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ZiELiNSKi named “Top Movie of 2011″…

…by one guy with extremely good taste. Skizz Cykyk was our projectionist at Slamdance (January 2011). He is a prolific filmmaker, musician, and God knows what else. Here is the interview where Skizz mentions ZiELiNSKi.


Freaks in Love: Skizz Cyzyk

By . Posted on 22 September 2011.

Have you ever driven a car for ten hours in one day? I have, and let me tell you: it sucks. Your legs get numb, your eyes can’t focus, your stomach runs a spin cycle on the fast food and energy drinks that have kept your hands on the wheel all day. It leaves most people dazed and cranky, myself included.

But not Skizz Cyzyk. Nope, after a full day of driving from his home in Baltimore to make it to the POP Montreal premier of Freaks in Love, a film which looks back on the 25-year journey of the cult punk band Alice Donut, Skizz cheerfully granted me an interview last night. Maybe it’s because his long career playing with numerous punk and punk-influenced bands from the Baltimore area — The Jennifers, Mink Stole, Garage Sale, The Go Pills, and Berserk just to list a few — has made long days on the road and late-night chats par for the course. Or maybe it’s the long hours he pulled putting together a decade of the underground film fest MicroCineFest in his own home/theatre, or the times he had to sneak onto college campus’ to finish editing his self-funded 16mm underground films. I don’t know for sure, but Skizz was wide awake and ready to talk about film, freaks, YouTube and sandwiches.

You’ve had a long career with indie/underground film – where have you seen it come from and where do you see it going?
Skizz Cyzyk: These days I’m not really sure. If you’d asked me ten years ago before YouTube… I don’t really know what makes a film underground anymore. It seems like everything is accessible. Undergound used to be a film you wanted to see that was hard to see. And now nothing is hard to see. Between YouTube and BitTorrent, it seems I can see anything I want to see these days. There’s still a lot of underground film festivals, there might even be more now than there were before.

So some kid filming his friends in his backyard with his cellphone and putting it on YouTube isn’t underground film?
SC: To me that’s people making home movies, and then making them public and voyeurs watching them. I don’t see that as film-making, it’s just quick entertainment.

Your latest project, Hit and Stay, is being funded through KickStarter. What do you think of this new prospect of receiving capital from fans and the film faithful?
SC: It solves the problem in a way. Lots of people want to make films but don’t have the funding. It’s a lot easier to get 100 people to pitch ten bucks now than it was years ago. I love the crowd funding movement, though I worry that it’ll get old too soon. I have a lot of friends with KickStarter campaigns for their own projects, but I can’t support them because I am living off a KickStarter fund right now. I think people will start being more choosy, but for the time being it’s working out great.

So let’s hear some about Freaks in Love. What made you want to document the journey of Alice Donut?
SC: Oh, this isn’t going to be the best answer [Laughs]. I got hired to do it. I was approached by my codirecter David with the idea of making this film. And I had been a fan, I had played their first record a lot on college radio in the 80s. In the 90s, I was in a band called Berserk and I played with Alice Donut. David is friends with the band and they said they wanted to make a documentary to celebrate 25 years. So David told me, here’s a film that I already know people will want to see. I’ve never had that with any of my other projects.

What does the term “freak” mean to you, and where does the love come from?
SC: Freak to me is just people that in their natural state that are far from the average person. The love in this case is that, as one of the members says, Alice Donut is a functional family. They actually love each other and get along after 25 years. So it seemed like a good title. We open the film with one of their songs “Love is a Fickle Thing”, which plays into the whole love angle, and the title Freaks in Lovereally describes the band.

You started off working with Super 8 and low budget equipment. Do you prefer to work within harder limitations? Have you graduated to more expensive equipment?
SC: I definitely miss working with film, like the real stuff. I love the process of threading a camera and taking a light meter reading and editing by hand. I don’t miss the limitations, and I don’t miss the cost. I love all the software. I’m in my mid-40’s and keeping up with it is kind of tough. There are people in their 20s learning how to use this stuff in school and I’m just teaching myself. I’m really under-qualified for a lot of the jobs out there[Laughs]. I love what the software is capable of, I wish I had it 20 years ago.

