June 11, 2008

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lights, cameras and a lot of Louisville action

This week, LEO brings you its first Film Issue. It is a superb document in my view, cultivated almost entirely by music editor/maniac Mat Herron, who has refused sleep these many months in favor of

caffeine, booze and who knows what else for longer now than this job may be worth. He is an animal, a true being, and if you see him lying face down in a pool of his own modesty sometime soon, please retrieve him for a moment and convey your pleasantries. You will not be disappointed by his work here. 

The point of our Film Issue, should it be lost on you, is to display what we’ve found to be an extraordinary force coming from under our city, a place that most certainly should not be mistaken for a film mecca. As you’ll read, there are more film-types here and from here than you ever knew and may care to know, and LEO — like most, when you’re keeping score — is not above a little starfucking. That said, I’ll note that the obligatory mentions of Ned Beatty and Jerry Bruckheimer come close enough to the end of our 14-page package that some readers will miss them entirely, which is fine with me. We’ve heard enough of them. 

What we clearly haven’t heard enough of — as evidence I take the endless requests over the years, and particularly the last couple, for LEO to put together a Film Issue, a few of which came from folks profiled herein — are stories of the Great Unwashed of the American film scene, people like Stephon Barbour, a guy whose laptop power cable has to be supported by a case of knives to stay put. He’s a talent who’s traveled the world documenting hip-hop culture for two films, and guess what? He’s from West Louisville, lives in Germantown. Or Jess Weixler, the Atherton graduate whose debut lead was playing a woman whose vagina has jaws in a film called “Teeth”? Or Sonja DeVries, the filmmaker and activist who’s about to take on Rubbertown in a feature-length film? 

If you want to learn about your city, this is essential cultural knowledge. 

But there is also a dark side, one marred by the visible hand of Kentucky politics. By the time you reach the last page of our Film Issue, you may wonder: If all these filmmakers, producers, writers, directors, actors and promoters live and work here, why aren’t any movies being made in Louisville? In short: Blame the General Assembly. As LEO freelancer Jason Sitzes uncovers, Kentucky is obtuse on more issues than just race, education and coal: We also have one of the most embarrassing incentive packages for film production in America. We offer virtually nothing to crews and companies filming here. So they overlook Kentucky for other places, for instance Louisiana. For the movie “Dreamers,” about the Crane horse farm in Lexington, which starred Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning, crews shot a bit in Kentucky and then disassembled four horse barns and moved them to Shreveport, where there’s a 25 percent tax rebate compared with our 6 percent. In his story, Sitzes uncovers that Kentucky has missed out on some $80 million in new revenue because of this arcane policy; however, House Bill 756, which could’ve changed that, didn’t advance this year because it was thought by some to be a tax break for the Martin Scorseses of the industry. 

Time to get your head out of your ass, Kentucky. 

Finally, I had the pleasure of putting together a story for this package, about the Louisville Film Society, a dynamic group fulfilling a direct need. I don’t normally get to do film stories, and enjoy stretching out. So I figured we’d meet at Nachbar, the Germantown hub where the LFS got its start almost a year ago with a packed backyard showing called “Strange 16MM Films,” and just talk film. I ran the tape recorder, we had a few beers, and spent the sunset getting heavy about whatever they wanted to talk about — predictably, that was film, and a more gratifying chat about a subject with whose peculiarities I am admittedly unfamiliar I cannot imagine. We spent some three hours out there, and I didn’t take a single note, just listening and prodding a little here and there, mostly sitting in on a great conversation. 

And my digital recorder ate it. Nothing, not even white noise, was left. I briefly considered trying to do the interview again, but knew it would never work. So I’m consigning it to this space, condensing that part of it into a story that some will interpret as hackery and others pure misfortune. You’ll just have to trust me when I say: Louisville is in good hands with people like these. Read our Film Issue. Know your city.  


Contact the writer at

sgeorge@leoweekly.com