The following interview
was done with up and coming film maker Eric Johnson.
Eric took an idea, wrote a screenplay and made a
movie. We at Punk Globe support young filmmakers and
hope you will enjoy "Tweek City."
Punk Globe: Eric, can you give the readers some
background about yourself.
Well, letís see. I grew up
in LA. Moved to Santa Cruz for college where I majored
in film and then after college ended up in San
Francisco where I managed a sound stage, worked as a
grip/gaffer, acted a bit and partied a lot. I wrote a
screenplay about the scene up there and then came back
to LA with the delusion that someone in Hollywood
would throw money at me to make a scatological black
comedy about a schizophrenic speed addict.
Well, that didnít happen
and I quickly fell in debt while writing a couple more
screenplays and finally took a job at Sony Online
Entertainment as a writer for the online versions of
Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Thankfully, that was
1997 and during the dotcom boom they couldnít throw
money at me fast enough. The whole time, I continued
to act and direct and when 911 cost me my job I put
all the money I had saved, put it on Tweek City and
spun the wheel. Four years later and itís still
Punk Globe: So "Tweek
City" is your first release. Is it true that the movie
is based loosely on a friend of yours life?
It was definitely inspired
by the scene I was in and a couple close friends in
particular. But while they helped inspire the main
characters, the story is completely fictional and
there are probably many more of my own experiences in
the film then from other people.
Punk Globe: How long
did it take you to write the film? Did you do a lot of
It was a long journey. I
moved to SF and promised myself that I wouldnít leave
until I had written a screenplay. I started with the
most basic plot. After thirty pages, I threw almost
everything out and didnít look at it for a year. I
started again and finally came close to finishing a
draft. But I still didnít have an ending. I took off
and drove across the country and when I got back, I
settled down in LA, sat down and finished the first
draft Ė that was 1993. My first draft was called Shit
Happens. It was very different from the script that I
shot 10 years later. Every couple years, Iíd come back
to the script and develop different ideas. I made
minor changes all the way up until the month before we
shot. Then, the editing process was like starting all
Punk Globe: I remember
running into you at Al's Bar and telling you that we
should have a part in your movie and low and behold a
year later you emailed us about filming.
Yeah, I saw you around
1992 in San Francisco and thought you guys were the
perfect band for the character Jerm to be fanatical
about. I loved that you were a full on punk band but
had a total sense of humor. When I realized that I
was going to have to make this motherfucker myself, I
jumped on the internet and found out that not only
were you still going strong but that you had moved
from SF to Hollywood. That blew my mind. So I tracked
you down at Alís and the rest is history. You were
just about the first people I approached to become
Punk Globe: How long
did casting take for the movie and who did you hire to
help you as a Casting Agent?
Patrick Baca was my
casting director. He was a great collaborator. I had
never done formal casting sessions before and he
really helped me get my bearings. He was on board for
months but the actual auditions went on for four
Punk Globe: I remember
referring my pal the ultra talented Amy Carlson ("Law
and Order Trial By Jury") and I mentioned the film to
Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite") and he wanted to do the
film but he had an obligation for a film with Nick
Amy was fantastic and gave
a really moving audition. Iíd love to have the
opportunity to work with her someday. I always felt
Jenna and Bill do the things they do, due to youthful
confusion and thoughtlessness. To Amyís credit, she
came off as more mature and together then Jenna. As
for Jon, Iíd take the film w/Nick Nolte too!
Punk Globe: You were
trying to get Jeremy Piven for the role of Jerm. I
thought he would have been great as well as Jon Gries
but Keith Brunsmann was good also.
We made a lot of
pie-in-the-sky offers for all the principal roles but
those never felt real to me and none of them
materialized. When Keith read during the call back he
just brought a blast of the greatest energy and it was
immediately apparent that Giuseppe loved him too.
Keith is so generous as an actor and he really
supported Giuseppe in the same way that Jerm supports
Bill. Casting has as much to do with chemistry as
anything and if Jerm and Bill werenít believable as
best friends the whole film would have sunk.
Punk Globe: How
many actors did you see for the lead Bill Jensen?
Well over 100.
