Tag Archives: independent films

Rumblings in the Chicago Film Community Over The Midwest Independent Film Festival Story

by Legendary Lew

It’s been a few days since this blog posted the story of a possible impending sexual harassment scandal involving The Midwest Independent Film Festival.  From what I’m hearing via my contacts, many phone calls are being made. Responses apparently are ranging from no surprise to shock and surprise. If you are wondering whether people are paying attention to this or just shrugging it off, believe me, this issue is definitely dead center of the Chicago film community’s radar right now.

To those just learning about the scandal, filmmaker Felix Piñeiro posted about allegations of sexual harassment connected to someone involved in a monthly Tuesday independent film fest. The logical connection is The Midwest Independent Film Festival.

There’s a tendency by some to wish that resolutions to this problem occur at lightning speed.  Personally, I think the matter of ejecting whoever is committing these terrible acts against women could be resolved almost immediately.

I’m not posting about this as some sort of thrill. This is a very serious matter of people who have to endure shame, guilt and humiliation while trying to get careers off the ground in a job field they love. I, myself, was touched inappropriately by a woman who was my boss many years ago.  It sucks. Big time.

I have a media contact person who’s very interested in this issue. Anyone with further information regarding the charges can contact me at my email: lewojeda@gmail.com

Mediatrocities Podcast #22: Ben Hicks of Fandependent Films and the State of Indie Films Today

fandependentby Legendary Lew

Ben Hicks, co-founder of Fandependent Films, joins me in the latest podcast to talk about his site, the state of independent films and whether it’s possible to have cottage industries of film.

Check out Fandependent Films, where you can watch a brand new movie every day and become a fan of your favorite ones. Becoming a fan supports the site and the filmmakers.

Listen to the podcast:


Ben Hicks (l) of Fandenpendent Films with Legendary Lew

Legendary Lew’s Oscar Predictions

by Legendary Lew

2016OscarsLogo0114Oscars 2016:

Best Actor:  Some Guy
Best Actress:  Some Gal
Best Supporting Actor:  Some Other Guy
Best Supporting Actress:  Some Other Gal
Best Original Song:  Some Generic Tune You’ll Despise After Hearing It for the Tenth Time
Best Special Effects/Visual Effects:  Some Billion-Dollar Budgeted Slam Bang Movie Designed to do Well in China
Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Effects: See Best Special Effects…
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Some Script from an Original Source That’s Probably Much Better than the Film Adaptation
Best Original Screenplay:  Some Morsel Tossed to a Film That’s Probably the Truly Best Film of the Lot, But Won’t Win Best Picture, Because the Studios Can’t Make Enough Money on It
Best Director:  Some Poor Sod Who Actually Thinks the Oscar Will Bring Him/Her the Clout He Needs to Make “Important” Films and Change Hollywood, But Will End Up Either Becoming a Hack or a Mental Patient When Reality Sets In.
Best Picture: A Future $3.99 Special at Wal-Mart. LOW, LOW PRICES!!

The above choices and opinions are those of Legendary Lew ONLY and do not necessarily reflect those of the rest of The Underground Multiplex.


Flashback: Director Joseph Lewis Discusses His Film “Tyler B Nice”

Cast of

Cast of “Tyler B Nice” (l. to r.) Tyler Jenich, Director Joseph Lewis, Emilia Richeson

by Legendary Lew

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the production of the Joseph Lewis feature, Tyler B Nice, the strange film about a party gone wrong. It’s gotten the critical acclaim of people like Andrew Bujalski and is really due for a discovery.

We present here comments by the director and TUGM co-founder Joseph R. Lewis. His statements from ten years ago still hold truth for those who want to get the best results in independent media.

R.I.P. Cult Character Actor Tom Towles (1950-2015)


by Ty Pi ~ @-[->

Tom Towles was an American actor who was born and raised in Chicago, IL.  He passed away on April 5th, 2015.

He was a former U.S. Marine turned cult figure in the independent film scene with what is arguably his most iconic role as Otis Toole in the controversial John McNaughton classic, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

McNaughton initially auditioned Towles for the role of Henry before asking him to play Otis.  Towles had a background in improvisational comedy, which he used in playing the darkly comic character.  His performance is instantly memorable and has become, in my opinion, a contender for one of the scariest performances captured on film.  In the scene featured below, Otis and Henry are buying a color TV in the rear garage of a pawn shop.  It is in this sequence where we see how casual Otis is in conversation, how quick he is to commit horrible atrocities, and even going as far as to take pleasure with a child-like glee.  (Warning: The scene is disturbing and NSFW.)

Other credits include Miami Vice (2006), the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, and frequent collaborations with Rob Zombie with titles like House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween, and the faux trailer Werewolf Women of the SS.

The Birth of “Imitation Movie Product”

Add "straight male" to the flavor your corporate "movie" label is complete

Add “straight male” to the flavor your corporate “movie” label is complete

by Legendary Lew

The infamous Sony Hacks and film studios’ release plans for the next five years have made it more clear than ever before: they’re not interested in movies. Instead, they are interested in manufactured product. It’s incredible how brazen they now are in showing an utter disdain for you as a viewer.

