maybe when they watch it. You know, “there’s something here that I like and I want to be part of it but I can’t be part of it anymore.” Or something like that.it’s somewhat of the magic of picture and sound and its power. I’ve seen a lot of documentaries, just from organizing Slamdance, particularly the early years when I was really programming and stuff. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. When I look into my own films, I just become kind of inward for some reason. It’s just my instincts. I was never, ever good at executing other people’s ideas. When somebody came to me to do music videos and said, “oh we want the video like this one, some hot chicks and cool colors!” they asked me to execute that and I just really sucked at it. When I kinda came up with, when I did Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box,” I was feeling the mood and I got this fax from the singer. That just had this scribbled fax, “ a barn with animals” and that’s all it said. And I was like, “huh, that’s interesting” and I just came up with this whole environment for the song. That’s just the way I work best, basically just trusting my instincts, not doubting them, not being afraid to fail and fuck it—just put yourself out there and take those risks. I learned that from hardcore. I learned that from being on the road in a band and not knowing where the hell you’re going. It just teaches you a certain ethic. I always perform better like that than if I try too hard to assimilate something else that’s more commercial. It’s taken me 20 years to trust that even more.

Last: the rise of “hardcore” in lexicon…how “core”
PR: We were just at the Toronto Film Festival and we get all these boxes of gifts and everything. There was a curling iron—my girlfriend opened this case—for short hair and it said “hardcore” on it with tattoo symbols. I couldn’t believe it, I said, “look, this is a hardcore curling iron!” I had never seen that before.

SB: We worry a little bit. It’s a word now in wrestling. It’s a word, we saw the sports channel in Canada, what was it called?

PR: The Hardcore News.

SB: Or this is hardcore.

PR: They sell cars with that word now. I--

SB: it’s not really about the music right now. There’s plenty of really good bands out there right now. That’s not really the issue, but what do they do with it? You have this little platform to do something or make things happen. It’s like when Ian MacKaye talks about in the film, you get signed to a label, they give you millions of dollars, do some drugs and it all becomes really disposable. So what do you do with your platform? Do you sit there and go “Waaa” and get fucked up and get laid, or do you seize the moment? Though I’m not really a fan of Green Day, I do give them a lot of props for going to all those 13-year old kids and preaching revolution to them and anti-Bush. You gotta seize it for what you have. That’s what I’d like to see more of: less bands telling me that they’re hardcore, and more bands trying to change the world in their own little way.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

transcript: ahmad razvi

a lot of times i'm happy with what i do. most interviews i walk away kicking myself when i'm listening to them a few days later, or transcribing i stop and say, "motherfucker, i should've followed this with..."
but not so much with Ahmad Razvi who stars (and steals much scenery) in Man Push Cart. The published article is here. I don't have a lot of what Ahmad had to say, specifically his experience at the Venice Film Festival, where MPC premiered. As always, I'm grateful when anyone takes the time to sit down and talk with some punk-ass kid who can barely put a sentence together.

Other fun fact: this was a phone interview, right after i was talking to MPC's director (Ramin Bahrani). Our office was having construction done on it. Lord knows why, since the WSN is about as modern as the Betamax. Halfway through the interview, the construction guy comes through the ceiling of the arts' office with his drill. It sounded like Satan was ready to take my horrid fucking soul and play swordfishtrombone with my spine.

some stuff's omitted or my questions are just dumbed down for the sake of me speeding through the transcript. then again, no one reads this except for me and whoever googled "space docking."

--
--for the background noise, apparently my office is being renovated today. So it’s kind of fun.
Oh yeah?

Yeah, it’s kind of fun.


So, first I should ask you: how does it feel to almost be Adrien Brody?

Oh my god, are you kidding me

And you’re also 99 years old and living in Brooklyn.
You checked the MySpace, that’s cool. No, man, it’s amazing. It’s the first time I’ve done something—I’m looking forward to doing something more and more. I’m very excited about the second project we just finished with Ramin, and I’m just looking forward and everything to try and move on to better and bigger things, you know?

