Q&A – Kent Adamson & Larry Wessel: August 2011:
KENT: ICONOCLAST took six years to make. Most people do not make movies, and therefore do not understand the process. The biggest creative difference between a corporate major motion picture and a one man indie shoot is at least 150 paid professional collaborators. Would you please describe your production process and method for ICONOCLAST and why it took six years.
LARRY: In June of 2004 I received an email from Boyd Rice, he wrote, “What about making a documentary about ME?” I wrote back and told him that I would love to shoot a documentary about him. Boyd was a fan of “Taurobolium”, my Tijuana bullfighting documentary and I had previously filmed Boyd twice before. Once in 2000 in Boulder, Colorado for a documentary about collectors that I started shooting. I also shot a performance of Boyd Rice/NON with Death In June at The Key Club in West Hollywood March 25th, 2002. In this email that I received from Boyd he wrote that he was going to be returning to The Key Club to perform with Death in June on June 24, 2004 and he suggested that I interview Douglas P. because this was going to be the last tour that Boyd would be doing with Death in June. Douglas gave me a great interview! At his hotel room, donning his creepy Death In June mask, Douglas told me wild stories about his adventures on tour with Boyd all over Europe. Just before shooting their return engagement at The Key Club, a group of protestors showed up with picket signs that read, “STOP NAZI MUSIC” and “BOYD RICE IS A NAZI THROUGH AND THROUGH”. Boyd came out of the club and confronted the protestors and they didn’t even recognize the man they we’re protesting! Of course my video camera was rolling the whole time! This was the beginning of ICONOCLAST and very typically the way I begin all of my documentaries by just pushing the red record button on my video camera and letting it roll. I made several trips to Denver to videotape Boyd at home and at Tiki Boyd’s (his local watering hole that he designed and held court in). Boyd made several trips to Hollywood where he would stay with his friend Giddle Partridge and I would continue videotaping his story at Giddle’s. Besides all of the hours I spent interviewing Boyd, I interviewed over 40 of his friends and associates, traveling back and forth to Denver, Portland, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lemon Grove. Friends of mine also chipped in and shot footage for Iconoclast in Sintra, Portugal, Belgium, Australia, London, and at the lecture Boyd gave at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology!! Of the 40 plus people I filmed, 36 made the final cut!! Besides Boyd, these people represent a virtual “Who’s Who” of our underground culture including film directors, Ray Dennis Steckler and Allison Anders, artists Beth Moore-Love, Coop, Jeffrey Vallance and Johanna Went, DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, televangelist and exorcist, Bob Larson, musicians Robert Turman (NON), Z’EV, Douglas P. (Death In June), Rozz Williams (Christian Death), Don Bolles, (The Germs), Robert “El Vez” Lopez, Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Gidget Gein (Marilyn Manson and The Spooky Kids), singer Giddle Partridge, The Church of Satan’s Blanche Barton and Anton LaVey’s grandson, Stanton LaVey, Co-Editor and Co-writer (with Boyd) of Incredibly Strange Films, Jim Morton, Feral House Publisher and writer, Adam Parfrey and even Boyd’s high school classmates and childhood friends!!
After years and years of videotape recording, and after feeling that I have enough footage, I begin logging the tapes and extracting the best pieces. I then try to construct a complete story from all these pieces of the puzzle. So I have to wait to construct the story after years of shooting!!
KENT: Historically, one of the great benefits of films about art, that are also artistic, is that they present a great deal of intelligent nudity and thematic sexuality. They are far beyond porn, because they actually engage the brain as they depict and discuss sex onscreen. ICONOCLAST opens with the word NON carved into a human vagina. Why did you choose this image for your first shot?
