by Robert Bell
Well folks, it looks like we’re living in the future, a time when the Cineplex of Babel is at your fingertips and you never even have to leave the house to see just about any movie ever made. So why would you?
Here’s a reason: because auteur Crispin Hellion Glover wants us to confront the profoundly uncomfortable, those taboo subjects that fester, neglected and unexamined, at the core of our culture. To that end he is coming to Little Rock and Hot Springs to screen his latest film, which most likely will never be available on Netflix or On Demand or BitTorrent. In addition to showing the film, Glover will also present dramatic narration accompanying a slide show with excerpts from his eight books, will answer audience questions and will sign copies of his books.
Part two of a trilogy, “It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine.” stars and was written by Steven C. Stewart, who had severe cerebral palsy. His character has a serious thing for women with long hair and seduces and murders several of same, including a mother and then her teenage daughter. Quoth Glover: “Stewart wanted to show that handicapped people are human, sexual and can be horrible.”
Just check out the trailer on his website to catch a tiny glimpse of what that means. This event, booked by Dan Anderson and presented by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, is awesome news for art-house buffs and fans of the dark and the weird, but should probably be avoided by children, prudes, squares and anybody who gets offended by highly provocative material. The events take place July 2 at Market Street Cinema in Little Rock and July 3 at the Malco Theater in Hot Springs. The shows start at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 at the door, no presale, cash only.
The Q&A is on the jump.
What have been some of the more memorable questions or audience reactions to your films?
Sometimes I have witnessed people becoming upset and yelling and crying. If emotions happen after the film then there is something that has been affected in the audience member that is having those emotions. I have seen people upset and I have seen people emotionally moved and I have seen people feel inspired.
Have viewers asked questions or reacted in ways that made you uncomfortable?
Never. If people get upset I do not take it as a personal affront in any way. I feel almost removed from the content and am there to put things in context. This is particularly true when I show part one of the trilogy “What is it?” I will come back to Arkansas to show it at a later date.
In an interview with The AV Club, you said you plan to tour with your films for many years. But even so, limiting the chances for people to see your films means that fewer people will chance upon them or be made to view them, such as in a film class. Is this something that concerns you?
I would particularly like for the viewership of “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” to be higher than it is, but I have to be realistic about recouping the investment and this is not an easy task. Many people believe that Internet distribution is an answer to this sort of thing, but there is not a platform that one can recoup the costs of an even lower budgeted film only by Internet distribution.
The fact that I tour with the film helps the distribution element. I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was the main form of entertainment for most of the history of the US. It has only relatively recently stopped being the main source of entertainment, but that does not mean this live element mixed with other media is no longer viable.
Do you believe that viewers react to films differently in theaters versus at home?
Absolutely! The community of viewership is very important in my shows and films.
Do you think the corporate world’s grip on film is loosening, perhaps as an outcome of more affordable means of filmmaking?
It can be less expensive to make digital films right now, but corporate distribution control and restriction is if anything tightening. Hence my vaudeville style of distribution is what is necessary for me.
Both of the “It” trilogy films include actors with developmental disabilities. Many people might have a knee-jerk reaction that these actors are surely being exploited, because the film isn’t explicitly telling the audience that, ‘Oh, these people are special and different and we have to handle them with kid gloves.’ I think of the late musician and artist Wesley Willis, who had chronic schizophrenia and who many people claimed was being exploited or held up for ridicule by unscrupulous profiteers. Have your films been criticized by any advocacy groups on similar grounds, and if so, how did you respond?
I need to correct something you stated. The second film “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” does not have anyone with a developmental disability in it. In fact it was written by Steven C. Stewart who had been mistaken as someone with a developmental disability when his mother died and he was locked in to a nursing home for about ten years.
People involved in the disability community see the films as positive and not as a negative. People in the community know there is very little voice given to the people in the community in film and particularly with film “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” they are grateful to see it.
Steven C. Stewart wrote and is the main actor in part two of the trilogy titled “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” I put Steve in to the cast of “What is it?” because he had written this screenplay, which I read in 1987. When I turned “What is it?” from a short film into a feature I realized there were certain thematic elements in the film that related to what Steven C. Stewart's screenplay dealt with.
