'The Celluloid Underground' In SCHLOCK, Featuring "The Eat More Carp Show"

-By John Chilson

You want "must-see TV"? Two words: public access. I've seen some of the most off-beat (and beat off) bands, films, talk shows and other oddities on public access over the years to compile miles of tape - unfortunately I never recorded any of it. After lamenting the recent cancellation of LIPS, a live show where some of San Diego's skankiest womenfolk danced, stuck their white, bony asses in the air and chatted with you for $5 an hour, I dug out a few tapes that had been sent to me over the past year and rediscovered "The Eat More Carp Show". The E=MC was the brainchild of filmmaker Andy Valeri and pals back in Ohio in the mid-1980's. A mixture of experimental and personal little films that seemed new, yet familiar. I chatted with Valeri via email and here is what transpired.

-Tell me a brief history of The Eat More Carp Show.

The Eat More Carp Show originated organically, growing out of a certain amount of post-college indecision. Having returned to Dayton after getting a film degree at Penn State, I wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to be doing with my life in the long-term, not having much enthusiasm for joining the American corporate culture and all. And I definately didn't have any stomach for using my production knowledge to produce toothpaste commercials or tasteless local news programs. But I knew I wanted to be doing SOMETHING, so I went to work on putting together an access television show made up of compiled material I had produced over many years. This was inspired by attempted shows in the area which were supposed to be doing the same thing, which I contributed material to, but which never hit the air. Lots of people were talking big talk about such things, but never came through. So instead of waiting for someone to create a platform for featuring all these diverse works, I figured I'd just do it myself. I even solicited around the area to garner material from other local producers, and did get some response, but not too much really. The majority of the material was indiginous stuff.
Actual production began in January of 1987, with lots of new material being shot for the actual segments of the show, which would be used to support the featuring of already created films, though which would be unlike the normal "host" segments of typical presentation-type shows of this nature. It was my first foray into video (I had previously worked entirely in film), so there was quite the learning curve in making it work. Actual production of the show ran up through 1989, though in 1995 I went back to work on it, editing down the 32 existing episodes into 8 1-hour shows, made up of material from the original episodes, along with a number of segments and features produced for the show which never made it into the original series, along with some newer material as well to update and augment it. These new shows are MUCH better, more concise and to the point of what the whole was and should be about.

-Who was involved with the show, besides yourself?

I was definately the main progenator of the show. I planned them out, arranged the shoots, did all the editing, etc.. However, I had much production help from a core group of friends including my wife Sharon, as well as other long-time Big Beef cohorts Dave Hughes, Steve Bognar and Steve Palumbo (as well as my younger brother Jim, who has since went on to garnering a film degree himself). We would often enlist the help of other friends who were in town visiting as well. Some of the most rewarding aspects were working with such people as Scott Summit, a Dayton musician and artist, who loved the show so much he contacted me about it and wanted to meet Sharon and I, which has resulted in a friendship for a decade now. He became involved in the production and "stars" in a number of different segments. Our friends in Los Angeles, the band The Electric Ferrets, ran the unofficial E=MC fan club out there, and would often produce all sorts of things for submission to the program as well. They even got the series stocked in a cool LA video store (Eddie Brandt's) specializing in the strange and hard-to-get.

-You mention Steve Bognar. Didn't he have a film shown at Sundance?

Steve is one of my closest and dearest friends and we grew up together making films, audio tapes and such. Much of the film material in E=MC are the results of that work. It's mainly youthful experimentation and such, but I think a lot of it still stands up today, for what it is certainly. Nothing pretentious and such. Very experimental. Very based on our love of music and media (this is before MTV and such, before the marriage of music and film became a bad pop TV commercial). And yes, Steve's latest project was his documentary Personal Belongings which has done exceedingly well. It was featured at last year's Sundance Film Festival and has been screened throughout the world. It was featured on PBS last year and has been on French national TV and quite a number of other places. It's a phenomnally powerful film. He also was heavily involved in the production of the feature Emma & Elvis, which he made with his long-time mate and renowned filmmaker Julia Reichert. Steve is currently teaching film at Antioch University in Ohio and is also working on a music video for the Big Beef band Real Lulu. He and Julia are two of the band's biggest fans.

-Now a tough question. Name your top five movies.

1) That's tough, because I'm not really a big movie buff and all, which can seem strange being a film major. But I was never into film for all that Hollywood stuff. The thing that really inspired me to seriously pick up a camera wasn't "Citizen Kane" or something, but was the film clip for "Strawberry Fields Forever" which The Beatles made in 1967. So that would definately have to be in my top 5 "movies".
2) The only narrative film director I have any long-term affinity for is Stanley Kubrick, so anything by him could be included (especially "Dr. Strangelove"). He would break all the rules while still respecting them and adhering to their principles at the same time, if that makes any sense.
3) Having done a lot of live concert and studio work (and with my interest and involvement in the music business), I have a lot of respect for Jonathan Demme's "Stop Making Sense", the Talking Heads concert film. I heard recently he is making a another one now for Robyn Hitchcock, which is great to hear, since I have tremendous admiration for Hitchcock.
4) I love John & Yoko's 1971 film "Imagine", which was a full-length "feature" based entirely around material from Lennon's "Imagine" album and Yoko's companion work "Fly". Way ahead of it's time for marrying the "avant garde" with mainstream pop culture. Also definately an early work with the concept of film and music together blended into one new entity. I always admired Lennon for his being in the position he was, and yet pursuing work which was focused on being interesting rather than popular.
5) Monty Python's "Life Of Brian". Should be required material for all the world's religion and theology classes.

-What's in store for your production company, Big Beef?

Big Beef is currently alive and well, with probably too much to do at the moment. It started as a basement band joke in 1978, which turned into our (Steve Bognar and I's, along with a few close friends) little production "company" for many years, and is now a full-fledged business, mainly dealing in record production. We've been putting out CD's as of late (The Pure Plastic Tree, Real Lulu, The Mulchmen) and have plans for all sorts of new projects, including new recordings and the new Real Lulu video produced with Steve. I hope to finish the E=MC 8-part compendium series this year as well, and complete work on some video productions for the Chicago-based band The New Duncan Imperials. I did some work with them, including a live television show in Dayton, and have been wanting to produce some programs out of that for distribution. They've been wanting it, too, and are probably sick of waiting for me to do it, which I don't blame them. There's some great footage I'm sitting on, so it would definately be worth completing. In fact, one production is sort of an updated version of The Eat More Carp Show, with it's regular host Admiral Ackbar and all, except it's all based around New Duncan Imperial material.

For More Information On "The Eat More Carp Show".
SCHLOCK On The Web / For More Information On SCHLOCK
How To Order Your Copies of "E=MC"

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