AICN - Mysterio's VULGARTHON Report Part I
First posted on AICN on January 21, 2002
V U L G A R T H O N III - January 7 - 8, 2002
Around this time, as one of the more prolific film festivals abound begins it's run in Park City, Utah another smaller, less prolific film fest takes place in the small, normally quiet town of Red Bank, New Jersey
Having recently having ventured back from Red Bank, I believe that Kevin Smith's "VULGARTHON" just might be the bastard child of all film fests.
For you see, this is a festival that as Smith claims to a packed house "is not held for image in the press, but solely for the View Askew board people."
So that being said, you're probably wondering, "So what the hell were YOU doing there then?" Well quite simply put, I went as a fan and for most - my "press" credentials at AICN are debatable at best. Besides out of the four films within the lineup, only one I had seen. The others, while I've heard so much about just never had the opportunity to see. That is until now. Not to mention all the other little goodies thrown in just for the hell of it.
Basically this year's VULGARTHON went like this. For two days some 800-plus fans had the opportunity to descend upon the small, quiet town of Red Bank, New Jersey to take in a 12-hour marathon of all films a skewed. Tickets could only be bought through Smith's own View Askew website (www.viewaskew.com), and tickets could be picked up either the day of or prior at Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash located just within walking distance of the theater to where the event was being held.
Smith's own comic book store is not just a store, but also a museum of sorts, where props from his films are used as décor as designed by production designer Robert "Ratface" Holtzman. Here, in these photos, you can see various props and such including "The Bluntmobile" from 'J&SBSB', the "Buddy Christ" statue used in 'DOGMA', to the left of that original 1-sheet art used for 'MALLRATS' and next to that Holden & Banky's cigarette machine featured in 'CHASING AMY' just to name a few.
Inside the store fans also had the opportunity to bring or pick up any items and have signed by Smith and company throughout the day's event. And if you didn't have anything or couldn't afford anything - fear not for fans were given free hats, different for each day, that you could get signed as shown below.
Counter-clockwise: DAY 2 (Turquoise Cap)
Bryan Johnson (writer/director, 'VULGAR'), Walt ("Walt") Flanangan, Brian ("Dante") O'Halloran (star of 'VULGAR'), Jeff ("Randal") Anderson (writer/director, 'NOW YOU KNOW'), Brian Lynch (writer/director, 'BIG HELIUM DOG').
Counter-clockwise: DAY 1 (Black Cap)
Malcolm Ingram (co-writer/director, 'DRAWING FLIES'), Monica Hampton (producer, 'VULGAR'), Vincent Pereira (writer/director, 'A BETTER PLACE'), Scott Mosier (VA uber-producer) and Kevin Smith (writer/director, 'J&SBSB').
Others in attendance: Jennifer Schwalbach-Smith, Ernie ("Rick Derris") O'Donnell, VA Webmaster Ming Chen, some of the cast of 'BIG HELIUM DOG' and hundreds of hardcore fans.
Obviously I fit into the latter category and hats were the only things I got signed. But I was not alone, as most everyone had his or her hats signed and personalized, not to mention posters, shirts comics - just about anything you threw in Smith's face he'd sign without the slightest bit of hesitation.
Demand by fans this year forced Smith to extend his festival into two days, rather than just one so to accommodate as many as possible. For this, the films lineups were kept the same, with only the slightest of variations between each day. I was fortunate enough to attend both days, so hopefully for those that missed one or the other, I'll try and fill you in the best I can. For those who weren't able to attend this year's (just where the hell were you that you missed it anyways - Sundance?), I'll try to give you a thorough rundown of the event and what you missed.
If you could give a rat's ass about Kevin Smith, Jay and Silent Bob or anything View Askew related, wander your eyes over and read the Sundance coverage, because this report just ain't for you. So please, just step aside, out of line, and go ride the seesaw.
Okay, if it is for you, and you're still reading this, I'll be recapping some of the films I saw, bringing you some brief insight from the filmmakers and stars themselves, take you behind the scenes to a few after parties, and even share a few surprises that you may have missed or just not have known. So sit back, grab a brew (or a 'shroom) and let's dig into all that's askew View Askew that is.