Punk Globe: Giuseppe
Andrews was great as Bill. I remember his work from
"American History X" and of course "Detroit Rock
His best scenes in
American History X are in the deleted scenes section
of the DVD. Heís had character roles in a slew of huge
movies from Independence Day to Cabin Fever but he
never had the opportunity to carry a film until Tweek
City. I like him as an actor because he is totally
genuine and unique and incapable of artifice. A lot of
the actors who auditioned for Bill would get so caught
up in the speed clichťs Ė chewing their fingernails,
talking really fast, etc. Giuseppe just came in and
delivered the lines in his own way. When he was
uncomfortable with a written word he used the word
that felt natural to him. He was just totally
different in an unforced truthful way.
Punk Globe: Who made
the decision to film in video and film? It had some
rippling affect for the movie.
I always knew that I
wanted different looks to represent Billís different
perspectives but I didnít figure out exactly what
formats I would use to get the looks until I brought
on my DP Barry Stone. I had decided that due to the
budget, I was going to shoot primarily DVCam but I
wanted Billís self-image to look like his favorite 70s
films (Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, etc.) because
Bill sees himself as a 70s anti-hero. Barry had a
Super-16mm camera and suggested we shoot those
sequences on grainy Super-16 which I could afford to
do since there was no dialogue in those sequences. I
could go on and on about what we used and why but Iíll
just say we used several different cameras, all for
very specific reasons.
Punk Globe: How did you
hook up with Caitlin, Barry and Yule? Caitlin and I
email a lot I think she is brilliant.
I found Caitlin up in SF.
It was so hard to get a line producer with experience
to commit. I had 50 locations, 35 speaking roles and I
really didnít have any money. Caitlin came on and said
that she could do it but weíd have to keep the
production lean and mean. So thatís what we did Ė tiny
crew and almost no equipment. Barry is one of the top
DPs in the Bay Area and I didnít really think heíd
come on for the meager wages I offered but he loved
the script and immediately jumped in with both feet.
When he came on board, it made everything so much
easier. His name carries a lot of weight in the Bay
Area and it gave Tweek City a real boost. Yule
originally came on as a 2nd AD as a favor
to my AD (assistant director). Heís brought films to
market before so we talked afterwards and I brought
him on as another co-producer along with Caitlin.
Punk Globe: Exactly how
long did it take you to film the entire film?
Punk Globe; You filmed
in San Francisco and Los Angeles. But how about the
Drive In scene? Luis Saguar was so good as the older
Latino Man at the ending of the film.
The Drive-In scene was
shot out in Marysville, CA -- totally in the middle of
nowhere. You would not believe how hard it is to find
an intact Drive-In. I love Luis. He came in with no
rehearsal, no real time with me and nailed that part
perfectly. It was so cold that night that Giuseppe
(who was naked) had to sit in the car with the heater
blasting after we got the master shots and Luis
performed all his singles alone. He was also great as
Punk Globe: I know the
scenes we shot were at The Velvet in San Francisco
which used to be the legendary Mabuhay Gardens. You
show a lot of scenic sites in the film. I know at the
premiere at the Dances With Film festival there were a
lot of comments about nostalgic SF landmarks in the
Iíve never seen a film
that portrays the side of San Francisco that Iím
familiar with. You always see the Golden Gate Bridge
and Russian Hill and Fishermanís Warf but you never
see where people actually live like the Tenderloin, or
16th and Mission. SF is gentrifying so
quickly now that I really wanted to capture whatever
was left of the city I loved in the early 90s.
Punk Globe: I
also remember the house you shot the party scene at
was in Bernal Heights
down by the Safeway Store.
Yeah, that place was great
Ė exactly like the places I hung out when I lived
there. I think it was my assistant cameraman that
hooked us up with that place.
Punk Globe: Adam
P formerly of Thought Crime also helped with location
Adam was the best. He
offered a bunch of places but the key location he
helped me land was Ramonís apartment, directly over
Dr. Bombayís on 16th Street. That was a key
location in so many ways. First of all, it was right
around the corner from where I had lived so it had the
exact same layout as the scene I had written. Second,
it was right over 16th St. where Bill has
his big meltdown so we made it our headquarters for
that entire day. I owe Adam some major props.