LARRY: The vagina is the portal through which we are all projected into this wild world so it made a great deal of sense to me to start my film with this image. It is a Polaroid photograph that was sent to Boyd by one of his female fans. She had carved the word NON with a very sharp dagger just above her vagina and inside the letter O in the word NON you can see that she very carefully carved a small wolfsangle which (along with the Cross of Lorraine) is Boyd’s personal symbol. It signifies the balance point between good and evil, darkness and light, creation and destruction. I originally created a whole sequence in ICONOCLAST about Boyd’s most extreme fans. This image is all that remains of that sequence and I believe that it speaks volumes just by itself!!
KENT: Are you an iconoclast?
LARRY: Far from it!! I prefer to be what William Burroughs referred to as “El Hombre Invisible“. I never like to disturb the natural habitat or inhabitants in my explorations of human nature. I leave that to that rare breed of individuals who are deserving of that title. I simply could not imagine a more fitting one word title for a documentary about Boyd Rice!!
KENT: You are a collected fine artist as well as a filmmaker. Your approach to both involves detailed use of complex montage and collage techniques. Do you have any preferences in your choice of media?
LARRY: I am both an artist and filmmaker and I really enjoy the time I spend creating whether it is one of my collages I am putting together or one of my films that I am editing. Each of these activities is like deep sea diving into my subconscious mind and is a very rewarding form of therapy that I cannot get in any other kind of way. I believe that both love and creativity are the keys to happiness. My wife Tora is an amazing photographer! We spend the lion’s share of our life together working side by side in our little studio deeply immersed in our creative projects.
KENT: I know you love Hitchcock, and while most other children were learning how to differentiate their ABC’s you were breaking down your Super-8 film print of the Psycho shower scene shot by shot. Would you care to share your insight into other filmmakers?
Frederick Wiseman, Errol Morris and Les Blank come to mind as I watch ICONOCLAST. Have they influenced you?
LARRY: Gosh, as far as filmmakers that have influenced me go, the list is very long and would include all of the usual suspects; I would say that Frederick Wiseman though was the closest as far as documentary filmmakers go. As a teenager I used to see his cinema verite documentaries on PBS every year. The one that really blew my mind though was “Titicut Follies”. Of all places, I saw this in a psychology course at U.S.C. “Titicut Follies” is probably the best documentary I have ever seen. Wiseman seems to capture the vey soul of everyone he points his camera at and this is what I have always sought to do as well. I am pretty sure that I achieved this goal with Boyd Rice in ICONOCLAST.
KENT: BOYD RICE. He scares people. He is a modern American mythological anti-hero, as well as a red blooded human being. Also, a SoCal kid of the 60s/70s/80s like yourself… you cover all this in your film. How did you get him to be so naturally human on camera? What was it like working with him?
LARRY: Boyd was born in 1956 and I was born in 1957 so it turned out that we shared a lot of the same frames of reference. This made conversing with him very easy. There was a lot of back and forth in our conversations with each other and lots and lots of laughter!! Much like the conversations I have with you Kent. This made it very easy for him to be comfortable sharing his life with me while I silently pointed my videocamera at him. Shooting ICONOCLAST was lots of fun. When Boyd saw the final cut he said he was very proud of it. He said that my ICONOCLAST is how he wishes to be remembered long after he is dead.
KENT: What is next, Larry Wessel? And after that? And after that? And after that?
LARRY: Next up I have 4 documentaries that I have been shooting simultaneously during the last twelve years. The first is a documentary about obsessed collectors and the obscure objects of their desires! The second one is my documentary about artist extraordinaire, Beth Moore-Love. The third one is about Los Angeles and is a sequel to ULTRAMEGALOPOLIS. And I also want to put together a nice little doc I have already shot about New York City.
Larry Wessel’s ICONOCLAST will be screened this weekend as part of theAnthology Film Archives. More Information here.
Bio: Writer/filmmaker Kent Adamson has known Larry Wessel since they were teenage trouble makers. They have never had a single argument, but they did kill humanoids together for Roger Corman, and watched Samuel Fullerthreaten to shoot his first A.D. on the set of The Big Red One.