Steve had been locked in a nursing home for about ten years when his mother died. He was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy and he was very difficult to understand. People that were caring for him in the nursing home would derisively call him an “M.R.” short for “Mental Retard”. This is not a nice thing to say to anyone, but Steve was of normal intelligence. When he got out, he wrote his screenplay.
Although it is written in the genre of a murder detective thriller, truths of his own existence come through much more clearly than if he had written it as a standard autobiography.
I started funding my own films with the money I make from the films I act in the year 2000, around the same time that the first “Charlie's Angels” film came out. I realized with the money I made from that film I could put straight in to the Steven C. Stewart film. That is exactly what happened.
“Charlie's Angels” did very well financially and was good for my acting career. I started getting better roles that also paid better, and I could continue using that money to finance films that I am so truly passionate about. I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the films that I act in. I look at acting as a craft that I am helping other filmmakers to accomplish what it is that they want to do.
If for some reason a director is not interested in doing something that I personally find interesting with a character, then I can console myself that the money I am making can help to fund my own films.
Do you have fun traveling all over and screening your films?
I enjoy performing the live portion of the shows and the interactive element with the audiences and the cinephile people and groups such as Dan Anderson here in Arkansas at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute and the Malco Theatre that often go unsung but are truly local heroes that help to bring my and other unusual films and shows to their local communities. The actual travel and time it takes to distribute the films in the way that I do impacts my life in a way that is difficult, but I am compelled to make it work.
The live aspect of the shows are not to be underestimated. This is a large part of how I bring audiences in to the theater and a majority of how I recoup is by what is charged for the live show and what I make from selling the books after the shows.
For “Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show” I perform a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. The books are taken from old books from the 180's that have been changed in to different books from what they originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings and reworked images and photographs.
I started making my books in 1983 for my own enjoyment without the concept of publishing them. I had always written and drawn and the books came as an accidental outgrowth of that.
I was in an acting class in 1982 and down the block was an art gallery that had a book store upstairs. In the book store there was a book for sale that was an old binding taken from the 1800s and someone had put their art work inside the binding.
I thought this was a good idea and set out to do the same thing. I worked a lot with India ink at the time and was using the India ink on the original pages to make various art. I had always liked words in art and left some of the words on one of the pages. I did this again a few pages later and then when I turned the pages I noticed that a story started to naturally form and so I continued with this. When I was finished with the book I was pleased with the results and kept making more of them.
I made most of the books in the 80s and very early 90s. Some of the books utilize text from the biding it was taken from and some of them are basically completely original text. Sometimes I would find images that I was inspired to create stories for or sometimes it was the binding or sometimes it was portions of the texts that were interesting. Altogether, I made about twenty of them. When I was editing my first feature film “What is it?” there was a reminiscent quality to the way I worked with the books because as I was expanding the film in to a feature from what was originally going to be a short, I was taking film material that I had shot for a different purpose originally and re-purposing it for a different idea and I was writing and shooting and ultimately editing at the same time. Somehow I was comfortable with this because of similar experiences with making my books.
When I first started publishing the books in 1988 people said I should have book readings. But the book are so heavily illustrated and they way the illustrations are used within the books they help to tell the story so the only way for the books to make sense was to have visually representations of the images. This is why I knew a slide show was necessary. It took a while but in 1992 I started performing what I used to call Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Side Show.
People get confused as to what that is so now I always let it be known that it is a one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books that I have made over the years. The illustrations from the books are projected behind me as I perform the show.
How is the third “It” film, “It Is Mine,” coming along, and what can you disclose about that film?
I should not go in to detail for “IT IS MINE.” yet and I will not shoot that next. There are other projects outside of the trilogy that I will shoot next. The Czech Republic is another culture and another language and I need to build up to complex productions like “What is it?” and the existing sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” “IT IS MINE.” is an even more complex project than those two films, so it will be a while yet for that production.
I will step outside of the trilogy for a number of films that deal with different thematic elements. I am in the process of writing a screenplay for myself and my father to act in together. He is also an actor and that will be the next film I make as a director/producer. This will be the first role I write for myself to act in that will be written as an acting role as opposed to a role that was written for the character I play to merely serve the structure. But even still on some level I am writing the screenplay to be something that I can afford to make. There is another project that I may make before that I am currently working on the screenplay that may be even more affordable. yet still cinematically pleasing.