Punk Globe: You used
music by White Trash Debutantes, Visitor 42 and Third
Grade Teacher in the film. Who else do you have on the
Of course thereís Dean
Friedman singing his classic, McDonaldís Girl. I love
Deano. He has written some of the great, undiscovered
classics of the 70s. All the psychotic Klezmer music
at the wedding came from the New Orleans Klezmer
Allstars. The acid jazz piece at the art party was
performed by the Alec Haavik Quartet with my lifelong
friend Robert Weiss on drums. Enablers perform a song
and, of course, Ave Maria is sung by this amazing kid
in England named David Meredith.
Punk Globe: You also
make a cameo in the film as an Artist am I right?
Unfortunately, that was the very first dialogue scene
that we shot. So here I was on the first day of my
first feature trying to direct my first scene and I
have to act. I was a little distracted. But I ended up
happy enough with my performance.
Punk Globe: Who did you
get to help edit the film?
A friend of mine hooked me
up with Sharon Rutter who, among other things, edited
Roger Avaryís Rules of Attraction. She lived in the
Bay Area, had her own experiences with the speed scene
and totally understood the subculture I was talking
about. But she got hired to a TV pilot so I assembled
the first version exactly as I had written it. Then
Sharon came on and cleaned things up, we struggled on
version after version trying to work in the flashbacks
(which I think she did brilliantly) and debating over
what to cut, how much to cut -- a really vigorous
creative process. We basically lived with each other
for about six months. At some point she had to move
on to another film at which point I worked with
another editor, Quincy Gunderson, for a while and
finally I finished up and moved on to the sound design
Ė which took another six months. I was basically like
a pregnant woman going through two years of totally
intense labor. Iím amazed I didnít die before the baby
Punk Globe: When the
film premiered in Santa Monica, California in May you
got a good review from The LA Times, congratulationsÖ
Thanks! I know reviews
shouldnít mean anything but they do. It makes it so
much easier when Iím telling someone that I made a
movie. Instead of telling them the whole fucking plot,
I can just go, ďYeah, you should check out the trailer
on my website. I also posted a great review from the
LA Times.Ē By the way, go check out the trailer and
the review at www.tweekcity.com!
Punk Globe: I felt the
film flowed well and although the subject was dark the
film kept a sense of humor as well. "Tweek City' has
strong similar ties to "Freeway" with Reese
Whiterspoon, Amanda Plummer and Kiefer Sutherland.
Thanks. Believe it or not,
I still havenít seen Freeway! Not only have you made
that comparison before but when you go to IMDB it says
that if you like Tweek City you should also go see
Freeway. I need to rent it.
Punk Globe: You are now
waiting for other Film Festivals to answer right? I
know Caitlin feels Europe will love the film.
Yeah, Iíve made a bunch of
submissions. Weíll see. Iíve been told that a film has
about 18 months to play festivals and find
distribution so Iíll be trying to get it out there
wherever I can. I always thought Europe would be more
inclined to accept a movie like this. I hope Iím
right. This country is just so fucking puritanical Ė
both religiously and artistically.
Punk Globe: Any more
local showings for people who may want to see the
Unfortunately, I donít
have any scheduled right now but I always post updates
on the website and people who are interested should
sign up to my email list. Hopefully, Iíll have a Bay
Area screening in the next couple months and then
another LA screening before the end of the year. Also,
sometime, Iíll be putting together a DVD, hopefully
with the support of a distributor.
Congratulations on a good film shot on a low budget
Punk Globe: You also
were involved with shooting footage for the West
Memphis Three Awareness Day" Thanks so much for your
involvement. I wish Jeri Manthey had been able to
come. Tell the readers about the project you are
working on with her.
We have a mutual friend
who wants to shoot an entire feature film in a weekend
Ė totally improvised. Weíll see how that goes. Weíve
worked together for years in different capacities so
Iím helping him with the actors, trying to provide
some structure for the improv and doing a little
Punk Globe: Tell us
what you think of of "The Comeback ?"
It feels so true that itís
uncomfortable Ė my favorite kind of comedy, and you
Ďve gotta love Mickey.
Punk Globe: Any future
movies in the works?
I have a script that Iím
rewriting which satirizes the American electoral
process and another that Iím starting to write drawing
on my experiences in the gameshow industry.
Punk Globe; Any last
comments Eric? Thanks so much for taking time to
answer these questions.
Thanks for helping me get
the word out on Tweek City and letís hope that when
Karl Rove goes down he brings the whole house of cards
along with him.
See the poster and
stills from Tweek City