Videos are $20 apiece postpaid (except
What About Me, $30) to Provisional, Laramie, Wyoming 82070-0757; an
SASE will get you a catalog.
Whole World Is Watching, Sir Drone, Judgment Day Theater: The
Book of Manson, Citizen Tania
Pettibon is a successful, pop
culture-referential, visionary painter. These releases were shot on crummy
videotape and horribly acted. They are of interest to fans of alternative
art/musicMike Watt, Pat Smear, Sonic Youth, and Mike Kelley are among
the 'stars.' These lengthy pseudo-documentaries (about '60s activists, the
early punk rock scene, Charles Manson, and Patty Hearst, respectively) are
like watching a three-hour car wreck.
Starring Richard Edson, the filmmaker,
Johnny Thunders, Gregory Corso, Dee Dee Ramone, and the indomitable spirit
of punk sensibility, Richard Hell. Mr. Hell makes a star turn along with
former bandmate Johnny Thunders, who's since died. The movie's a
bad-girl-gone-worse type thing.
JIM SIKORAWalls in
the City, Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera, Bullet On A
Sikora is an edgy lowlife-obsessed
Chicago director. He not only shoots his films with rock stars (David Yow
of Jesus Lizard, the guy with the messed up face from Big Black) but with
folks who can really, really act (Bill Cusack, Paula Killen, Tony Fitzpatrick).
These flicks are sort of narrative, sort of not, and very depressing. Walls
In The City has amazingly subtle jazz-rock from the Denison-Kimball Trio
and shines with Ms. Killen, who portrays three different women on the verge
in the film's short (sort of connected but not really) parts.
RUSS FORSTER & DAN
SUTHERLANDSo Wrong They're Right
"An eccentric documentary" the film
bills itself, an understatement for this screwily obsessive,
socio-anthropological offering. The filmmakers are freaks for 8-tracksyes,
8-track tapesand they criss-cross the country to film other obsessives
rhapsodize and show off their collections. It's a bit sad, a bit hilarious
(both intentionally and unintentionally), and essential viewing for all students
of pop culture.
William DeLeonardis is Knoxville's
King of Cult Film
by Mike McGonigal
William DeLeonardis is a busy guy. By day, the fast-talking, gregarious,
and neurotic Connecticut transplant is a full-time Unit Supervisor of Library
Express at the Hodges Library at UT. By night, he's an improvisational musician
in two bands. And then, in between the twilight hours, he oversees a mini-empire
called Provisional Video, a mysterious outfit responsible for the distribution
of that oddest of commoditiesunderground film, such as The Adventures
Of El Frenetico And Go Girl.
"I am totally excited about that!" exclaims DeLeonardis about his newest
release. "It's a lampoon/parody of those Mexican wrestler movies, which are
kind of caricatures of themselves in the first place. We competed with Troma
and we got it. The filmmaker didn't want to be associated with the company
that put out Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High, these
no-class, Z-Budget, T&A action films."
Provisional goes way beyond such typical video store fare. Some of the movies
it distributes are by filmmakers whose resumes reach back 25 years to the
roots of the punk rock sensibility; others are part of the independent film
phenomenon that helped spawn Quentin Tarrantino and all those who perform
the Sundance ritual (see sidebar). But Provisional didn't form just to release
tapes of pre-existing films shot and financed by independent filmmakers.
It all started because two friends wanted to make their own independent movies
without having to mortgage their futuresso they started a video
distribution company first.
In 1989, DeLeonardis was playing a gig in Chicago with his band at the time,
Repulse Kavaa noisy rock group either way ahead of its time or way
behind, depending on your point of view. But after the show, a guy came up
and introduced himself as Joe Carducci. He said he wanted to produce the
band, as he liked them. The band was floored.
"This is the guy who produced the Minutemen!" DeLeonardis still enthuses.
Carducci is an infamous rock writer and music producer. He was also the one-time
head of SST, perhaps the most influential punk rock record label of all time,
who released early, important recordings by Black Flag, the Minutemen,
Hüsker Dü, Slovenly, Gone, and Sonic Youth. But, while he didn't
end up producing the band, Carducci did speak with DeLeonardis about
starting a film/video production company, as it had always been a major interest
DeLeonardis had made "horrible Super-8 art films" at his "fancy" Connecticut
high school, which offered film as an elective and taught it so well that
he dropped out of the film program at the Art Institute of Chicago because
the classes were so redundant. Later, he spent years working for respected,
art-conscious video company Facets that not only releases films to video
but distributes thousands of titles. He got to learn the ins and outs of
the industry there. Carducci had lots of business experience as well, obviously.