I know the title isn’t final, but how was “Iron Triangle,” your second feature.
It was more challenging, because it was a totally different role compared to what Man Push Cart was, which I think actually was easier because Man Push Cart I hardly spoke in the movie. And I think it’s a hard and difficult thing to do—at least from what Ramin was telling me, he said it’s a more difficult role to play being silent and expressing; and this one there’s much more lines and more expression, physically and emotionally in the “Iron Triangle.” But I think Man Push Cart was a lot harder than this one; there was a lot of physical experiences in this movie with another person in contact, physical contact. It made it more exciting, but I think the next film was a lot more difficult.

Ramin says you both met at your family’s pastry shop.
Yeah, I had a restaurant and I opened it in 2002--no, 2001 of August. I just made this restaurant; I built it with my own hands. I’m an interior design contractor since I was 17, 18. I grew up with so many odd jobs in my life: I had a paperboy route at the age of 12. Since then I had been working and doing various oddjobs. At 18 I quit college, I couldn’t afford to go there so I started doing work, work, more—I started a construction company at the age of 19, I had 25 guys working for me. Since then I kept on continuing to learn more about interior design contracting, and done a lot of commercial spaces, penthouses and things like that. Residential spaces. We’ve done so many businesses and we’re very family oriented, so I built my own house, my dad’s house, I built his store, I built my brother’s store, COPO—an organization where my other brother takes care of…--when I built the restaurant I put a lot of design into it. And at that same time, 9/11 happened-- “wshew,” it just went down the next month and I couldn’t afford to do anything. I ha converted it and put more money into it, and made it a more 24 hour restaurant, then the pastry shop. First it was just a coffee shop. And I did that, then Ramin walks inside in 2003; he comes in, I serve him coffee and some food and we become friends. A year and a half later in our friendship, he’s said, “Ahmad, here’s the script. I want you to act in it.” I went, “whoa.” I said you’re kidding me. I read the script and everything, it said Ahmad is the lead actor. [laughin] I was like laughing and excited, we did the trailer, we were very sure then, with 500 dollars[?] in two days. It lead off from there. It was just amazing, an amazing experience. He knew I never acted. I think that’s what it is: a year and a half, he just wanted to see what type of person that I am and our friendship lasted and grew. He was testing me is what he tells me now.

An interesting way for a screen test.
[laughs] Yeah it was man, “did that really happen?” [laughs]

He said you had 3 days of pure hell dragging that cart up and down midtown.
Oh my God, holy shit—excuse me, but it’s like a 1000 pounds maybe, that’s the capacity of it.it stands tall, like nine feet. It’s nine by six by four . It’s steel and everything. I pull that cart in rain, in the coldest weather in New York City and everything. There’s this one scene where I did pass out because I was pulling the cart so many times. Oh my God, I just lost my energy, I lost everything, I lost control of it. I fell, and I’m about to get run over by the I remembered saying that no matter what happened you just gotta keep doing what you’re doing and never get out of character. And all I could think about was if the goddamn cart hits that sidewalk, its gonna topple over and that’s it, it’s gone. Movie’s gone, it’s finished. Oh my god, man, I run to save it. My life flashed by me, man! Like every incident in my life flashed by me when I was about to get run over by the taxi as well. It doesn’t look like it, but that’s what happened to me. As soon as I come out pulling this cart and saving it, I did not speak to ramin. I fainted right there, there was like four guys waiting for me to pass off camera. There was four guys waiting to carry me and hold the cart down cause it was coming at such speed cause I was just pulling it; and I fainted. I didn’t speak to ramin for four days

How far were you dragging ? On camera, it looked like a three blocks, but I imagine it was further than that.
It’s actually—it was a turn coming around the corner, and continuing for three blocks. We would just keep on going and going and going until we found—if the first block wasn’t good enough, then the second. I would say about four or five blocks, then repeat it everytime. I would say between three and five blocks that I was pulling this cart.

