New York Independent Film Monitor

Concert Joe
Carol Moses looks at a short docudrama and how it was made

25-year-old Roy Szuper may not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but there's no denying that he must have been born under a lucky star. After all, it's not everyone who has the IRS to thank for giving them their much-needed start. Which isn't to give short shrift to all the hard work that went into the making of Szuper's premiere docudrama short, CONCERT JOE: A NEW YORK STORY. .But without the $1,000 income tax refund that provided the initial funding for his project, a good idea might very well have remained just that.

Szuper met Concert Joe, the subject of his film, through a mutual friend. Finding himself with some free time on his hands, he started working with Joe to put together the 30-minute short.

What was so compelling about Joe that it warranted the making of a film? Some people collect stamps. Some people collect porcelain pigs. Concert Joe collects ticket stubs, t-shirts and bootleg tapes from the 1,000+ concerts he's attended each year for the past 25 years. Shelling out an average of $50 a night at virtually every kind of musical venue this city has to offer, Joe hits anywhere from 3 to 8 concerts a night. And he's got the planning of it down to an exact and funky science.

The film is a kitschy, tongue-in-cheek farce on Joe's obsessive-compulsive concert-going lifestyle, starring Concert Joe himself and shot in documentary format. It flawlessly combines live concert footage shot in a smattering of NYC clubs with a humorous fictional narrative, rooted heavily in fact.

Szuper, playing the role of Storyteller, bringing a drum to the protest scene.

Cinematographers Richard Siegal, Mark Cavello and Soundman Andrew Sterling trekking through a rainy Central Park.

"The film's about New York and the New York City music scene," says Szuper. "Everyone talks about the Seattle music scene but the New York music scene has a lot of incredible bands coming out. More than that, it's about one man's love of music and how it affects his life. I'm from New York. He's from New York. So it's about two guys and the knowledge of the city.

Due to the mish-mosh of the film stock, filming techniques and editing equipment used, CONCERT JOE has a look to it that many an experienced film maker would be hard-pressed to duplicate. "We used everything we could get our hands on," says Szuper. "We started with film and we shot everything from hi 8 video to 16mm to S-8. It's about half film, half video." You would think, for all that, the short would have a busy, distracting look to it, but it doesn't. It's remarkably polished and highly unified.

Thanks to a lot of outside forces working in tandem, Szuper was able to complete his masterpiece for a miniscule $7,000. Editor Christopher Koons saved Szuper close to $20,000 by letting the film maker edit his work, free of charge, at the editing suites where Koons works during the day. Szuper was also amazingly spared the sometimes exorbitant costs film makers can rack up by shooting on location.

Because Joe knew a lot of the club owners and bands, the majority of the venues were willing to let Szuper film inside for free, as a favor to their faithful patron. The sound girl on the film just so happened to be involved in coordinating The Knitting Factory's screening series. So it was a breeze for her to fit Szuper into the schedule for what will be his official public screening.

With the praise CONCERT JOE is bound to receive, Szuper can safely step out from beneath his lucky star and be content to just swing on it for awhile.


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