Did you play around with some new software for Freaks in Love?
SC: Not too much. I did everything with Final Cut Pro and part of the soundtrack in Garage Band. I also fixed up some old photos in Photoshop. It’s amazing to me that I had to do it all on a laptop where before I had to sneak onto a college campus to get editing equipment. I was working on the film on an airplane!

Top movie of 2011 for you so far?
SC: It’s not released in theatres yet, still doing the festival rounds, it’s called Prairie Love. I think it premiered at Sundance in January and its been at a few film festivals I’ve been at. There’s also a documentary called Zielinski I saw at the Slamdance Film Festival.

Last question, just for fun – if you had to be a sandwich condiment, what would you be?
SC: Honey mustard. Have you ever read any of my interviews? At the end of every one I ask them what kind of vegetable they’d be.

I’d be asparagus.
SC: That’s a good vegetable.

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Outtakes from Columbia Daily Tribune article

Ryan:  We both met John at Columbia Access Television. Chase signed him up for membership and cleaned the VHS camera with a toothpick and some rubbing alcohol. They got the footage and John aired his first program on CAT – “Conspiracy of Silence.” I was at CAT almost every day learning how to edit, and John kept dropping off more materials – dvds, books, photos. We were amazed by his energy and his screen presence, not to mention the stories he was telling us about human traffickers, pedophiles, drug dealers and satanists. Chase and I agreed to make a 10 minute film about John. We shook on it, and John agreed. After a few months of research we knew there was enough material for a documentary feature film. It took us a very long time to sift through everything and piece together the facts of John’s life. He has been extremely cooperative.

Chase:  Like John, we had to investigate. Only we were not interested in making a documentary about child slavery, the occult, drug runners or anything like that. We wanted the story to be about John.

Ryan:  We went out of our way to stay as neutral as possible in the film. We set out to tell the story of Zielinski, not the story of child slavery or drug trafficking or satanism. We did want to establish the fact that John is not alone in what he is saying. But the film is definitely not told from John’s point of view.

Chase:  We’ve been lucky to have some great people support our efforts. Paul Pollmann (Amsterdam) made our poster and the text for the film. It was a pleasure working with him and communicating with him via Skype. It was funny, when we would Skype, he would have a beer and we would have coffee. My friend and colleague Chad Freidrichs asked tough questions about our story from the beginning. He also provided us with tech support when we were ready to export to HDCam. Nate Truesdell, Aaron Little, Kerri Yost, Kelvin Walsh, Lucas Oswald, and Kim Sherman have all been there through the process. Columbia has everything and everyone you need to make a film.

Ryan:  We did a lot of research and applied to 3-4 festivals per month, starting with Sundance and Slamdance in September. Slamdance was the first one to reply. They called Chase the night before Thanksgiving. I was in Massachusetts with family – watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” with my cousins. For a moment it felt like more than three years of work was suddenly validated. Then reality set in and we got back to work – because we won’t be satisfied until everyone gets a chance to see ZIELINSKI.

Tribune article – 23 Jan 2011

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Stephens Life article

Stephens film instructor earns recognition at Slamdance Film Festival

Feb 21, 2011 – by Hayley Williams

Stephens’ film instructor Chase Thompson and his documentary “Zielinski” have enjoyed a string of praise recently, both in the media and at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. But here in Columbia, Thompson’s passion and work ethic have been recognized for much longer.

“Chase is a fantastic producer,” said Ryan Walker, program director for Columbia Access Television (CAT) and “Zielinski” co-director. “He’s really good at getting people excited on a project.”

Thompson received his photography degree from Columbia College. By the time he was a senior, he had completed most of his credits and was free to take a few elective courses. That’s when film caught his attention.