Did anyone actually come up to order food?
Of course many times when we were on the street, of course. Even when we were at the day location, I would be serving people on a normal basis as well. They would come and buy and I’d be like, “all right, this is my money guys.” Get a tip or whatever, and pocket it. I would serve the food, coffee and donuts to the whole crew. So…

You really were like a, well not a fictional--but the character of Ahmad, a true factotum.
I was trying to be. Reading the script and going over with Ramin for over a year and a half, from the day he told me about the script, since then we rewrote it. I helped him to rewrite the script, cause we would go over the story so many times. I think it had embedded in my mind about what this character is and who he’s supposed to be. In the beginning he was supposed to be an Afghanistani push cart vendor, then when he became an Iranian, when changed the script, and named “Ahmad” it became the Pakistani guy. It’s like doing everything for the film—I practically did everything. I helped him to write the script as well as the storylines, we would talk about it everyday. We would go and get locations, we would go to warehouses and see these cart vendors. I would go at 4 o’clock in the morning. At some point—in early--when I was going through the phase of different odd jobs and surviving, and supporting family and things like that. I was a push cart vendor myself for a very short period of time. I remember things, but that was like 10 years ago. Going back, and going to warehouses, is like riding a bicycle, you never forget it.

Ramin talked about an interesting style of filming, just trained the camera on you and gave you an direction once in a while.
Yeah, you know what was amazing? I had no clue about it, but then later on he had explained it to me. That this is one of the most difficult, artistic way of shooting a film, because it’s not “Cut, cut, cut. Hi, how are you? Yes, I’m fine. Where have you been? Oh, I was just working.” There’s no ‘cut’ scenes in there where a camera cuts every five seconds or dialogue. It was more like panned out in a five-minute thing, that looked like a natural thing. That’s what really I learned a lot from experiencing shooting it that way, it was a continuous four/five minute scene where you have to have perfect timing and lighting and wording and dialogue; and your partner, or the other actor has to have the same thing. I was checking myself out doing it throughout the whole thing and I was like, “wow, this is a very difficult thing.” like, It’s like a live performance of theater, or Broadway show, that you’re doing. Which is why it’s so difficult with what we’re doing, otherwise there would be two or three other cameras—besides that we can’t afford it—but that’s what it would be, and we’d be shooting at the same time and we wouldn’t have to “cut, cut, cut.” It took us a lot--This one scene took 12 hours to do, which is this four or five minute scene; and if that wasn’t complete or good enough, we’ would come back again and shoot again. In the beginning before we even started filming, Ramin and I, Michael Simmonds, “Elliot Nicholas”—the assistant director—and “Mohammed,” Charles Daniel Sandoval. Before we got him actually, we would go to a location and I would rehearse where “Elliot Nicholas” would play the “Mohammed” role and Leticia Dolera’s role. And we would rehearse for two months to do those scenes and pan it and check it out, this looks good, this looks good. It was a very difficult way of acting. I’ve seen movies and I don’t remember such long, panned out scenes. It was beautiful.

Did you have any inspiration in doing this? I’ve heard about the “don’t be fuckin’ Brando.”
[laughs] those type of inspirations, but c’mon. this was my first time doing it, I was so excited. I was trying to be really “Joe Cool” and stuff, my friends were hanging out and stuff. The first scene was a bar scene where the boy shows his scar in his stomach. That’s actually a true story, that’s my friend. When Ramin and I became friends and started sharing our friendship, he incorporated some stories of my friends into this Ahmad character. And that’s what made it feel a little bit more comfortable; those are my friends. That boy was really true, the story really happened. Instead of running to this guy Jay’s house, he ran to my house. And my brother took him to the hospital. For example the cat scene is also a true story. There’s a few things inside that are somewhat similar and true to my life, just acted out and everything. I think having that and Ramin telling me what to do, because of not going to any acting school or theater or class or any sort of experience, it was like me going to the first day of class, or first class of acting, and Ramin was the professor who just told me what he wanted. Of course in the beginning I was WAY too Bollywood because that’s what I’ve seen, those movies
I’m supposed to be a rock star, which is something I always wanted to do from an early age. But I never had the opportunity, or chance or way to follow up; I’m a damn bathroom singer, I could never be a rock and roll singer.

Thought it was funny that everything you’re about to sing, you always get interrupted.
[laughs] in the first commercial, trailer we made, the 500 dllars one, I actually start singing in it. Which is really bad cause we went to a karaoke bar, and I was like “AHHH” we were just having fun doing it.

Is that the trailer on the DVD? I didn’t see it, I shouldn’t say it…I’ve seen the film.
When did you see the film?

Yesterday. They sent me a copy.
You gotta watch it in the theater, I think you should watch it a second time around . It’s so much better

Movies in theaters and movies on your laptop are extremely different. I forget who the critic was, but he said sitting in the movie theater, you have that sense of inclosure, and you’re attention is solely focused on the screen.
And your imagination sparks and starts wondering—yeah, the theater is amazing, I love it. I love going to theaters to watch movies.