SATURDAY, January 5th, 2002
Parties began as early as Saturday, and upon my arrival into Red Bank, and checking into The Inn, I would learn as soon as I dropped my bags, and headed downstairs to the hotel bar, Morgan's - I simply would not sleep until arriving back in L.A. Wednesday evening. Fans gathered 'round to meet and greet, take photos, share stories and consume mass quantities of the devil's brew. Within moments, VA Webmaster, and all around good guy, Ming Chen whom I met on 'J&SBSB', greeted me. From there he introduced me around and gave me the low-down on what to expect. After all, this was my first VULGARTHON and trip into New Jersey, so any info was indeed welcomed info.
Not much longer after that did 'BIG HELIUM DOG' writer/director Brian Lynch walk into the bar with a small posse of his own. He too saw and greeted me with a firm, but moist handshake. I was too afraid to ask, lest really wanting to know.
SUNDAY, January 6th, 2002
Sunday would be a full day for me, as I was planning on going upstate and spending the day in New York, which I did, then visit The Stash where I would again meet Ming and fellow VA partner in crime and writer/director of 'A BETTER PLACE', Vincent Pereira who was orchestrating the whole festival and handing out tickets and hats. Although we had never met before, we had chatted through a few e-mails here and there and shared some insightful, although brief conversations about, what else, film.
Then is was back to the hotel for more drinking, including a few room parties within the hotel, including one in Room 509, which was rumored to be the rowdiest of parties. Hearing that people were planning on lining up as early as 7am for Monday's lineup, in which doors were scheduled to open at 9am, I opted to take in a hour or so of sleep and only catch a party or two after closing Morgan's.
Monday, January 7th, 2002
("Ugh. Whatever happened to Sunday?")
Wanna see what a bunch of hung-over Kevin Smith fans look like standing outside in line in the cold?
Now today would be the first time I've seen Kevin Smith since the premiere of 'J&SBSB' last August. And it's here, where he stands at the front doors of the theater meeting and greeting each and every fan, taking pictures, and addressing them which theater they'll be in - Theater 1 or Theater 2 - #1 being the main house.
Malcolm Ingram soon sees me standing in line and waves me over. He greets me warmly as he stands beside Smith, who then finally sees me and offers me an even warmer greeting. Which was just fine with me as it was fuckin' cold as hell that morning. I left sunny, warm 70-degree L.A. weather for this?!?!
Once inside, Gail Stanley, Smith's personal assistant who handles all of Smith's press relations, and whom so graciously assisted me in my reports throughout my 'J&SBSB' coverage, greets me and gives me the dish on what's what.
Just after Smith obliges everyone outside, he soon shuffles into the main theater and his job today is to primarily introduce the films, and Q&A's to follow, all of which is being orchestrated between two houses, flip-flopping the lineup. Meaning as 'VULGAR' shows in House #1, 'NOW YOU KNOW' is showing in House #2, so a lot of running back and forth is required, meaning two runs of the shows and two Q&A sets are happening each day.
*** INSERT "Vulgar" picture HERE ***
I take my seat in the main theater, preparing myself for the assault that is Bryan Johnson's 'VULGAR'. Now originally this film premiered in Toronto last year, to walkouts and luke-warm responses at best. I didn't know too much about this flick, other than the infamous clown-rape sequence, and that the idea was based loosely on Walt Flanagan's original View Askew mascot drawing, aptly named and christened, "Vulgar", hence which the title character derives from. Let me tell you, after watching this film, there's something very uneasy about watching a clown getting violated at 10:30am. Although well made, with a harrowing performance from Brian O'Halloran, I can see now how the subject matter will turn off most mainstream audiences. Simply put, it's not a "Hollywood" film. It's a film that, like "Vulgar" the clown, leaves you feeling emotionally violated, as from one minute to the next your left to the point wondering, "Wait a minute. This isn't funny any more." Then you get taken down a different, much darker path than you were expecting - only to soon turn around another corner and find a hilarious cameo by Jason Mewes, or a disturbing one by Kevin Smith.
In polling the outside audience, reaction was clearly mixed. Some dug it; others were just left to wonder, while some (particularly some girls) were clearly left traumatized. For me, it's at best a midnight film, in which when I asked Smith if he thought the film was made for his audience he remarked back with, "I don't think it's made for even my audience!"
