"Wouldn't it be great if I made an experimental film with Juggalos?" passed through my head as I enjoyed a rather opaque film at the New York Film Festival. I'd just read Camille Dodero's first report on The Gathering of the Juggalos and was surprised and obsessed with the article. Days later, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Juggalo film was a great idea. I began writing a grant, at first half-seriously, but as the proposal developed, my ideas and opinions grew dead serious.
Months passed. One July day, while doing 16mm camera tests for another project, I received an email explaining that I had received the grant. This confirmed that this was a good idea, but now I had to actually do it. How the hell was I going to pull this off?
I quit my job at the Criterion Collection and moved back to Buffalo in July of 2013. I started living on my father's boat and cold-contacting Juggalos via facebook. I failed miserably. I met only two people in over a month. Things went nowhere. I was in total despair and ready to leave. The project had failed. Luckily for me, one of the two Juggalos I met, Jeremy/Polmar, hosts a radio show and facebook page. He posted a link to the film and it got a few "likes." In a last-ditch attempt, I contacted those people.
Enter Jonny Blaze.
I met Jonny in a park in downtown Buffalo and we immediately connected - we had an easy rapport, and we quickly found common ground between us. Jon told me of a local Juggalo house called Hatchet House and all the craziness that happens there. He called me that night at 1am (as he always does) and invited me over, to a neighborhood I'd never been to, never even heard of, called, ominously, "The Valley".
Although tired and filled with trepidation about going to a strange place in a strange neighborhood and meeting a bunch of people with an often negative reputation, I realized this was my shot, probably the only one I would get. I bought a case of beer and drove over there. A small house with a Hatchetman flag crouched in front of a dilapidated grain elevator at the end of a dark street not far from downtown. I approached the porch, a group of dark figures quietly observing. That was the first time I met them.
"They" were a small group of friendly, accepting, open-minded and complicated people - Paul, Sarah, Jonny, Julian, Arlowe, Dylan, Mel. Real people, eager to talk and exchange ideas, interested and interesting, giving, curious, and they became a huge part of my life for the next 10 months. Paul and Sarah invited me to their wedding a few weeks later. I volunteered to photograph it for them - the wedding was a nice time, a totally exuberant experience. These people became the core of BUFFALO JUGGALOS and the people I spent the most time with. They're the people I still talk to. They're people I think about every day and love getting calls from.
With Hatchet House came others - from Lockport, Cheektowaga, Niagara Falls. Months later, in October, we pulled it off. A 20-day shoot that involved extremely complicated logistics and a large amount of city support. Between the Juggalos' enthusiasm for the project and willingness to do whatever to get it done, a crew who came up not knowing what to expect, producers who did things that had never been done in Buffalo, and a DP who went from coming to Buffalo for ten days to staying in Buffalo for almost a month, we pulled it off. And we've made something special.
BUFFALO JUGGALOS is not a documentary, even though it is premiering at one of the most important documentary festivals in the world. Or maybe it is, in a way, a psychological documentary. A 30-minute film that consists of portraits, real and imagined, and scenarios of Juggalos performing actions. The scenarios were usually planned and written by me in advance, but sometimes tweaked by the Juggalos, and of course filtered through months spent with them - their influence is everywhere in the film. In some cases scenes were proposed by the Juggalos, in some cases they are recreations of things that happened in our time together, in some cases they are what was happening at the time, in many cases they are pure fiction. Confused yet? Ok, so it's a document of exactly what was happening in front of the camera at the exact moment we were shooting.
I wanted the film to be like an artifact from a lost civilization - like finding a VHS tape on the side of the road intercut with a slasher movie, porn, Paul McCarthy's Heidi, and backyard wrestling. Everyone in the film is a Juggalo unless noted. All non-Juggalos are Juggalo-affiliated. I would say with much confidence that it is the first film like this that has been made with Juggalos.
BUFFALO JUGGALOS is more as well. It's a tumblr site that I am very proud of that will turn into something in a zine or book format. It's further projects down the line. It's a lot of things that involve a lot of people that you might like to know a lot more about.
FUNDS will be used for the following:
1. Paying for final COLOR CORRECTION
2. Paying for final SOUND MIX
3. Paying a few outstanding location fees before I get my legs broken
4. Making DELIVERABLES (Tapes, a DCP, DVDs and Blurays). Most importantly, I need a DCP.
5. FESTIVAL FEES / some travel for myself and key crew
6. FESTIVAL TRAVEL - BUFFALO JUGGALOS has been invited to several festivals already, several of which are top-tier US and international festivals. I will bring several Juggalos involved in the film to either the US premiere or one of our upcoming (but as of now confidential) screenings. It is very important to me that they see the film in a proper theater. I will not buy them beer, however.
7. Some final interviews for the tumblr page (For this I need to travel to Buffalo)
Tour the festival circuit. Bring the Carnival along. Meet the Insane Clown Posse. Next year release the film for sale. Release a print version of the photos and interviews. Finally, release the film as a DVD-r into the Juggalo world for widespread and totally sanctioned bootlegging.
Risks and challenges
There are a lot of risks associated with any film/text/photo project like this. Thankfully, production of the film is finished and the film is already being programmed by major festivals. The risks left are minimal and mainly involve me taking on massive credit card debt. The main risk for what I'm proposing funding for is to get the Juggalos to a premiere or event. I know them very well of course, but it's difficult to organize extensive travel for a large group of people. Add to that that they are a group of people who rarely travel (or may never have travelled) and it might come to pass that Juggalos will have to see it in different groups despite my dreams of showing up with a full entourage. Failing that, of course, it is possible to do a local screening of the film, but that's a last resort. Beyond that, I'm a bit terrified to be making "the book" part of this all (included in the rewards). This pushes me pretty far outside of my comfort zone, but that's probably the best way to work. There's a small chance that if the film's festival life gets too big it may delay the release of the dvd a bit beyond next February, but everyone who is entitled will be given a temporary link to the finished film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)