Wednesday, May 5, 2010

9 Years Ago Today...

Today's date 9 years ago – May 5th, 2001 – is significant for two reasons... The first being the day Kevin Purcell got married to his lovely wife Pam. The second being the day Bellmore: The Unscene was conceived.

I was at the bar at Kevin & Pam's reception when Jim Muscarella and I struck up a conversation. He was telling me about his work as a production assistant and I shared some stories about the commercials I've worked on. Jim suggested we work on something together someday. Now you may not be able to tell by the breadth of this blog, but sometimes I can be a little lazy and need someone to nudge me into motion – but then I'm like a rabid dog. (Back in '95, Jim Burns nudged me to start Manure For The Mind – which you can read about here.) I already had the idea to make a documentary on Bellmore's music scene but without Jim's enthusiasm it probably wouldn't have happened – at least not the scope it wound up being. (Jim took the wedding group shot above and the nice shot of Kim and I...and Socci.)

Over the next couple of months we had conversations about what it should be and what we need to do to get it started. The first step was setting up a meeting with the mayor of Bellmore and his lawyer...because politics do play a role in Bellmore. Over a nice lunch at the Smithville Cafe (pre-fire), we explained our intentions and got their blessings to move forward. From there we put the word out that we'd need everyone's music and video footage from all the bands throughout the years – all of which you'll find on this blog by the time it's completed.

In true punk rock spirit, we just kind of jumped into it. When we all started bands back in the day we didn't know how to play our instruments...if we owned any at all. Same thing here. Neither of us owned a camera (at least a good digital video camera) and we sure as hell had no way of editing it once we were done filming.

To make our production seem legit we formed Hi-Tide Pictures – actually Jim did. I was initially thinking of making this another Bubjunior Production (see past Bubjunior Productions here), but he already had the wheels in motion incorporating Hi-Tide Pictures so I went with it. (Jim's got a funny story on how he came up with the name. It has something to do with Jim drowning two trucks at a beach on some commercial shoot – or something like that – you'll have to ask him.)

Production of Bellmore: The Unscene had to start by July 28th because that was going to be the day Ground Zero – the last Bellmore venue – would close it's doors forever. I'm not going to get into detail about that day now, but I will in a couple of days from now. You'll just have to wait till Friday.

Through his work as a production assistant, Jim found Pat Gallo, a friend of a friend who was willing to shoot our interviews. If Pat knew exactly what he was getting into, I'm not sure if he would've agreed. Actually, if I knew what I was getting into – a two year production – I don't think I would've agreed. Pat was a good sport and he got us going. He filmed most of the interviews and a few live shows. When I sensed his interest waning I ponied up for my own DV camera and took over the role of Director of Photography.

After a few months of filming it was about time we started editing something together. But how? Who?... The name Manny Berlingo was mentioned – but both Jim nor I can remember which one of us suggested him? Jim knew Manny as the singer of the rockabilly band Slick Pelt (I think they played the Juke Joint), and I knew Manny as my neighbor in my apartment building in NYC – small world. Besides being a singer and a neighbor, Manny was also an editor.

One night Jim and I had some drinks with Manny at a bar near our building and pitched him the documentary. After hearing our spiel and learning we already had over a 100 hours of footage – with no signs of stopping – Manny suggested we do it ourselves. Looking back, it was absurd thinking someone would actually want to take on this monster. We were so close to the story – we lived it – so really we should be the one's to piece it together. (BTW, Manny passed away about a year after our meeting so we would've been screwed if he agreed to do it. RIP Manny.)

Luckily for us, Final Cut Pro (a home editing program making editing more accessible to independent film makers) was released in the early 2000's. I saw an ad in the Village Voice for FCP classes at a new establishment called DV Dojo and signed up. I was actually the first student DV Dojo ever had. By the end of my first class, I had already cut together a video for an Earl Pickens song – pieced together from a single-camera shoot (see below). It was that easy.

When we first started Bellmore: The Unscene, I was in between jobs – one of the reasons I started the project – but by now I had begun working at a new agency. So after working my day job, I'd come home and work my night job editing the movie. I nearly went insane trying different ways to attack the story. In the end I decided to jump around in the time-line, rather that tell it in chronological order. And if I'd do it again, I'd probably choose another way of telling it – let alone shave a few minutes off.

At a certain point we decided to share it with a few people and get some feedback. It was really long and bloated and needed an outsiders opinion. Billy Kelly was at my apartment one night so I screened it for him and his wife. His humble suggestion was taking out his part of the story (Earl Pickens) – which I've already written about in length here.

After taking out the Earl Pickens story we screened it for Mike Bianco and Bobby S. Bobby suggested we take out The Elite story. His reasoning was that the story gets pretty heavy (at least that's what I remember him saying and I don't blame him from wanting to distance himself from certain aspects of that story) and that the Justified Violence section already tells the story of their youth. Mike's suggestion was to play up more that people don't leave Bellmore...which we also addressed.

Collaboration like this is what makes the "unscene" what it is. Beside being subjects in the movie, Joe Kollar helped out with the motion graphics and Kevin Purcell created the original Bellmore website. My sister even helped out as script supervisor. What we have is a family of artists that are always willing to help each other out and create something out of nothing.

I can keep going on about premiering the movie at the Bellmore Playhouse, or winning Best Rockumentary at the Arlene's Grocery Film Festival (2004), or winning Best Documentary at the Kansas International Film Festival (2004), but this post has gone on long enough and those are stories for another day.

Happy Anniversary Kevin & Pam.

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