Essentially it took me awhile to let the film sink it, as after I exited the theater, I was left uncomfortable and feeling a bit dirty upon having seen it. "Feel good movie of the year" - not by a long shot. Depending on your film taste, it may or may not be a movie for you. If your still into the film after the first 20 minutes or so, then consider yourself game and hang on - for this ride is a bumpy one, steering you through one unpredictable turn after another.
When Smith asked me what my reaction was just a few short minutes after seeing it, I couldn't field him an immediate reaction, but after seeing the flick and having it sink in, it's one of those films that leaves you feeling a bit shaken and stirred, but provokes you at the same time, often daring you to take that chicken exit out (as some did). I chose not to, and hung on for the duration of the ride and ultimately I'm glad I did.
For most, I'd say 9 out of 10 people will probably react negatively to the film, but that one just might dig it immensely. So you've got to ask yourself, "Could I be that one?" If so, you can catch 'VULGAR', playing in LA and NY in a limited run of about 12-14 theaters next month. You may never look at clowns the same way again.
In the Q&A immediately following, Smith introduces writer/director Johnson and actor, O'Halloran to the stage to field audience questions.
'VULGAR' - Q & A - Bryan Johnson & Brian O'Halloran
Both Bryan and Brian run late into the Q&A as Smith explains on the mike:
Kevin Smith: After this picture, I would be inclined to get in here as quickly as possible to explain myself.
Both Bryan and Brian enter, and run down the aisle.
As they take the stage, the crowd cheers, just as the first question is fielded from a fan in the back.
QUESTION: You got all this from a fuckin' cartoon?
Bryan Johnson: Well yeah. Sittin' around with Kevin and Walter at the Quick Stop, when you run out of things to talk about you're like "what would this guy's story be?"
BRIAN O'HALLORAN ON PREPARING FOR THE RAPE SCENE
QUESTION: How do you prepare for a role like that?
Brian O'Halloran: Um get loaded ask to get dumped off in New York and have a cameraman to document the whole thing.
BO'H: Bryan actually just had everybody really quiet, and just a minimal amount of people in the building we shot it in. It was just like amplifying the worst, worst, worst, worst, worst things that you've had done to you and just amplified like ten times. And then it was just the rage of that - of trying to think about being violated in any sense of the word is just horrible - and just flipping out where there are times that you just want to kill.
BRIAN O'HALLORAN ON PREVIOUS CLOWN EXPERIENCE
BO'H: Unless you talk about getting drunk and acting like an ass, the only type of clown experience I had was going to the circus at age 8 and a lot of Krusty - "Hey, hey kids!!! Ughhh"
ON PLAYING DANTE VERSUS VULGAR
QUESTION: Which was easier for you to play?
BO'H: I think the Dante one is a given. I never was assaulted by three men wanting to stick things in me unless you consider the cigarette thing an assault. I'd say definitely hands down that Dante is easier.
ON RECRUITING O'HALLORAN FOR THE LEAD ROLE
BJ: I just gave him a script and was like, "I'll see ya later!" Then we met at a Mongolian restaurant, he called me names, his girlfriend called me names and we talked about it.
QUESTION: Did you write it with Brian in mind?
BJ: I did. I wrote it for Brian. It really makes you think about like, "What are you thinking about me if you're writing this"
BO'H: What? You've always wanted to see my ass?
And when he said we called him names, my girlfriend, who didn't really know him well at the time, was just like - "You're a sick fuck!" So at that point I'm like, "Yeah, what's up with this man?!?!"
QUESTION: What do you hope that people, who aren't familiar with VA stuff, will get out of the film?
BJ: I think the movie can stand apart from the VA references, as it's not your typical VA film. It's not a straight comedy.
QUESTION: Do you worry that if VULGAR gets a wide release that most people might not catch on any VA references?
BJ: One thing I don't think we have to worry about is a wide release for this film. We've been told that it'll open in 10-12 theatres and then if it does well it'll go into more, but this is not going to be at the multiplex ever.
QUESTION: What's holding it back?