As Mark Harris astutely points out in the must-read film article of the year,

As with prepackaged food, exportability and shelf life are now primary virtues. The product Hollywood is selling right now keeps better if it contains as few organic ingredients as possible — whether organic to the place, the mood, the news, or the moment. Think of the major Hollywood studio movies you saw this year. Aside from their up-to-the-nanosecond technological razzle-dazzle, how many of them felt like they belonged specifically to 2014, as opposed to five, 10, or 15 years ago? Or, for that matter, five years from now?

And much like an insurance company visiting college grad prospects, the “movie” studios have the next five years of your life all set. Behold, their idea of movie plots:



You can consider some older movies to be “corn”– a la (Frank) “Capra-corn”– but these features represent the corporate farm corn to be fed to the masses all over the world. These listings prove an attempt to standardize film making to such an extent that there’s practically no deviance from any formula that would disrupt the franchise.

So I propose a solution to differentiate between indie films and these corporate franchise films: require the latter to be labeled “Imitation Movie Product” or IMP, for short.

Why not? By law, sandwich slices have to be called “cheese food” or “cheese product” to separate them from the much better stuff you would buy at a specialty shop. “Imitation vanilla flavor” is not to be confused with what you can legally call vanilla.  Film makers at both the indie and corporate studio levels can use the same tools to make the finished film–much like “cheese food” companies can use “real milk!”–but they definitely come out with different works.

So from now on, the releases listed above will be referred to, by me, as “Imitation Movie Product” or IMP for short.

I think this will clear up the confusion and “consumers” will receive better guidance as to what they are actually viewing and supporting. You’re welcome.

Ken Levine is Wrong: Zach Braff Should Be Forced to Use Kickstarter. Here’s Why…

Make him do it.

Make him do it.

Ken Levine wrote a blog post that went viral about how Zach Braff shouldn’t use Kickstarter, because he’s too well connected to use a fundraiser site meant for the starving artist. I understand the argument, but this notion that Kickstarter is cloaked in some golden glow of altruism is rather laughable.

Kickstarter is fundraising tool, not a shrine shut off to all but members only. Of course someone well off is going to eventually try his or her hand at it, if not Zach Braff, then someone else. Mr. Levine also has to remember that Kickstarter is not only used by struggling artists, but also by those who want investors for new products. Indeed, one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns is for an E-Paper Watch, which garnered over 10,000% of the original goal.  It’s ludicrous to believe that tech companies won’t take notice and, if they do, expect to be warded off by hordes of  “indie investors” or their supporters crying foul.

If Ken Levine is so incensed by a well-off Hollywood type asking for money, then the best advice is the one he’s already following: don’t give money.  There are Kickstarters that fail–I would introduce Ken to the wonderful and hilarious Shitstarter, which compiles truly awful Kickstarter campaigns. If starry-eyed people want to waste their hard-earned dollars on big name projects, because they naively hope, as Levine infers, that they’ll hobnob and dine with the Hollywood elites, let them. To quote Suzanne Finnemore, “Delusion detests focus and romance provides the veil.”

I am, in fact, completely in favor of more transparency with investment monies given to movies. I want Zach Braff, Harvey Weinstein or any other Kickstarter recipient to answer from groups of investors when he makes a shitty movie. Having Kickstarter investors actually feel the loss of a bad investment I think is a good thing. Hollywood films are so divorced from your own artistic hunger and are so perfectly and systematically distanced from you personally that your only recourse for bad cinema is badmouthing it to your friends, skewering it publicly on blogs or asking for your money back from the cinema (good luck with that).

You shouldn’t have to hound the theater for your $12 back. You and other fellow investors should be able to follow the producer in every public appearance and ask why he took your investments and turned them in dogshit. Turn his next PR appearance into a townhall meeting shitstorm demanding your investment back. You probably won’t get it, but the headlines will certainly bite the producer in the ass. Let those producers know that if they invest via Kickstarter, they’ll be playing a different game. Not one which checks are written in closed rooms without a second thought given to the outcome, but instead one where the producers will be quite intimidated by average Joes to whom they’ll have to answer.

Levine is right about helping out independent filmmakers whenever possible. It’s a great idea. But even here, he misses the point on how to best do this.

Just as you can do for your produce, for the best arts results–go local.

Here in Chicago, I know two filmmakers who made feature length films for very little money. They, instead, used the time, energy and geniuses of other talents to make great looking films like The Pink Hotel and Sci Fi Sol (disclosure: the latter film is a production of this site, The Underground Multiplex).  Chris Hefner, the director of The Pink Hotel and the upcoming The Poisoner, told me in an interview that he made both features for practically nothing. Instead of a lot of cash, he bartered goods and services and even gained the assistance of an alderman who knows the value of having great art created locally.

The biggest mistake we can keep telling future filmmakers is that the only way to make feature films is to chase money. Don’t get me wrong, Kickstarter and other online fundraisers are great. But convincing artists that this method, or pitching movies with the big boys via festivals are the only ways to get your movie made is being disingenuous.  With technology and resources available to make movies very cheaply (we made Sisters of No Mercy 3D, a feature-length film for less than $200), this endeavor is open to more people with more ideas and more stories to tell than ever before. The real trick is to get the audience deeply engaged and the best way to do that is to find your local artists and filmmakers, meet them and support them and your local indie theaters.