“There was a new class called Digital Film,” Thompson said. “So I made the transition from silver gelatin prints into the digital era.”

After college, Thompson went on to develop several programs for CAT. His most successful show was titled “Das Karnival,” a variety television show dedicated to music, art and comedy. Thompson fondly recalls those first rounds of feedback.

“There would be watch parties at Shakespeare’s (Pizza),” Thompson said. “And you’d go in, and everyone would be like, ‘Shhhh I can’t hear.’”

It was during his time at CAT that Thompson and Walker first worked together and became friends — and also where their film, which took three and a half years to produce, began.

“He (John Zielinski) came in with a muddy old VHS camera and said, ‘There’s a tape stuck in here that will bring down the U.S. government,’” Thompson said.

The documentary explores the life of John Zielinski, an author and photographer whose goal was to expose the injustices of child slavery, pedophiles, satanists and drug runners.

Before they knew it, the film they had slaved over was accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival.

“They really gave us a chance, and I’m thankful for that,” Thompson said. “We didn’t know how we’d hold up against the other films or if they’d appreciate this grungy conspiracy theorist style.”

Thompson’s passion has made him a popular instructor at Stephens and his impressive professional experience has given him credibility.

“He clearly loves what he does,” said senior film major Alie McNeil.

“Sometimes instructors will stand in front of the class and say, ‘This is the way it has to be, end of story,’ but they don’t necessarily have the background to support what they’re saying,” said junior film student Sydney Haven.”The fact that my instructors are currently making films proves they actually do know what they’re talking about.”

Fellow film instructor Chad Freidrichs also spoke of Thompson’s strengths in the classroom and in filmmaking.

“Chase was conducting his basic narrative class — I believe they were developing the class film’s story — and I could just hear the energy coming out of the classroom: laughter, passion, enthusiasm,” Freidrichs said.

“Chase has a wonderful ability to bring people together in a common effort, and to get everyone excited not only about the end result, but the process. In filmmaking, that’s well over half the battle.”

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Slamdance – Before, During, After

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Our wipeout on Current TV

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Bring It On Home

True/False, here we come! The world premiere of Zielinski at Slamdance Film Festival was a life-changing experience. The film got a great reaction, and we met some uh, pretty crazy peeps. We always answered with pride that we come from Missouri, son!

Now we’re ready to up the ante and bring the film home – to Columbia. We met John Zielinski here, we met Mark Speckman here, we honed our craft at Columbia Access Television and Stephens College, and now we can share our film with the community. In the past we’ve enjoyed True/False as volunteers, musicians, and viewers. This year will be different.

If you live in Columbia, chances are you have met John Zielinski (especially if you hang out at Daniel Boone Regional Library). To meet John is to remember John. Maybe he freaked you out talking about child slavery and satanism. Maybe he showed you one of his books, or a stack of them. Maybe you found him annoying. But you remember him. And come on, aren’t you just a little bit curious? Where did this guy come from?

T/F Screenings, March 3rd-6th

Thu @ The Blue Note – 9:30pm
Fri @ The Hive – 3:30pm
Sat @ Little Ragtag – 10:30pm
Sun @ Windsor Cinema – 5:30pm

complete T/F schedule

We can’t wait to share Zielinski with the city that made it possible. We love you Columbia.

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Our photo in TIME magazine

At this year’s festival, photographer Maya Adrabi photographed and interviewed the writers, directors, producers and performers who came to show their works. Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker, above left and right, respectively, are co-directors of the documentary Zielinski. “Slamdance is like camp,” says Thompson. “The collective energy here is the fuel that will keep me making films.” Read more

TIME magazine – 2 Feb 2011
Photo essay by MAYA ADRABI – official Slamdance photographer

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Slamdance – Days 8 & 9

Day 8

At 6 am, while we were sleeping, Andrew picked up Chaitanya and drove him to the airport. What a class act. Both of them.