The first Provisional releases were four Pettibon, um, 'movies.' (see sidebar)
"We really set Provisional in motion with those Pettibon tapes," DeLeonardis
says. This year, with the release of the hilarious punk rock parody Rock
& Roll Punk, penned by Carducci and filmed by Chicago director Jim
Sikora, they'll finally be realizing their goal of making their own
films. As evidenced by its trailers, the movie has the potential to be a
cult hit, along the lines of The Decline of Western Civilization or
more appropriately Spinal Tap. It looks to be a subtly-crafted, fake
rockumentary about a punk group called The Outpatients who blindly dive into
the world of groupies, touring, dope, and videos, eagerly gulping down the
whole alt-rock enchilada.
One could easily see DeLeonardis' running the nuts-and-bolts of his video
company out of Knoxville as part of a larger trend. With HGTV, Cinetel, and
other independent companies, Knoxville is turning into something of a television
production capital, says DeLeonardis.
"Slowly, Knoxville is actually becoming a center for television and film
productionwhether that is [the municipality's] ultimate goal or not,"
he says. "It's certainly affecting the economy and bringing more creative
people as well as industry types into town."
And in the end, a videotape is a videotape; they all get duped off, the covers
printed, and into your hands in essentially the same way. "Initially our
duplicated tape copies were made by a company in Clinton, Allied Film and
Video. That was great, but the company watched one of our tapes, and it had
a scene with naked guys' behinds, and they considered it pornographic and
offensive...If any of these other companies offer some sort of film production
facilities that we could utilize in the future, that would be totally radical,
dude," DeLeonardis [aware that he's starting to sound dry and technical,
slips into the universal Esperanto of skatepunk-speak] says. Currently, the
tapes are manufactured by a company in California who specialize in "adult"
Provisional is a model '90s D.I.Y. home business: It's run by guys who
communicate cross-country via mail, phone, fax, and modem, taking advantage
of the freedoms offered by electronic communication and the much cheaper
rents of Wyoming and Tennessee. That's right, the official address for
Provisional is in Wyoming: Carducci lives there, along with new partner David
Lightbourne. There's even a Provisional Cafe run out of the company's warehouse
in the sleepy little college town of Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming.
The product's put together and stored out there, then shipped from there
to distributors like Facets in Chicago. The tapes are made near L.A., the
covers printed in Canada, and DeLeonardis handles bookkeeping and other crucial
administrative concerns from Knoxville. Provisional is a regular
post-geographical company, a product of the electronic information revolution.
Their dream is for the company to become like the old Hollywood studio system,
where they have a group of talented, contracted actors and directors from
which to pick the correct cast and crew for a particular project.
With a few notable exceptions, Provisional's actual films are really the
least interesting aspect of their enterprise. For the most part, their movies
cater to the tastes of the sort of educated young white suburban males who
'slum it' by reading booze-and-sex-soaked pseudo-philosophical authors like
Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski, who avidly devour the highly-opinionated
Film Threat magazine, and who can at least stomach Tarrantino-wannabe
filmmaking. Ask about the proliferation of young white guys with guns on
the covers of Provisional video releases, and DeLeonardis will go off on
a sympathetic tirade.
"Are my films important?" DeLeonardis asks rhetorically. "In a word, no.
But there's not a film on this Earth that's 'important.' Making a film, watching
a film, distributing a filmit has no effect on my life other than possible
future monetary support. Right now the company is a big drain on me.
Our films are not important...Do I go see a film to enjoy myself? Yes. Do
I go see a film to think? Sometimes. But ultimately, it means nothing. People
don't have their priorities straight if they're going to starve themselves
and their family to make their art. Artistes are a bunch of simps. And I
can speak with authority on that 'cause I went to art school!
"Art is certainly important in terms of spiritual and intellectual expansion,"
he concedes. "And I could be a pompous, pretentious liar and say that our
films hold the key to the universe. But no, they're about a bunch of white
junkie losers who like to hold guns! That's unfortunate to me, but I hope
that will change now that we're producing our own stuff. Don't get me
wrongI like a lot of the films we've released. I think they have merit,
but ultimately I believe by releasing these films it creates our distribution
network, and ultimately we'll be able to create the films that we want to
Things are looking up for Provisional's film and video concerns. In May,
Sikora's feature-length film Bullet On A Wire will get a two-week
long run at the prestigious, legendary, historically-minded Anthology Film
Archives in New York City. After that, the movie will show at the Rotterdam
Festival in Munich.
At this moment, if you want to rent one of Provisional's movies in Knoxville,
you can't. The last local, small video store to carry his films has gone
under. You might expect a frenzied tirade from DeLeonardis if you dare ask
him about the big blue giant, Blockbuster Videothe virtual video monopoly
stores have been known to edit movies and, around here at least, feature
little more than the most standard shoot-'em-ups, kid flicks, screwball comedies,
star vehicles, and big budget tear-inducing films. But he's no knee-jerk
indie film guy.
"I actually respect Blockbuster," DeLeonardis explains, "as triumphs of
demographic market research if nothing else. By the time they move into an
area, they know exactly what the population there wants to seethey
have it all figured out."