BJ: It's hard to say. Let's get a checklist. It's unrated for one. We submitted it to the MPAA, they wanted us to cut out a lot of stuff, which I thought was kind of bullshit. You don't really see that much, if you really think about that scene. There is a little bit of violence and a lot of language, but you don't see anything. I don't think it should've ever gotten an unrated or NC-17, so I said, "Fuck it. Just send it out unrated."
ON GOING OUT UNRATED VESUS NC17
QUESTION: Why release it unrated and not NC17?
BJ: You can't advertise NC-17 in some papers and theatres, but unrated you can.
RESPECT THE CLOWN
QUESTION: Did you ever have any respect for clowns?
BJ: Nah, not really.
ON THE IDEA AND CONCEPT
BJ: It was from Walter's drawing. Like I said, we'd sit around Quick Stop and just toss some ideas around and ask ourselves, "Does that guy exist?"
ON KEVIN'S ROLE IN THE FILM
QUESTION: Did you write the role for Kevin?
BJ: No I didn't because I didn't think Kevin would want a big part, if anything I thought he'd want to play something small. He came down one day to the Stash and asked, "What am I gonna play?" And I was like, "Well I was thinking of this," which was something small and he was like, "What? Why don't you let me play Martan?" And I was like, "Yeah, alright. I just didn't think you'd want something that big." So I said, "Sure, why not."
ON DIRECTING HIS FIRST FILM
QUESTION: How did you like directing your first film?
BJ: Directing it, I liked. Acting in it, I wish I hadn't. If I had it to do over, I would try to pay more attention to the directing aspect.
ON THE SCRIPT
BJ: I wrote the script in '95 and showed it to Kevin and he wanted to do it right away, but then we couldn't get it together that fast, so we were going to shoot it in '96 and having never done anything like this before, needed some instruction so we decided to wait until to following year to shoot it. So we shot it in '97 and we had such a long post-production because we didn't have enough money and because Mosier was a huge part of the post-production process, he took off to do 'DOGMA'.
QUESTION: Is Affleck aware his name is in the movie?
BJ: I don't think so. Originally, it was written so far back that Affleck was really not "Affleck" at the time, so he was going to be in it, originally playing Scott Mosier's part but then fuckin' turned on us.
ON CASTING HIS FATHER IN A ROLE
BJ: Ah, sweet, sweet revenge.
BJ: I'm not a huge fan on having everything being wrapped up in nice packages. Some things in life aren't resolved and that's just the way it is.
After 'VULGAR' the next film on tap was 'JAY and SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK', the fifth and final film closing out the "Jersey" chronicles. I can just about recite every line in this film by now, so any further public showings might illicit an almost 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'-like response from me in the audience. So I choose to sit this one out, only occasionally peeking in here and there. The only reasoning I can fathom that Smith would show this in the lineup is as a precursor to the first public showing of outtakes and deleted scenes from the film. I hadn't seen these since filming, so it was great fun to sit in with the audience and relive those glory days of not so long ago.
There's a full breakdown of detailed scenes and descriptions over at www.newsaskew.com, and a whole lot more, if you feel so inclined to know just what was shown and cut. And of note, Smith later informs me that these deleted scenes and outtakes - which include more than was shown, will indeed be included on the DVD release scheduled for February 26th in a 2-disc collector's set.
Then there was a special video greeting to Vulgarthon attendees from fan fave Jason Lee, which literally arrives right before the event, so much in fact that even Smith himself is viewing it with the audience for the first time. From Lee's message, it's clear that he misses the 'Thon just as much as the fans miss him for not being there as he self shoots himself from a balcony over looking Vancouver, Canada where he's currently filming, 'A GUY THING' with Julia Stiles.
Almost as if you were there is Lee's transcript in its entirety:
JASON LEE'S VIDEO GREETING TO 'VULGATHON 3' ATTENDEES
"Are we rolling?"
Jason Lee: Hi! Jay Lee here, up in Vancouver. As you can see Vancouver is right out there (points outside his balcony). WORD!
Uh, I think it's kind of a nice night tonight, but usually it's raining and it SUCKS ASS! It's raining, it's snowing, the old man is mother-fucking snoring. But it's fun, I'm working on a movie - it's pretty damn funny. It's got some special Lee in the hiz-a-sauce - Burt Reynolds style.