Lew Ojeda
(I’ll be presenting a wild show on Saturday night, May 11th in Chicago, “The Ben & Arthur Interactive Cinematic Experience, or Can a Cult Movie Sensation Be Created?” Click on this link for more details and to attend. Click on this link for the promo video.)

Watch the Great Indie Surreal Film “The Pink Hotel” Free

Chicago’s own excellent talent Chris Hefner presents his first feature, The Pink Hotel, available now on Vimeo. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch, as you will not see films like this one very often. If you live in Chicago, know that there are many incredible artists like Chris trying to work independently and share their great visions.

Chris will be the special guest interview on “Mediatrocities” coming up later this month. Look for it. For now, you can help him out by heading to his Etsy store and buying a ticket for the debut of his new feature The Poisoner at The Portage Theater. Support your local indie artists!

“Tyler B Nice”, Second Feature by Director Joe Lewis, Available as a Free Download

We at The Underground Multiplex would like to remind you of the FREE movies you can download from our site. All of our work, from the feature-length films of Joseph R. Lewis to podcasts by Lew Ojeda, we provide to the public free of charge to download and enjoy. As you can see from the link on the left, we do enjoy receiving donations as well to continue providing the best in Chicago-based filmed and live entertainment.

From the description: “TYLER B. NICE is a montage of found video from a night of blurry memories OR a chronicling of the ugly but colorful lives of a small group of deviants and lovers in Boston, circa 2005 OR why i hate parties. Written over the course of a two month rehearsal period with a company of over 15 performers.”

“Gorgeous for sure and the performances are all remarkable.” — Andrew Bujalski

Enjoy! and share!

Why the Criticism of NM Tax Subsidies for The Avengers is a Bogus Argument

(Courtesy: The Hollywood Reporter)

Oh, Think Progress, how I usually agree with you 110%, but I must disagree with  you on your latest take on New Mexico’s tax money spent on attracting the production of The Avengers to the Land of Enchantment.

In the skewering, Pat Garofalo quotes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

State film subsidies are a wasteful, ineffective, and unfair instrument of economic development. While they appear to be a “quick fix” that provides jobs and business to state residents with only a short lag, in reality they benefit mostly non-residents, especially well-paid non-resident film and TV professionals. Some residents benefit from these subsidies, but most end up paying for them in the form of fewer services — such as education, healthcare, and police and fire protection — or higher taxes elsewhere. The benefits to the few are highly visible; the costs to the majority are hidden because they are spread so widely and detached from the subsidies.

I understand much of the argument that CBPP makes, and on the surface it sounds like a good one. Tax subsidies for film production are risky investments, just as if you were a private investor in a film. Chances are, you will not make your money back. You would be better off investing in the stock market.

However much, if not all, of the arguments made by CBPP (and therefore, Think Progress) rely on major film productions returning over and over again or setting up shop in NM in order for the tax subsidies to make sense. It’s viewed in terms of permanent, stable, high-paying jobs for the state. In the immediate scheme of things, this sounds like a good argument. But there are other factors that don’t get taken into account.

Picking on The Avengers was probably not the smartest way to go. Hollywood productions always follow the money, no matter how irrational the path. Now that Joss Whedon’s film joined the billion-dollar club, you will be certain that more productions will come to NM. Was the script an urban drama set in NYC? Doesn’t matter. It’ll change to set in Santa Fe, because filmmakers and producers want that golden touch. Watch and see, it’ll happen.

Another reason why choosing The Avengers as the whipping boy is a bad idea is the large fan base the film and comic series obviously now have. Now that the film has turned mega, major fans will seek out visiting the places shown in the movie. I’ve not seen the film, but if such settings turn out to be prominent, the revenue for tourism could continue for decades. That’s the case for certain Hitchcock films, Chicago locations (due to Public Enemies and The Dark Knight) and, hell, I’ve even heard of people visiting Baltimore simply because John Waters made it so prominent in many of his films. If the film has an iconic scene with a unique place where movie magic happens, people will visit it. Don’t discount the obsessiveness of fans.

Major talents do go local and set up shop outside Hollywood, creating local employment (eg. The Wachowski Brothers forming Eon Entertainment).  Hopefully, more will do so and I expect it will happen with the film industry heading to a more streaming-based distribution. This leads to the final point completely being forgotten by Think Progress/CBPP:

Major film success brings more attention to independent filmmakers working in those locales.

With the billion-dollar success of The Avengers, you can be certain that the New Mexico film office (if they are wise) will take total advantage of the newly found attention for local talent. Local NM filmmakers can find it easier to fund indie projects and have distribution, especially locally. That attention can lead to the formation of new film festivals in the region and a reminder of how taxpayers should support the arts lest they lose any local talent.

So, Think Progress/CBPP, you have it wrong here. Yes, Hollywood many times is a vampire. Go through this blog and read other posts I’ve published if you don’t believe how much I hate the institution. But picking on states for making investments for what you view in short-term, loses sight of the bigger picture.