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The Reeler Blog

The King is Dead, Long Live the Kooks

One of the many Presley devotees showcased in Altered By Elvis (Photo: Vinyl Foote Productions)

By Chris Willard

The boys have gone wild for the August 15 installation of NewFilmmakers’ Summer Series, which features a range of features and short films about men exhibiting less than desirable behavior.

Screening in the “Mocks, Docs & More” category, co-directors Jayce and Tiffany Bartok’s Altered By Elvis opens on Paul McLeod’s Pepto-Bismal-pink shrine to Elvis, the Holly Springs, Miss. tourist attraction called “Graceland Too.” The Bartoks didn’t have to put much effort into getting McLeod to talk about his masterpiece. “According to Paul, everyone wants to talk to him, and he instantly wants $10,000,” Jayce Bartok told The Reeler. “I told him I had $200 in my wallet, and he said, ‘$300.’ He dropped like that. So I gave him the cash, and we filmed an hour-and-a-half of great footage.”

After McLeod’s story, the documentary features interviews with the men and women whose lives have been permanently affected by the infamous rock-and-roll legend -- his hairstylist, a woman he kissed onstage at a concert, classmates who have grown to despise him for his success. The interviews offer some comical insights into an aspect of Elvis’s life that is often overlooked: the millions of fans he left behind. “Elvis people are really nice and warm,” Bartok said. “And as kooky as they can be, I would hang out with them -- I have a real love for everyone in our film. They were definitely cool people, as bizarre as they are.”

Bartok said Elvis’ fan base continues to grow, with younger people and life-long fans looking for someone to fill the void the King of Rock and Roll left behind. “As time passes, there becomes a great nostalgia for an icon like Elvis,” Bartok said. “He put it all out there. He loved his mom; he was a drug addict, but a great performer. There is no real Elvis these days, [which creates] nostalgia for that kind of performer.”

Following Altered By Elvis is the New York premiere of Preston Miller’s Jones, the filmmaker’s first feature-length film. In the film, Jones, a first-time visitor to New York City on a business trip, fills his off-hours with Asian call girls while his pregnant wife waits patiently at home. The film’s leisurely pace follows Jones as he explores Times Square and befriends strangers in Manhattan bars. Miller said the idea for Jones came from a job he worked in the mid-'90s traveling across the country recording legal depositions. The 9-to-5 job allowed Miller hours of free time to explore many unfamiliar cities, though he said call girls were never part of his adventures.

In the process of shooting his first feature, Miller said he was surprised by how little financing a movie required. “I’ve been trying to raise money for other films that were much more ambitious in scope, [but I had] virtually no success or very little success,” Miller said. “We did this for about $2,000, and $700 was spent on upgrading my editing system at home. We got together and made something that didn’t really require money. [We filmed in] places we knew, bars where we were friendly with people. To make a feature, you don’t have to have tons of money or even a little bit of money.”

This evening’s program, which screens at Anthology Film Archives, also includes a screening of Randy Stovall’s Mexican Sunrise, about a bachelor party that ends with a guest being buried alive, and a short film program featuring selections like Bed Head and Sausage Party. For schedule and ticket information, visit the NewFilmmakers Web site.

Posted at August 15, 2007 6:03 AM

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