Tag Archives: indie films

Chicago Film Community Members Launch an Initiative to Stop Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Local Productions

by Legendary Lew

A group of local Chicago media executives have come forth with an initiative to combat sexual harassment and abuse in local media. Among the

Called Chicago Media Standards, the statement challenges all industry professionals and institutions to take steps needed for a “ground-level shift” that would affect the entire business. What I really like about the statement is the acknowledgment that simply outing wrongdoers isn’t enough:

We have recently witnessed a seismic shift in acknowledging these issues (sexism, misogyny, discrimination), as an avalanche of allegations against power-brokers has revealed a system built on abuse. Unfortunately, none of the alleged conduct is unusual or even surprising. Many of us in the Chicago film industry are well aware of such conduct happening right here on our own sets, in our production offices, at our festivals, and in our schools.

We are better than this. We cannot allow this toxic culture to exist any longer, and we ask our peers to take a collective stand against the entrenched sexism and misogyny of our industry. This requires far more than just “calling out” or publicly shaming a few individuals for their distasteful conduct. We need to implement a ground-level shift in how we understand and deal with sexual harassment and discrimination of all kinds against all members of our community.

Change of this magnitude must happen both at an individual level and at an institutional level. Each of us must look inwards at what we can do personally, and outwards at what we can do through our organizations. And we must work together as a committed network of industry leaders to forge the way forward.”

The Underground Multiplex welcomes the letter and joins IFP Chicago, Full Spectrum Features, Open TV, Film Fatales, Zaxie, Black Apple Media, Stage 18 Chicago, and Percolator Films in the call for action to end the abuses.

The full statement can be read below. You can join their conversation at the Facebook page for Chicago Media Standards.

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Legendary Rochester Video Store, and Major Influence on TUGM, Shutting Down After 41 Years

Hyatt’s Classic Video (3rd location) (Courtesy: Rochester City Newspaper)

by Legendary Lew

In 1976 when Kodak was booming, and Rochester NY was, as a local newspaper crowed, “The Oz of the East,” Bob Hyatt expanded his 10 year-old stereo business into the brand new market of home video. He began acquiring Beta tapes of popular feature films and renting them to folks in the community and surrounding area. Soon, Hyatt’s Classic Video became a mecca for those who searched for a wide variety of titles from all over the world. Known for his tendency to “pack rat” videos and formats, he kept Betas, VHS, VideoDiscs, DVDs and even 8mm video features (used in the 1980s primarily on airlines) for as long as he could possibly keep them.

Hyatt’s Classic Video, located in East Rochester, New York, was more than a video store for me. I worked there for a few years in the late 1990s, but was a steady customer for a long time before that.

While I worked at Hyatt’s, I took the opportunity to check out and view the most mind-blowing collection of odd movies and TV shows I could have ever seen before the advent of the internet. Only the tragically short-lived Buffalo video store, Mondo Video, could come close to the strangeness of his collection.

But Bob didn’t really set out to gather the weirdest movies ever. He wanted the largest, so as to appeal to as much of the community as possible. From family features to art house obscurities, Bob had them all. He also, out of necessity for any indie video store to remain alive, had porn ranging all the way back to the 1970s. In fact, his insistence on stocking adult films from the very dawn of video ensured a devoted audience who shied away from the “plastic figures” of later DTV smut.

During the time I worked there, Hyatt’s had monthly rental specials for titles beginning with randomly selected letters of the alphabet. Looking through the lists, I began to wonder what certain mysterious titles were. This was before I had internet access, so looking up titles on IMDB was yet to be a convenience.

I searched through the VHS titles and decided to watch all the titles I did not recognize, especially those that were distributed by second line distributors. No MGMs nor Paramounts for me. I was watching titles from Sinister Cinema, Paragon, Gorgon and Vestron Video.

And boy, did that change my movie viewing life! Titles like Sweet Sugar, The Jar, The Cars That Ate Paris, W (from the Philippines), One-Armed Executioner, Circle of Power, The Killing of Satan, Beyond the Doors, The Loved One and many more astounded me. With the blessing of Bob, I created a photocopied newsletter of sorts, reviewing those and other selected strange titles. Once unknown neglected cult movies, sitting on the shelves literally collecting dust, began moving, and encouraged some lively chat with astounded customers.

This reaction fed a passion and obsession for unusual and strange cult movies that lives to this day. I carried it forward to Chicago, my new home, where brick and mortar video stores like Facets and Odd Obsession became my new searching grounds. With the explosion of digital sources, some of the finds became easier and with better visual quality. The marketability of cult movies, thanks to the success of directors like Quentin Tarantino, increased the likelihood of finding strange movies finally released on DVD.

Even so, some titles in Hyatt’s collection still haven’t seen a digital release. Finding them is the glory of browsing brick and mortar video stores.