Do you have a favorite theater in New York?
Yeah, I do, the Union Square theater on 14th and Broadway. I go in there watching blockbuster movies, I’ve been to the Angelika a couple of times.

[HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THEY CAME THROUGH THE GODDAMN CEILING.]

sorry about that. You were saying, favorite theater.
Now it is Angelika cause I’ve been there a couple times and checked out some art movies. Since I made Man Push Cart, the cinematographer—Michael Simmonds—and Ramin they’re saying now I have to get more into the indie films to learn and understand and see and get educated on it. I’ve been going to Angelika theater, and just learning and watching films; renting out from Kim’s video just to see different styles of it instead of just bang bang, boom boom blockbuster movies.

Any recent favs from Angelika?
I went to see Water by Deepa Mehta which I think was a great film, wow. The storyline and everything, and something similar I think to the way Man Push Cart was done; because it’s very minimum dialogue with the lead actors. I loved it, it was a great film. I’ve seen her other films before as well, but I really liked this film as well. It’s probably one of my favorites, from all her movies I’ve seen so far, [like] Fire. I’m also watching “Cho Sha Shen,” he’s also a director; and “Boris Kurosemi”, I’m beginning to watch his films. I’m rying to get educated into this whole world of indie films.

Have you thought about acting classes or a workshop?
I wanted to, but others have told me [they] don’t think [I] should. If [you] do do it, [I] might spoil something [I] already know what to do and how to do it. [I] might not be able to do that. Then again, some others have said [they] think [I] should go for it, because it will just enhance and [I] can tune [my] talent or skill maybe more and faster. What I did was I went to take improv classes at the PIT—People’s Improv Theater on 29th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenue. I took level one classes, which was a really good intro to improv. It was a great experience, it was really cool just coming out there doing what you want to do. It becomes a little funny, and just goof around and get comfortable with yourself. The actors, it was like a 13, 12 people class. It was a really good experience that I had. Of course, I didn’t finish the whole level, because I had to trael to come back and forth for film festivals. I missed half of it; I cut out of school, man! [laughs]

On that, which college did you go to?
Queens College. Let’s see…18…that would be, two, ten…fifteen years ago. So, ’91. It was in ’91 I went to college and I didn’t have the money for it, I couldn’t afford to do it. So I went to my dad, who is a businessman. Since the age of 14 my dad’s been working. He’s a self made man. When I first came to America, my dad didn’t have a palce to stay. He owned a small business, He just came to America in 1979. I slept in my dad’s kitchen, we slept in my dad’s kitchen for the first couple of weeks until he had enough money to go on. I remember the struggles going on in life. I remember when we couldn’t afford to I had to do something, I was a paperboy at the age of 12. I had a paperboy route, I did this,I did that. Very odd jobs. When I made a construction company at the age of 18, I realized this is what I need to do. I always wanted to go to school and college and continue, I wanted to become a lawyer. Obviously that didn’t go through. That’s it. What I really wanted to do—I think, to today, I one day want to go back and continue and follow. But circumstances are changing, with lifestyle and everything. Maybe I’m a little bit too old to go back to college, but it’s never too old for education. Maybe one day I will have the means and time for it.

You said your lifestyle is, I don’t know, but I assume it’s very different—you said you’ve been around to the different festivals. How does it feel to be watching this story on screen, what with your friend the cat—which killed me, by the way.
That’s a true story, going to the vetenarian, picking the cat up and hearing my—you know, the is my uncle and he told me, “this is everyday, man. Just put it in a garbage bag and toss it inside the garbage truck or garbage can. That’s it, you’re done.” I was like, my God, are you kidding me? I was devastated. It was the first time I had a pet, I actually got it from my friend. I felt really bad about it. I was like, “this can’t be true. This can’t be it.” I’m a very sensitive man, I’m a very sensitive guy. I grew up with so much struggles in my life and experience in my family. A lot of pain and hurt, but that really bothered me a lot. Me seeing myself on that screen, I think I could’ve done maybe if not 10, 100 times better. I could’ve done a better job.

