By Jesse Scheckner
Suddenly, on screen someone is being fellated. In a bargain motel room in the stretch between Miami and Athens, Georgia, sometime during their summer tour of 1998, two members of South Florida's oft-overlooked goof-pop-punk quintet Piddie Korn are tag-teaming some Tampa tail. To what is sure to be the on-screen girl's relief, nearly none of this pornographic scene will make it into his movie, but director, editor and producer Joel Sotolongo has a good explanation as to why it is among the footage he brought over for review.
"I'm showing you this, because I want you to know that when I say I filmed everything on the tour, I filmed fucking everything on the tour," he says.
That scene is among the 11 hours of raw footage Sotolongo is working through while piecing together his first full-length documentary feature, That was Piddie Korn, a subtle titular riff on the seminal 1984 Rob Reiner mocumentary, This is Spinal Tap.
The recordings, which chronicle the lighthearted on and off-stage exploits of bassist Mike "Twitchy" Allard, drummer Leo Codias, singer Mike Cuccaro, lead guitarist Tony Tomas, and rhythm guitarist Scott Wheeler, were all shot by Sotolongo himself. It all occurred between the fall of 1996 and the summer of 1998. When he rediscovered the forgotten tapes last year, his initial reaction was to hand them off to Allard, who himself works in film as an editor.
"I thought, 'hey, I'll dump all the footage on him and see if he wants to play around with it,' so I took all the tapes I had, double wrapped them in plastic bags and sent them off to him," he says. "He never did anything with them, and since it had been a while since I shot my last short [Not Safe for Work], I was itching to do something, and I thought, 'I could make a movie out of this.'"
To date, Sotolongo has released the 1999 short film The Men with Green Faces, and the 2008 feature-length Work of Art, which was awarded the Florida Choice Award by the Treasure Coast International Film Festival. Both can be found on YouTube.
The documentary also serves as the first film in which he does not work with his writer Chris Viñetas, together with whom he formed their company STUDIO 214 LLC. The influential absence of the man responsible for providing him with dialogue may, in part, be why Sotolongo has forgone many of the customary trappings associated with documentary features (talking heads, interviews, reunions, Ken Burns-style photo montages), opting to present the film in found footage form. He plans to only include a short opening credit sequence, song titles and closing credits. The rest is up to the audience to interpret.
"I was pretty confident with what I had, that I'd be able to successfully do it this way, plus I like the idea of the whole found footage feel. And, being the person putting it together, I actually am sort of in that exact situation," he says. "I just sort of took it on as a challenge, and since I'm doing it all myself, if I want to experiment and make it this way, I'm going to do just that."
For being shot on tape, the picture quality is remarkably sharp, and Sotolongo's deft camerawork gives the movie a kinetic energy, especially during live performances. The sound quality of the live shows is equally exceptional; every line of lyric is audible and each instrument can be heard independent of the whole. The band itself is quite tight musically despite not taking themselves too seriously.
Three to four hours of footage features non-musical material, which Sotolongo will sparsely mete out during the picture for character developmental purposes. A considerably expurgated cut of the scene described in the opening paragraph will be included, as well as other less explicit ones involving tattooing, shit-shooting, and mall-meandering.
Stalwart Miamian punk scenesters who've been involved in the culture since before the turn of the millennium will no doubt feel great bittersweet nostalgia in seeing the Hungry Sailor in full swing, the double-decker Specs littered with Grove rats, and will marvel at how little Churchill's has changed; it's like the film could've been shot there yesterday.
And on display, of course, there's the perpetual truth about playing in a band in South Florida while running an almost thankless gauntlet in pursuit of a semblance of sharing something: The shows you play are oftentimes for only 10 to 15 people -- eight of whom are friends you brought with you, and two who work the bar -- and fifteen years later, it's mostly the same.
"I think, for the people unacquainted with Piddie Korn, the movie serves in telling what is such a typical story: the one about the local band who never made it huge, but had a great fucking time doing it anyway," says Sotolongo. "What I'm really hoping for, and what I really believe, is that they're a great band of interesting people who made great music and that it's going to connect with people as a result."
That was Piddie Korn is still in the editing process, with its estimated completion date being July 4, 2013. Sotolongo intends on entering it into several local and international film festivals, which will prevent the film from being publicly screen until the beginning of 2014. For more information, visit STUDIO 214 LLC's Facebook page at or their YouTube channel.
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