Sorry I can't be there, um, I'm up freezing my balls off here at Vancouver. I don't know why people live here? It's too damn cold. You have to mother-fuckin' ski to work. BUUUNG!
My bad, I'm using bad language - I shouldn't fuckin' do that. (PAUSE) No, I'm just kidding.
Um, I just got home from the set, and my arm's getting tired - I have to hold it like this (Lee holds the camera at arm's length) - that's how amateur my skills are - I don't even have a crew - Kevin didn't even send out shit for me to do this with - no lights, no cameras, no action. BUUUNG! (Lee bursts out laughing, as does the audience).
I'm making no sense right now. I'm really tired, I've been working and I'm flying home tomorrow for Christmas and then I have to come back up here - that's why I'm missing Vulgarthon. Uh, but y'know I've been there in the past, and uh I hope this is going to get edited because this is going nowhere but anyways I'm going to send it to Kevin anyway and uh so I'm glad you guys are, uh, ah (at this point Lee loses all motor speech skills and begins mumbling something unintelligently, Chinese-like until he finally bursts out laughing yet again).
I'm glad you guys made it out to Vulgarthon to watch Kevin's movies for the nine-hundredth-thousandth-time! Ummm I'll see you guys at the next one if I'm not in Alaska working on an igloo movie!
Audience erupts in cheers and applause as the tape shuts off.
There's a two-hour dinner break that follows, but Smith offers up yet another goodie for those that choose to stay - the abandoned 1-hour 'DOGMA' documentary that was dropped from the SE DVD (fear not, as I'm told the documentary WILL be included on the 'VULGAR' DVD sometime later this year).
Though wanting to see it, I pass in favor of taking a trip with Smith to visit his View Askew offices, which are also just a hop, skip and jump away from the theatres. I hoped to try and catch the documentary the next day, but for some reason it was not replayed at Day Two.
Inside the View Askew offices it's pretty much what one would expect to find - posters (both foreign and domestic), articles, and art (all VA related) line the walls, while a few action-figures rest on nearby shelves and windowsills. A full-sized TRON video game sits unplugged, and far off in the back, in the shipping area where Stash items are shipped from, rests a foosball table. Stacks of posters, DVD's and other collectables are pre-adorned with Smith's signatures, and ready to ship.
Inside his own office sits a well-sized desk, a couple of Mickey Mouse chairs, a humidifier, and a TV. DVD's, scripts and miscellaneous items are strewn across the floor, while nearby on a small table rest a few of Smith's personal accolades awarded to him by various functions and committees honoring him for his film work. His desk is cluttered with what you'd expect to find - more DVD's, comics, family photos and paperwork. He relaxes a bit by firing up his Titanium Mac laptop and surfing the 'net for a short while before taking care of some business.
He then gets up and motions me over to a room where his Avid rests. "I wanna show you something." He says. "This is the short that'll be airing on The Tonight Show in February." He begins the short and then leaves me to view the six-minute-plus film involving 'CLERKS' very own Dante and Randal, stuck together in a Jersey traffic jam, debating how far Dante would go to be the first person in the world to own a flying car. The short is simply dubbed, 'The Flying Car' and as usual, it's some funny stuff.
'CLERKS' fans will indeed welcome the return of Dante and Randal, as the pair continues to exchange witty diatribes and pop culture references that Smith's writing is best known for. The difference? As Smith states, "It's my first time working clean." Meaning no foul or profane language between the two register jockeys - just wholesome fun for the whole family, although Smith's tongue is always planted firmly in cheek. And for the record, this short is not part of the "ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS" that he's been doing for The Tonight Show. Although he'll continue doing one of those a month, for however long, 'The Flying Car' is simply an unrelated short film that will be airing sometime in February in place of "Attractions" for that month.
After viewing the film, it's time to head back to the theatre so that Smith can introduce newly-crowned fellow writer/director, Jeff Anderson's debut film - 'NOW YOU KNOW'.
I'll continue with more from VULGARTHON III, 2002 in my next report in which we'll take a look at a few more surprises along the way, including the film debut from writer/director Jeff Anderson and gaining some insight into what it was like making his first feature film and on directing Kevin Smith and his wife in a cameo as well.
Not to mention the strippers. Strippers? Did I say strippers?!?!
You bet your ass I did.
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