Have you been recognized around yet? I know it doesn’t come around till next Friday, but it’s been successful…
Yeha, I just was in EW. My friends, my family and everything. I’m a very down-to-earth kind of guy. I run this organization where I help kids, post-9/11 we made this organization COPO--Council of Peoples Organization[sic], where after 9/11 my community was being destroyed and I’d be pained and this and that. Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi Muslims living in Brooklyn—and Midwood—and we made this organization to help people. Now when people know I’m walking down the street in my neighborhood, they known me from day one because of who we are and making this organization. There have been some times where I’ve gone to a club and somebody South Asian or somebody in the indie industry recognizes me from a distance and they come up to me and say, “You’re the guy from Man Push Cart right?” and I’m like, “yeeah…” I’m like yeah, man, thanks.
Very few—[it’s] more of my friends recognizing me than I guess me walking down a street or anything like that. I’m not that popular guy right now, I don’t know if I will be. It’s a great experience, it’s cool. It still hasn’t changed me at all. I still continue to volunteer at my organization. I still put on my construction boots, like today I have to go put up sheet rock and start painting walls and everything, because that’s my work, my job that’s what I do. I’m not going to give that up because this is something that I like to do. Same THING with volunteering in the organization, I teach kids how to become more empowered and stronger mentally, physically. I teach them how to play basketball, I used to be a great, great player in high school. I was starting in the junior varsity teams as well, I’m still there with my community.

Were you still working in the construction business while filming MPC?
Yes I was, I was still filming , construction, doing that. I still had owned the restaurant. But I put all those things away for a month and a half actually to make this film happen, just cut everything off. Had my managers running the restaurant, my construction company my partner was taking care of it. Still today I have my construction company, but I sold the restaurant. And I didn’t know where we were going to go, we went to Venice the next year in 2005. I sold the restaurant in January 2005, and I was going to concentrate work more on construction and found out we’re going to Venice and London and this and that—whoa, it was very exciting. Going to Venice and being there, it turns out it was just unbelievable. The president of the Venice Film Festival watches the movie, and I’m so nervous. Everybody’s there; It’s like a 900 capacity theater and it’s full, it’s sold out, the first time we’re screening it. I hide a couple of beers in my pocket [laughs] and a pack of cigarettes. I sit all the way at the right end,the back, in the corner by myself in the reserve seats so I had four seats to myself. So I sat there away from everybody watching for the first time on the big screen, and I’m huffing and puffing and drinking throughout the whole thing and I’m like, “Aww, aww! This is so good, this is so good!” I walk out, there’s like empty bottles of Heineken [?] and cigarette butts on the floor. I walk out and people are like, “Hey, you’re the guy from Man Push Cart!” I’m like, whoa. I’m shocked, nervous and everything. They’re like, “please can I get your autograph?” I’m like, holy shit. And then the president of the film festival was like, “this was an unbelievable great excellent film. I loved it, I loved it.” He spoke Italian, he spoke Italian and French; he had a translator that would walk with us throughout the entire day, and take me around everywhere introducing me. He made a live show on AI TV, a Europe station, and he did a live interview. He was like, “if I was a judge, you guyswould have won.” We were an official selection instead of being in competition. So it was amazing, from there it just lead on to London and winning these awards and everything; when we went to Merrakesh I was nominated for best actor in Merrakesh Film Festival, and my competition is Daniel Day Lewis. I was like, “Whoa!Are you kidding me, [he’s] like my hero. He’s one of the greatest artists or actors I could ever think about.” I see him standing in the awards ceremony. I was like wow, I cannot believe…Of course I was so nervous and I went to say hi to him, I said congratulations he had won the best actor award—just to be in that presence and someone saying you’re nominated, what more do I want? I don’t need anymore than what has just happened to me.

What are you working on next? I heard you have a brief role in a comedy.
In an upcoming comedy? Yeah, I did Trainwreck with todd Williams and Michael Simmonds is a cinematographer in it. I got a small scene, I’m supposed to be a repo man doing a small scene with Gretchen Mol. It’s supposed to be a good comedy and everything, it’s still in the process and everything. That was a good experience too, totally different experience from Man Push Cart. [MPC] was a small crew, this was like 50 people while you’re acting. Totally something different and knew. It was an amazing experience to work with these Hollywood stars.

