Sunday, April 06, 2008

Golden Days

Like a lot of guys of my generation, Chris Suchorsky's mind was blown by "The Empire Strikes Back." What distinguished Chris most of the rest of us, though, was how geeked out he was by the making-of documentary he saw on HBO.

When Chris saw Kevin Smith's no-budget, 1994 Sundance phenomena, "Clerks," he wanted in on his New Jersey neighbor's racket. A self-described "typical everyday Slacker, C student," he doubled up and even audited film classes at Seton Hall. Once graduated, he began working in advertising, saving money, and writing his screenplay, "Executing Love."

By the summer of 2000, I'd had it with the Advertising Agency and decided to shoot my film. I based my actions/steps on Robert Rodriguez's "Rebel Without a Crew," an autobiographical account of his attempt to make, "El Mariachi." Rodriguez shot the film by himself for $7000, and sold it to Hollywood for around 1 million.

I set out to shoot a 95 page script in 6 six days, I rented equipment I could not afford, and I hired people (friends) who could not act. This was my failure.

A day or so after my film career ended, I had an idea. Why not turn my failed attempt into a documentary? Why not tell the story of a person trying to achieve a life-long dream and watch it fall apart? This film would become "Failure."

Check your local listings; Chris' how-NOT-to-make-a-movie documentary, "Failure" is probably playing on IFC right now.

I came across Chris via his new film, "Golden Days." The doc follows indie rockers, The Damnwells, through a major label tussle not dissimilar from Wilco's (also documented in Sam Jones' "I Am Trying To Break your Heart").

Megan Gilbert of Zoom-In described the film thusly:

Suchorsky, explores the concepts of artistry, musicianship, intra-band communication, songwriting, fame, dreams, and success. The "American Dream"-like rise and fall of a Little Band That Could provides an excellent tension that pushes Golden Days out of the dustbin of live music documentaries and into the realm of art.

Chris is still seeking distribution, but has screened the film at sixteen noted film festivals thus far, including Big Sky, Vail, Waterfront, and Phoenix.

As a singer/songwriter and first time documentary filmmaker, you can imagine my interest, in meeting Chris, and learning about the making and marketing of "Golden Days." So I emailed him, and offered to buy him a beer.

Last Monday, we had five.

We sat at the bar at O'Lunney's on 44th Street just east of Broadway for a few hours. Chris is scrappy and compact. He was a wrestler at Seton Hall, where he refused to allow a diagnosis of Hodgkin's Disease derail his wrestling career.

Chris' leg bounced the entire time we sat there. This is a guy who gets things done. I like that. Moreover, he's a natural storyteller. And sound bite machine. With nearly ten years struggling to break through the independent film world, and dozens of festivals under his belt, this is a guy with something to say.

"People love misery and chaos," he said.

"Everything corporate is bullshit."

"Documentary festivals and distributors only want films about three things: Iraq, religion, and the environment."

I felt a little silly talking about my sweet little film, given that it was none of those things, and not even a little bit rock 'n roll like "Golden Days."

"What's your log line?" he asked.

I sighed, grinning.

"I knew someone was gonna' ask the eventually," I said, stalling. "A PBS mind in an MTV world seeks illumination through the mentorship of American Icon and actual neighbor Fred Rogers?"

It was more of a question than a statement.

"What's yours for 'Golden Days,'" I asked.

"A struggling indie rock band signs to a major label only to have their album and career nearly destroyed by the people who signed them," he said. "That's what 'Failure' is about too, I guess: trying to find success in a world that won't allow you to."

I told him I thought he was kicking ass, and that I'd get back to him on my log line.

I thanked him for hangin' out with me. We stumbled into the neon-lit madness of Times Square. And I smiled the whole way home.

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