Nov 6, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

If there are any salt lake homies, I have some great news. Brewvies is having a free screening of American Movie this Monday 11/7 at 9pm!

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I loved American Movie when it came out because it was an authentic portrayal of an artist who created not because he wanted to, but because he couldn't NOT do it. And on par with that passion, was the support of the people around him, especially (and unequivocally) Mike, despite the lack of resources and network. Thank you BBSP for recognizing this masterpiece!

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Nov 2, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

God love ya and Jesus love ya for writing this piece. I revisit AM every few years and find my appreciation and admiration for Mike, Mark & their crew only growing I as I get older and face the challenges and joys of making my own work. In high school my best friend & I had a band called Scant At Best, which is taken from a Mark quote:

I have no fucking money

I have no way of GETTING any money until Coven is finished

The script isn’t ready

Casting hasn’t even begun

Locations for filming are scant, at best;

Are you crazy that’s eleven fuckin days from now!

RIP Mike

much love Blackbird Spyplane

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Oct 26, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

Possibly the most important edition of the sletter thus far. No doubt you’re familiar with Chris Kraus’ /Social Practices/. And Herzog’s /Conquest of the Useless/ (meeting with his producers after Jason Robards and Mick Jagger had pulled out of /Fitzcarraldo/: “But the question that everyone wanted answered was whether I would have the nerve and the strength to start the whole process from scratch. I said yes; otherwise I would be someone who had no dream left, and without dreams I would not want to live.”) I think of Masaoka Shiki, writing tanka in bed, spitting up blood, dying at 35. The nights are closing in for those driven to make things that frustrate an audience’s desire for the world to be knowable. Abe Kobo’s image (opening of /The Ruined Map/) of the sky as “a Braun tube after the picture has disappeared” (yes, 15 years before Gibson used “television tuned to a dead channel” in /Neuromancer/) — if humanity survives another 1,000 years, perhaps that is how this time will be looked on: a staticking, a depolarization.

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Oct 25, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

One of the most well-written/thought provoking pieces I’ve read here. Thanks for all ya do! Now rushing to watch the movie. Wanted to see it for a while, but never got around to it

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Oct 25, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

Oh man, Rest in Power Mike! I'm glad its ya'll that are breaking this news to me.

*Many* years ago a friend of mine, who was a sound man on indie films hit me up and was like "let's go see the premiere of this movie, it sounds cool" (maybe it was part of Tribeca Film Fest? I honestly can't remember but it must have been) - obv this was American Movie I am speaking of.

It was completely packed and I have to say it was one of the all time great movie experiences I've ever had. (Pulp Fiction opening night in the East Village was also totally insane.) Everyone was along for the ride, all the emotions were present, the vibe was immaculate and it was a very special experience.

After it was over, someone got up and introduced Mark and Mike and they got a huge, wild ovation. They were, and I can't stress this enough, fully blown away in one of the most honest and humble ways I have ever seen. They were of course, super hilarious, buzzed and just having the best time.

My friend and I were compelled to go to down front afterwards and shake their hands. Super nice guys, the best. Mike was selling copies of a cassette he made (that I lost along the way unfortunately) called "Songs I Know" LOL - it had some cuts from the movie but like everything was recorded on a boombox, amazing. Incredibly enough his phone number was printed on the J-card and he said "yeah man call me anytime" and some months later on a very late evening we rang him up and had a laugh, but I don't remember the contents of the convo.

Anyhow, I've only told this story a few times in the intervening 20+ years. Sometimes, randomly, I will hear in my head "Its all right, it's ok, there's something to live for... Jesus told me so..." and I will get a little positive boost. I hope Mike had a peaceful transition to the next episode and we should all be so lucky to have wild ideas and manage to bring them to life, despite getting in the way of ourselves. ॐ

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Oct 25, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

Born and raised Sconnie here from the Milwaukee Area. American Movie is a sacred text in these parts, mainly because it embodies a large percentage of who EVERYONE knows here; people with wild ideas caught in areas and places in life that could never live up to that ambition. I think this movie treats its subjects so genuinely, showing exactly that the pursuit of a vision can be beautiful and harmful at the same time. Thank you for showcasing it here, and RIP to a real Milwaukeean in Mike Schank.

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Oct 25, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

This one got me in several ways. Remembering the unguarded desire to make art that American Movie captured, the generosity and big-heartedness of Schank (RIP), learning your own backstory (it me!), pondering the art/money relationship, teeing up a conversation about universal basic income (without saying it). All of it. Wonderful thing to wake up to on a dark Tuesday morning.

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Oct 25, 2022·edited Oct 25, 2022Liked by Blackbird Spyplane

Too much good stuff in here, J&E. That film was wonderful and riveting on several levels, and I'm glad you pointed out the fact that it was so hard-earned. Honestly one of the best experiences I've had watching a movie was the first time I fired this up on the DVD.

Activate rant mode: as an East-Coast-bred guy who lived in Cali for many years and married a Midwest girl and has been, ahem, forced to spent a lot of time in Milwaukee, I have appreciation for several of the things you hinted at here...

How it seems like a large chunk of the "creative class" or "entrepreneur class" (and I'm talking specifically about my own observations from living in Cali for 20 years) has some sort of major family $ support. Not to discredit what they do, it just means they are afforded the time and luxury to start their little clothing boutique or shampoo company or work on their fourth movie even though the first three didn't make $. My experience is with Socal, but I imagine this can apply to NYC or SF or any dope artistic cultural capital where people are doing dope shit and you just automatically figure they are killing it at life, when in reality they have major support behind the scenes.

Of course, it's all good, bitching about this is a slippery slope, and lots of us have enjoyed certain advantages in life that are not based purely upon money (as referenced here King Johah inherited mad creativity and was modeled a can-do-spirit from his folks) And no matter how much $ you have, you still have to dedicate time and hard work to get stuff done, and yes that does mean that sometimes family and relationships don't get the time they deserve, another point to J&E. What if, in the sure-to-be-groovy-hopefully Aquarian age, we find a way to support and nurture creativity and somehow overcome money/time as a barrier to entry, so we don't miss any potential geniuses of artistic expression along the way, because time waits for no one and Father Time is undefeated and we all need time to make a dope rhyme. Maybe TikTok is the answer, IDFN.

More regional clichés coming at you, American Movie could only have come from the Midwest, because the comical sincerity (and dogged determination) that it took to make this film seems to be a byproduct of that culture, and it's that same quasi-naivety that makes the whole thing so touching and REAL. The ridiculous pronunciation of "Coven" sums it up— that friggin' word becomes its own character in the film. If brothers were from the East Coast they would have been too self-aware to let it ride like this without having some meta master plan. (Maybe the production value would've been better too...)

But all credit to American Movie and these dudes. In the end, we are all just little seagulls trying to navigate the beach trying to get some crumbs and maybe fine a nice spot nest. Some of us just want to build dope artsy stick castles out of tiny pieces of driftwood while the masses fight over leftover burgers in styrofoam boxes. It happens to help if you hatched on a beach in Montecito with unlimited driftwoodsticks and the burgers are kobe beef from The Miramar. But even if you hatched on shitty lake in Fon Du Lac with no burgers, crappy sticks, and limited cheese curds, you can make art that will reach people if it's in YOUR DNA! At least that's the hope. Thanks spyplane for the dope insights.

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