Which makes the impending closure of Hyatt’s Classic Video a shame. However, I don’t take this as something that’s necessarily sad.

Hyatt’s Classic Video was an astounding success. It remained in business as a video store for 41 years!  I don’t know of any video store, independent or otherwise, that has lasted as long as Hyatt’s.  If so, it certainly has not been within the area.

It fought off other competing indies as well as Blockbuster Videos–4 of them surrounded Hyatt’s within a 3 mile radius at one point. Blockbuster actually was born and collapsed while Hyatt’s survived. Bob made the decision not to sell to Blockbuster at a crucial time during the 1990s and I’m so glad he saved the store.

Bob’s decision, in no small way, changed my life. It generated the interest and excitement for weird movies that I eventually carried to Night School (some of the movies I presented, I had first seen when I rented them from Hyatt’s) and will definitely be one of the acorn seeds that develops into Vital Media later this year and into 2018. I know for a fact that the store has influenced other media makers and film lovers.

So Hyatt’s Classic Video will soon be no more. But the spirit of indie will carry on with this site, Thrillo Pad Productions and all my future work.

Thanks to The Hyatt Family.

 

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:

BenHicks

Ben Hicks (l) of Fandenpendent Films with Legendary Lew

Scumbabies is on Fandependent Films for Viewing

scumbabiesbannerby Legendary Lew

Joseph R. Lewis’ award-winning feature, Scumbabies, is on Fandependent Films to view for free. If you have not yet seen this film, I daresay do so.

Oh, okay I’ll admit it. In the interests of disclosure, Scumbabies is a production of The Underground Multiplex.

However, the website hosting the feature currently (Fandependent Films) is run by Ben Hicks and Jerry Tran, two filmmakers who respect the hard work and artistry of other filmmakers who struggle with tiny budgets and few venues to display their works properly.

Their current Winter 2016 Film Festival is on with Scumbabies competing against a number of other films to vie for permanent collection status at Fandependent.  Please head on over and become a fan of Scumbabies. Help us win an Audience Award. There are only 20 days from this writing to do so!

Watch and become a fan of Scumbabies on Fandependent Films .
Learn about Scumbabies. from TUGM.

 

RIP James Best, Actor on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and Cult Favorite, “The Killer Shrews”

The late James Best, more than just Roscoe

The late James Best, more than just Roscoe

by Legendary Lew

James Best, the actor most known for playing the hapless Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show, died at the age of 88.

Despite his playing a southern hick in one of the most pointless TV series ever to exist, Best was actually pretty influential outside the set as a well-respected acting teacher, especially of motion picture acting techniques. He ran a Hollywood school of this type of acting, supposedly the first of its kind, in the 1970s and ran it for 25 years, working with such people as Teri Garr, Burt Reynolds and Quentin Tarantino.

But the most fun watching James Best was as the lead in the ubiquitously found public domain horror film, “The Killer Shrews,” which co-starred legendary Hollywood director Sidney Lumet’s father, the Yiddish theater great Baruch Lumet and also “Gunsmoke” regular/horror film director Ken Curtis.  You know that movie–the one with fur pasted on the tails and snouts of dogs to make them look like gigantic rodents?  Haven’t seen it? Well, here it is. Enjoy:

Mediatrocities Morsel: Director John Rangel on Hollywood’s Fantastical Working Class Characters

Legendary Lew (l) and director John Rangel

Legendary Lew (l) and director John Rangel

by Legendary Lew

TUGM will soon have a complete podcast of my interview with filmmaker John Rangel, director of The Girls on Liberty Street. He’s raising funds for a new independent feature called Remember Our Days set to be filmed in Aurora, IL. In this snippet from the interview, John and I discuss why it is that Hollywood characters can live way beyond their means and why audiences passively allow this ruse.

As with all Mediatrocities podcasts, this audio exchange is NSFW.

Head on over to Seed and Spark and support John’s quest for a workable budget. There’s 11 days left, so please spread the word! Support indie cinema!

A Kickstarter Campaign to Restore Sexploitation Films? You Bet!

Joe Rubin of Process Blue (Courtesy: Mr. Skin)

Spielberg and Scorsese may be busy trying to fund the restorations of classic American films, but sexploitation and porn–in existence since the birth of movies–barely get serious mention for saving.

That’s why I’m glad Mr. Skin profiled Joe Rubin, a friend of The Underground Multiplex (he appears in our trailer for Sisters of No Mercy), and his serious attempts to restore these previously ignored films.

The current Kickstarter campaign for the film company he co-founded, Process Blue, is raising money to help restore three previously lost sexploitation movies by exploitation movie genius Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Ecstasies of Women, Linda & Abilene and Black Love.

Head on over to Mr. Skin’s profile (note: NSFW pics) here. Then, show some money love and contribute to Process Blue’s great work at their Kickstarter site.