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Anthony Pedone was born in Dallas, Texas, spending the formative years of his life on a ranch, in Clayton, New Mexico. At 16 he moved back to Texas, and played in multiple musical projects like Acridity, The Gaia Foundation, Cornpone, and Split while studying Music at Southwest Texas University. These bands died a natural death, and after graduation Anthony co- founded the “chaos noise experiment “called legodethsquad. In 2001 he commenced a five year stay in inadequate conditions in the Arizona Desert. During this period he  received his Certificate in Writing Social Commentary from Penn State University’s Distance Learning Program , and began work on a journal he would later use, in conjunction with the writings of Eli Higgins and cinematic artist Stephen Floyd, to create the screenplay called “The Why.” “The Why” was screened in six countries, and received multiple awards when featured at independent film festivals all over the world. Anthony kindly agreed to be interviewed by Mudkiss, and the results are reproduced below:
LIZ: Anthony you have had a colourful life, you've been a musician since you were 16, lived on a ranch in New Mexico and you were in  prison for just under 5 years. What have you learned?

AP: We are constantly learning, adapting to new situations, I guess. I have been lucky to live. Tough question, what have I learned in my life? You have to recognize your own mortality. I had a great life, and I fucked it all up…..then I had a great life again…..if I could just…..find a happy medium, you know…..just….level out.

LIZ:  What made you start writing in prison?

AP: I didn't write for a long time in prison; I read a lot. You know, you are sedentary, then I got to a prison that was pretty much an open yard, pretty nice by prison standards. Hot a hell in the Arizona Desert, living in the tents of Florence East Unit.  East was a lifer yard, but guys that had programmed down to minimum status and were spending out their days once they had gotten 25 years into their life sentence, filed for parole and then got shot down. After a couple of times of trying to get release the State will move them to is the institutions idea of cutting them some slack. TV. Game Room, softball tourneys and even a band room with drum set, amps and all. I had a couple of fights, so I was sent to Maximum, CB6, still on Florence Complex! I got out of my cell to stand in a 8' by 8”cage, then back to an 8' by 12”cell, to the shower and back. Plenty of time to read, and start writing. I enrolled on the Penn State Distance Learning...I need to constantly occupy myself, almost to the point of going under….drowning.

After about 3 years I programmed down to a lower custody, I got a job in the prison water plant.....40 cents an hour making sure the prison got clean water. There was an old typewriter there and I started typing. The mice kept chewing up my stuff & crapping in my typewriter. I wrote them a letter, and they responded by chewing the bottom of the letter as a signature. I found an empty journal in one of the cabinets, I snuck it back to the prison, started writing stuff- dreams, funny stuff about other inmates, and guards. I filled it up about a few months before I was released. It was about that time that my friend Stephen Floyd came to see me. I had known him since I was 16, he said, “Man, you really need to be creative again, that’s when your life fucked up, when you stopped making music.” So I got out, joined a theatre group here in Victoria. I reconnected with Stephen, met Eli Higgins, worked with Steve Balderson, Elizabeth Spear and Don Avlo.

LIZ:  Do you think your punk roots and your later spell in prison has been highly influential in your film making career?

AP: “Suffering brings about the highest elevation of mankind”, right? I think the same thing that drew me to the punk scene, is the same thing that inspires me to make movies. DIY filmmaking is the new being in a band. DIY is making it happen with what you have. Making it happen at any proverbial cost. Not concerning yourself with the paperwork and just seeing what you can make. Filmmakers are rebuilding the model, and the last vestige of  control lies in the distribution model. These images, moving images, music, choreography, dialogue, colours, how you can manipulate it all post-production, digital is a really great medium.

When I was at my worst I would stay up….20 days at a time....I would have intense hallucinations, you go to the other side….just disappear in ethereal visions to bring back information. A flailing junkie will not bring back information, or it will be misinformation. I think it's really good to have been to prison, because I think I would probably be dead. When I think of what I was doing, just weeks before I went into prison, I am lucky to be alive. You are reduced to shit, in prison, they can come in, take your stuff, beat you up, mess with your food, you have to ask to go to the bathroom. Doesn’t matter who you are, that'll break you down. But I needed some reconditioning. I am grateful; it was good for me, crazy as that sounds, it is true.

LIZ: I love ‘The Casserole Club’ - which of your films have proved most popular with audiences so far?

AP: Well ‘The Casserole Club’ & ‘Camp Casserole’ premiered at Raindance in London, and were both well recieved, and The Casserole Club received 5 Independent Vision Awards, including best Film. Steve Balderson has since sold The Casserole Club to MultiVisionaire, and DVD’s will be out soon and include Camp Casserole.

“The Why”, still gets screened every now and then, and was on the festival circuit for over 2 years. We just screened at Anthology Film Archives a couple of months ago. It is definitely a film  you need to see in a theatre.

LIZ: Your style is eclectic, and there is also a very distinct visual identity to your films, which film makers do you find compelling?