You are still 31…?
No, no that was a mistake. I was born Nov. 1 1972. I am 33 years old.
[A segment in Interview Magazine lists him as 31 years old. So, sucks for them.]

Final?
You asked me something. You told me something that really surprised me. You asked me how it felt to be the next Adrien Brody?



the "adrien brody" thing was something ramin told me. he claims that a producer (who remains nameless) said he'd finance MPC if he rewrote the part for Adrian Brody. Ramin said no, kept Ahmad. I brought this up to him at the beginning of the interview. I don't include the answer just for the simple fact of i didn't have time to write it into the transcript and I already questioned the response. he's damn good in MPC and better than Brody, if you ask me.
then again, no one gives a good goddamn about a punk-ass kid from hot chocolate city.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

minutes from last year, still emo as fuck.

12:26 am on Sunday, listening to a cd (Eisley) & I’m going back to NYC.

I miss home for the obvious reasons,
But I fucking hate this bus route.
And masturbation bites,
when nothing good’s on.


10:21 pm on Saturday, back in the huge apartment I do not own and perhaps sick.

Dom’s sandwiches are very good for $6.41
but I am sick because it was all I ate,
except for the little fudge chocolates.

All night and day I
played a video game.
Next week, I’ll play
‘welcome to the working week’ on the Metro.

But for now, I’m unemployed and don’t have a care
except for how to kill a few hours for a few days.

11:40 pm on Friday, we are confused when people we know are nameless & famous.

Saddle Creek Sara
is a model for Windows.

Moment
sells porn and whips and chains.

Horns
works 9 to 5 in a garden under the shadow of the Darth Vader Gargoyle.

Dirk
has two internships at two hospitals and works two clubs where he plays white-boy bouncer.

Girl (& Cat)
Is John Mayer’s assistant sometime soon.

I
am an intern and failed blogger.

And God only knows what next week’ll bring.


1:34 on Saturday, and I am getting older than I used to be.

The stamp used at the 9:30 Club
Is a blue rat, but
Turn it in the right way and it’s a hanged man.

I thought so, at least,
since our punk rock cabaret
was filled with pale faced kids
in stripped leggings.

Most below 16 and a few above 20.
“I bet you a lot of them had school today,” he said.
Burtless may be onto something


12:51 am on Tuesday, back in Chelsea and the NYC.
At my first planning dinner
I ate fried chicken and French fries
That cost more than KFC.

We all gawked
At the father from Alias, and
El Jefe went, “I have all your fans. HAH!”

That’s about it.


12:18 am on Sunday, and I feel very sad for Benigno the “faggot”.

In two weeks, the big question will not be
“what did you do this summer?”

It will be:
“So, have you fucked up yet?”

So far, I don’t think so.
But I’ve got two (retracted), a six pack, a handle of White Horse
and a few years worth of experience that say
the night is still young.


12:16 am on Saturday, I am surrounded by bitches and drunk on gin.

I felt lethargic with my bitches today.
They slept while I watched Godzilla’s last
Hurrah.

Now one of them, the white one, is
Sleepingon the floor while the
Blonde one snores next to me.

Who needs company,
When you have fine women llike this?
Ages 70 and 64.

No, I am not lonely. Just getting funds.


11:14 pm on Saturday, Hot Snakes & Cinco Dimaggio in the windows.

sorta explains itself, doesn't it?

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9/25/06

the first morning i woke up with the Sheep Man he was having a cigarette while I kept myself in the shape of a burrito. he was at the window, blinds closed, watching the dance school across the street while taking drags off his Wild 7.
I didn't know they sold those in the city.
"welltheydosogetusedtoit," he blahed.

I guess I will.
I left him to his own devices while I took a 45 minute shower. I spent ten of those minutes on the crapper, reading the free paper that the Sheep Man brought up with him. Gotti Jr. got a mistrail and New Orleans was going deeper under water. Wonderful news for a wonderful day.

While I made coffee, the Sheep Man didn't say a word. He stared out the window, smoke lingering around him. He made the effort to tape a bowl over the smoke detector, just in case. Dirk was out at class, leaving us alone for the time being.

"Sowhatareyougoingtodo," the Sheep Man asked.

