New Filmmaker Spotlight: Jeff Krulik
by Mike McGranaghan - Gamut! Film Critic
The cultural phenomenon that was public access TV permanently influenced the type of programming we now see on mainstream network and cable channels. Shows like "The Real World," "Big Brother," and "Survivor" all owe some sort of debt to public access: the stars of our favorite TV programs suddenly became our friends and neighbors instead of actors.
Despite their influence, very few individual public access shows left any kind of indelible impact. One show that does hold some historical relevance is "The Scott & Gary Show," a low-budget effort that came out of Washington, D.C. for 19 episodes between 1983 and 1989. Hosted by Scott Lewis and directed by Gary Winter, the show was a televised party for family and friends. What makes the program special (especially in retrospect) was the selection of musical guests, a few of whom went on to become well known.
The Scott & Gary Show, a collection of highlights assembled by filmmaker Jeff Krulik, is currently playing the festival circuit, and music fans (especially of the punk variety) will find it a treasure trove of fascinating performances. Using extended clips from the program's archives, Krulik transports us back to the 1980's, when bands built a following through live performances rather than having a clip on "TRL."
According to Lewis, the artists who appeared on "The Scott & Gary Show" had to meet strict personal criteria: "fun, raw, twisted, different, intense and independent." Those words accurately describe The Beastie Boys, who made an early appearance in January of 1984. At the time, the Beasties were still teenagers; one of them was still in high school, the others in college. Their drummer wasn't even a boy; she later went on to become a member of Luscious Jackson. Although raw, the Beastie Boys performance was energetic. What they lacked in musical finesse, they made up for in enthusiasm. On the way to the studio, the band reportedly complained that they shouldn't have to do cable because they would one day become big stars. That certainly ranks as one of the most prophetic declarations in the history of rock music.
Another group who went on to become well-known is the dubiously named Butthole Surfers. While the Beastie Boys footage will probably appeal to a greater number of people, it is this other performance that is undoubtedly the highlight of "The Scott & Gary Show." The Butthole Surfers showed up obviously high on psychedelics. Their set, while appropriately punkish, was like an aural hallucination (and just watch that guitar player make bizarre, stoned-out faces as he plays!) The interview is even more priceless. Singer Gibby Hayes rambles incoherently from one subject to the next. The guitarist engages in some weird obsessive-compulsive behavior, repeatedly getting up, checking his amp, and sitting back down. Everyone is so stoned that logical conversation is impossible. Eventually, there is nudity. Lewis sits among the musicians, desperately trying to make sense of out the nonsensical. It's a vintage punk rock moment, forever captured on videotape.
Many of the other acts who appeared never went on to achieve fame, but they do represent a specific time and place in the music world. The 1980's were, on one hand, a time of New Wave flash (with groups like Duran Duran and Culture Club). But the punk scene was still going strong, offering a fascinating counterpoint to the glam Simon Le Bon's and Boy George's.
"The Scott & Gary Show" will be playing at the Woodstock Film Festival in September. If you were a fan of the underground punk scene, you're sure to find this an amazing retrospective.
For more fun, I recommend a visit to Jeff Krulik's website, Planet Krulik. The Washington, DC filmmaker has Quicktime and Real Player versions of his many short films, which you can easily download. What I like about Krulik is that he's one of those directors who has a skewed world view; he finds sheer delight in the little eccentricities most of us fail to notice. Just check out "A Day With Zippy the Chimp," in which Krulik and crew cavort with a simian actor. Obviously realizing that you can't do a traditional sit-down interview with an animal star, Krulik allows the monkey to (pardon the expression) go bananas. The mere idea of following a chimp around for a day is funny.
I also liked "Show Us Your Belly," in which the filmmaker runs up to football fans after a big game and yells: "The Washington Redskins just won the Super Bowl! Show us your belly!" Some of the subjects do so without thinking; others seem perplexed trying to find a connection between the two statements.
Another appealing entry is "Harry Potter Parking Lot," the latest in a series of shorts capturing the excitement of an event ("Heavy Metal Parking Lot" and "Neil Diamond Parking Lot" are two other entries). Krulik talks to children outside a DC bookstore where author J.K. Rowling is signing copies of her wildly successful Harry Potter books. What Krulik realizes is that the atmosphere is often just as exciting as the event itself. The mere anticipation is fun.
There are a lot more short films on the Planet Krulik website. Check it out online and keeps your eyes peeled for "The Scott & Gary Show" as it continues to play the festival circuit.
For more on "The Scott & Gary Show" and other films, visit Planet Krulik.