AP: I love Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg...but I am more influenced by Indie filmmakers, because this is what I am seeing a lot of. I program The Victoria TX Independent Film Festival and Rx:Self-Medicated Film Expo in Austin so I am constantly watching indie films. There is a great cinematographer from Little Rock Arkansas named Gabe Mayhan that shot a couple of shorts, one is called, ‘Pillow’ and the other was ‘Ballerina’. They were incredible. A film by Jason Bognacki, called ‘The Red Door’ blew me away a couple of years ago. Matt Gordon’s, ‘The Dynamiter’ and ‘5 Shells’ by Paul Meyers...There are so many great filmmakers right now. It is very exciting. I am constantly inspired by the people I get the opportunity to work with. Steve Balderson has impeccable organizational skills and every time I work with him I am pleasantly surprised at how smooth the shoot runs.

LIZ: You have been filming in London lately.What was that like, and how does it differ from working in the U.S?

AP: Yes when Steve and I were in London for Raindance, Steve had planned to shoot another feature called, ‘Culture Shock’. He had cast about 100 UK actors and some of the same actors from ‘The Casserole Club’. Steve had done most of the location scouting with Google Earth from his bunker in Wamego, Kansas. He had everything down to a science with the tube and traveling stealth. We only got hassled a couple of times by the cops or property owners for shooting without a permit. We did it all without permits. We had 3 cameras going most the time. It wasn’t much different than shooting in the U.S...just kind of show up, set and pull out the cameras. I guess we had to be a bit more stealth in the UK.

LIZ: You are producing and shooting a movie [The Pyrex Glitch] which has been written and directed by the former GoGo's member Jane Wiedlin, how did this come about?

AP: I met Jane in Palm Springs shooting with Steve. Each night at the end of the day of shooting we would make short films with Pleasant Gehman, Daniela Sea and Michael Maize. The films were all parodies of Pyrex commercials using blockbuster movie themes...for instance we shot ‘Pyrex of the Lambs’, ‘Pyrex Dearest’, and even reshot the shower scene from ‘Psycho’ and have Norman (Garrett Swann) kill with a Pyrex dish. When the shoot ended, Jane called me up a few weeks later, and she had come up with a short script idea to tie the 9 commercials we shot into a story about a robotic tutor, on a space ship. The tutor’s job is to teach the children about their destroyed planet. Little does anyone know that she is experiencing a malfunction in her databases due to a huge ionic storm. The glitch causes her to mix life lessons with pop culture and Pyrex commercials. Needless to say it is fucking bizarre. Trevor Dunn is doing the Soundtrack, and it is as twisted as the film itself. We built a space ship inside my office building using a fleet of old copy machines and green screen. 

LIZ: So what is next?

AP: Well finish up Pyrex, and another film I did this past summer called, Roundball. I have some major editing left on those. I am also in pre-production for my next feature, ‘An American in Texas’.

Currently I am working to unify several smaller festivals around the US and internationally. I have started a new program within my RxSM festival in Austin, called ExChange. Basically ExChange designed for festivals to cross promote one another, by sharing programming. The first few years of a festival’s life are lean when it comes to funding and sponsorships. Most small festivals will run one weekend, and then what? Everyone goes home and the indie film that was voted best film goes back into obscurity until it is picked up by another small festival, and the cycle completes itself again. With ExChange we offer films that win awards at RxSM or VTXIFF the opportunity to be programmed at one of our ExChange Partner’s festivals, like, The Art of Brooklyn Festival, Timecode NOLA, or Radar Hamburg in Germany. Those festivals in turn then send RxSM or VTX new programming from the films that won awards at their festivals. For instance, this year at RxSM and VTXIFF we screened 2 hours of German short films from Radar Hamburg’s programming. This program sharing benefits the festivals because each festival gives the next a presence in their marketing campaign, press releases and websites. The program benefits the filmmakers by keeping their films on the circuit longer, and they reap the benefits of free promotion as well. The films continue on to a new city and new market, but only had to submit to one fest. That one submission opens them up to several other great opportunities and multi city screenings.

The new generation of filmmakers are really going to be responsible for how the model is rebuilt. If the film industry is anything like the music industry, then the next few years are crucial for us. It could get a whole lot worse before it gets better. We need to get people back into the mindset that they were in 10 years ago when they would spend $15 for a DVD, and not feel like they should be able to watch anything they want for free, or can rip your DVD and share it out. The internet has been a most useful tool in gaining control of the medium of indie film. It effectively puts you in contact with all the resources you need to shoot a film, effectively removing the control of studios. Ironically though it is the same too that is used to pirate your art. Be it film, music, still photography....people need to stop acting like the internet is the Wild West and that they can just run through cyber space raping and pillaging. We have to start paying the artists. People need to donate to, and support indie filmmakers, artists and musicians by purchasing their work and not stealing it from the internet.

Interview by Liz Lacey
Photo [top] Anthony Pedone / tat pic / microscope photos all by Dusti Cuningham - credit to pyrex photo [orange suits] to L-ANN Imaging

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