I didn't rightly know at the time, nor am I really sure now. I shrugged at him.
He said, "Yougottagetaplan.Gottacomeupwithanidea.Can'tjustsitinsidealldaywiththesepeopleoutside."
He could be right. I poured myself a cup of coffee and watched as he ashed out my window.
"What about the guys below the window?"
He took a drag, barely giving me a glance, and flicked the Wild 7 out the window.

"Yougottaknowyourbattlesbetter,man. Can'tbepissyabouteverylittlething. Gottaknowwhentodanceandwhentositdown. Drinkyourcoffeeandgetmeamugtoo,please."

So, I did. We watched the morning news together over coffee.

Then, I went to class and The Sheep Man went out somewhere else.

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lord knows the devil, he only talk shit.

It's late and the Sheep Man is tired. He has his night cap on and his nightcap in a Dunkin Donuts mug I got a week ago. I'd swear he was drinking the finest whisky (McColl's, $14 at Liquor Warehouse, plastic bottle whisky at its finest) but I haven't had any whisky for at least five days.
A beer's another story and boy do I have stories.

"Turnoutthelightandgotobed," he says while fishing for his cigarettes. It's one thing to wear a Sheep costume, but certainly another when wearing powder blue jammies over that. Makes you wonder where comfort comes in. But I sipped my coffee and told him to just wait. I wanted to finish something. I was playing a game and I was shooting these guys who laughed and blew up if they hugged you.

Just like in real life, you goddamn hippies.

"Fine.Justdon'tgetanyideas."

Like what?

The Sheep Man pulled up one of the four chairs supplied by the dorm and sat beside me sipping rotgut whisky and now he was getting a bit peeved from the lack of nicotine because I could see this in his demeanor. He thumbed through an old Entertainment WEEKLY! and said,
"Thekindyougetafterabeer.Thebestideas,theoneswhereyou'recharmingandyousuggestamoviebecausethat'swhatyouknowandyoutrytodazzlethem.Youtrytotalkaboutpoliticsandstructureandeverythingyougrewupwith," The Sheep Man says. "You'rereallyfuckingtragicwhenyouthinkaboutit.Nolightsduringtheday,onlyhalogenatnight.Bettergetabettercoat.Winter'scoming."

The crust punk in the Villager article said the same thing. Said he barely knew why he still fought the Man while cooking the tea. They keep fighting and dancing and smiling and dying in the bathrooms of every trendy dark bar in the area. But they're living a free dream, right?

"Whateveryousay.Everyone'saslavetosomething.Yougetcaughtinthesametwo-stepjustcauseit'seasy.Can'tletthathappentoyou," The Sheep Man says as he magically reveals a lone cigarette between his fingers. He grabs the zippo on the table and lights up. A quick drag, a faster sip and a sigh.
"Mmm,s'tasty.Thinkit'soneofyoursthough."

Well, that's quite all right. Boom, head shot.

"Everwonderwhatit'dbelikeifyouwerebrave?"

Boom, head shot. Well, once in a while. What do you mean?

"Youknow.Talkingtoweirdpeople,beingsocial,thatsortofthing."

Being so--wait, what are you getting at?

"Nothing.Just,youknow,youseemlikeyoutrytodredgeyourselfinthesesituations.Couldacalledsomeone.Couldagoneoutforabeerdownthestreet.Couldagonearoundlookingforsomething."

And?

"Nothing. Justforallyourstories,youseemtostayinsidealot."

It's raining.

"Yep.WasrainingthatfirstnightattheEdge."

It's cold, too.

"Yep. Wascoldthatnightyouwenttothechristmaspartyandhadablast.Wascoldthatsamenightyousleptonacouchandsawthoseorangethingsandsuch."

I don't feel like going out. I go out enough. There are horrible and frightening things outside that command me to interact with people. I dislike people. They are loud and demand things and discuss current events.

"Youtalkedaboutshirtsandd&dlastnight."

Don't forget Magic Hat seasonal brews.

"Didn'tthinkyourememberedthatpart."

I remember all my stories. That's why I hate going outside.

"Justbecarefulwhenyou'redoingthis.Don'tgetcaughtupinthemechanics.Ifyoutwo-stepforeveryou'lllosethesoulandthenyou'rejustadork."

I'll keep that in mind.
Boom, head shot. And The Sheep Man took the last sip out of my mug, making his way to the window and flicking the filter toward the street. Boom, head shot.

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