Woke up five minutes too late and missed the 9:45 shuttle. Supposed to be downtown for a True/False brunch. Lucked out and met a lady named Mindy by Kneaders. She had a classic white Jeep and offered to give us a ride, even though she was going the opposite direction. Discussed her film projects and tests of faith. Mindy, thank you for your generosity and best of luck on your film. Made it to Easy Street Brasserie for some fresh hot food. Met documentary filmmakers from around the world. Returned to the condo to pack our belongings and get some rest before the Awards Ceremony & After-Party. Already missing Eric and Chaitanya – not looking forward to saying goodbye to the rest of our new friends.

Drank a few Little Slammers and caught the Brown 8 to Main Street with Albert, Jon, Vanessa and Sarah. Congratulations to all the award winners! At the party we got to see Jon Moses perform songs from The Beast Pageant. In between acts, Albert and Chase grabbed the mic to sing “Slammies,” a jingle written years ago by Chase & Aaron Little. With the party winding down, no one was ready to call it a night. Chartered a couple of vans and made our way to the after-after-party. Sang as many songs as we could think of – that we all knew the lyrics to. “Arrow” by Harry Nilsson was a pretty big hit. Passed around a space bag. Sarah called a cab, and we made it home just in time to sleep for 90 minutes.

Day 9

At 8 am Andrew (our savior) arrived to drive us to the airport. He might be one of the coolest dudes on the planet. He really deserves more than a triple reverse, double backhand, breakdance handy. After one last Kneaders breakfast sandwich, we left Park City. Drove through the mountains to Salt Lake City airport, where we said goodbye to Andrew. Walking to our gate, guess who we bumped into? Jon, Albert and Vanessa from The Beast Pageant. Can’t wait to bring these cats to Columbia for a screening! Talked about plastic, insulin, and microwaves until it was time to go. We were all completely exhausted. Two flights, a shuttle, and a two-hour drive later, we made it home safe. Lovin’ this thick Missouri air.

Thanks to Slamdance (staff, programmers, jurors, volunteers) and all the amazing filmmakers we met. Wouldn’t change a thing. Now back to work!

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Slamdance – Day 7

Hopped on the Brown 8 into Park City – bright and early for the second and final screening of Zielinski at Slamdance. Surprised to see Olivia Garrison and Kristin Loveland in the crowd (former students of Chase at Stephens College). About 50 people showed up for our 10:30am screening in the Main Room. Afterwards we met with Milenko Skoknic of La Fuga (Chilé) for an interview. Hooked up with Maya Adrabi for a photo shoot. Met a cool dude named Jay from Cedar Rapids. Watched a great block of Animation Shorts. Hit up Wasatch Brew Pub for slammin tacos and a cold salad. Back to Red Banjo, again, for pinball and beer; Hurricane can suck it. Saw Chaitanya‘s excellent short film Six Strands. Drank a whiskey and cider at the ice bar outside High West. This thin air is weak! Cab back to the condo to give Chaitanya a big American sendoff – he’s on the way to Rotterdam and Paris for more film festivals. He did magic tricks, we drank greyhounds and watched Jase Haber’s demo reel. Real tough saying goodbye to that kid.

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Slamdance – Day 6

Met up with Paul Sturtz and David Wilson for coffee at the Yarrow Hotel. Caught a bus downtown and checked out the ski lift. Got into Sundance Channel HQ and hung out for a few hours. Free ginger cocktails, shoe shines, jars of beef jerky, and a photo booth. Shared a Smokin’ Ass cigar with Dean (Sundance Transportation Liason). Popped in the Music Cafe and saw Secret Sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Watched Shorts Block 1, including Andrey’s film Bird. Bounced out to meet Andrew for a good hot dinner at Red Rocks. Drank an 8% double IPA called Elephant. Wow. Back to the condo. Stayed up late showing each other our old videos.

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