JOE FRANTZ boasts a pretty impressive resume of film maker, director, producer, cinematographer, and author. Unknowingly, FRANTZ’S body of work has influenced pop music and reality entertainment as well as independent film all across the globe. JOE sat down and gave up bit of an update as well as just a sight of a side you don’t see when he is behind the camera!
“A film maker of music videos and reality/making-of features which have sculpted the face of the alternative European music scene for the past decade. Utilizing a mixed media technique, Frantz has created a hybrid of slick-looking hi-definition, grainy super-8 film, 16-millimeter motion picture stock and still photos, and archival footage shot on video formats long forgotten”
OO: How does it feel when you read that statement? It’s about you, isn’t that a pretty awesome compliment?
JF: It always brings me a feeling of accomplishment and happiness whenever I travel to Europe and Scandinavia and see my videos and documentaries up on the television. My work means far more to Europeans than Americans, given the age difference that the venues allow and the subsequent marketing. To give you an example of just how popular, not too long ago I was at a bar in Finland with Bam Margera, and the on the TV they played HIM “Buried Alive By Love”, HIM “The Sacrament”, and 69 Eyes “Lost Boys” all in a row (all videos on which I served as producer and director of photography under Bam’s direction). I asked the bartender, “Where is your video DJ? I want to thank him for playing these videos.” She laughed and replied, “We aren’t playing your videos in the bar, and they’re playing live on a music video TV station. All your videos are classics here!” I paused; a little shocked to hear that. I began to “Google” my works… My music videos, my films, and for the first time I came to the realization that my work has influenced a generation of musicians, artists, and film makers, and brought happiness to so many people. In three words: I felt honored.
OO: Do you have a camera running on you 24/7?
JF: No, actually, I rarely shoot just for fun. This surprises people. But the truth is, when I power up a camera, my mind’s chemistry changes dramatically, and that transition requires an incredible amount of energy. My brain wants every second to be precious. This character trait comes from my background shooting 16mm and 35mm motion picture film. You see, when I was a starving artist in the 1990s, film was the only medium that turned me on. I despised video. And so I bought a 16mm Bolex camera for $4000 and started shooting my own little “experimental art films”. Now, every minute of film I shot, after processing and video transfer, cost about $100, and those are 1990s prices, mind you! To give you an idea of what that means, at the time I was making a little over $6 an hour. So to produce a five-minute film for which I shot twenty-minutes of raw footage, I’d have to work nearly four-hundred hours to pay for it. Looking back, it’s astounding that I was passionate enough about film making to do it! Anyway, as a result, my brain has permanently hard-wired itself to make each moment count when I run a camera, and to this day, when I shoot, every moment seems eternal. So, I don’t point and shoot videos cameras for sheer fun, ever. That’s no fun for me. It’s worse than digging pits. But the good news is, when I do shoot a camera, it’s always a thrill because it’s my mindset to make it perfect.
OO: Do you have a copy of the movie The Nail? I haven’t seen it and can’t locate a copy anywhere.
JF: I really enjoyed the modern Film Noir “The Nail”, which stars Tony Luke Jr., a Philly icon. Tony loves the music of Vinnie Paz and, when he heard I was directing Vinnie Paz’s music video “Keep Moving On”, he signed on to act, and wouldn’t accept a cent for it. He did for his passion to portray a working class underdog who was down and out, an archetype that is eternal in the City Of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Tony Luke was amazing in the video; I couldn’t ever imagine anyone else playing that part.
OO: Will there be a second installment for Dreamseller?
JF: I’ll preface this for people who don’t know the project. Dreamseller is a book written by me and Brandon Novak (Jackass, MTV’s Viva La Bam, the CKY Video Series, etc.). I’m the “co-author”, which means I wrote the book about Brandon’s story. The book is an addiction memoir that chronicles Novak’s career as a promising young skateboarder who was discovered by tony Hawk, until Novak was overtaken by an insatiable lust for a drug called Heroin. In a short time, Novak went from traveling the world and signing autographs for kids to hustling on the streets of Baltimore, stealing, dealing, and selling his body for a shot of dope, until Jackass alumni Bam Margera helped him redeem himself and brought him to MTV fame. BUT… That’s only half of the story. The new book deals with Novak’s father, now deceased. Until now, we couldn’t reveal the stories of Novak’s father, the man who taught Novak the drug trade, to manipulate women, to lie and cheat and steal. His father taught him to be an addict and to live this sick twisted junkie lifestyle. Novak’s father is the man who gave him life, and whose life lessons will ultimately bring him to his death, he’s the man Novak always wanted to be, and the man Novak hates the most. This sequel to Dreamseller is far different from the first book in many ways. It’s far more shocking, and the plot reads like an action novel. It’s a furious journey into the world of addiction, with all the humanistic insight and dark humor that the fans loved in the first book.
Also, I’ve not released this information until now, but we’re also in development for a graphic novel or comic book series that depicts the misadventures of Novak, through “alternative comic” illustrations and sensibilities. The dark but humorous subject matter and anti-hero characters are made to order for this type of release. When I was asked for my picks of artists I’d love to get on board, I said Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, and Robert Crumb right away… Now, this is just a wish list, mind you, and I have no idea if they’d have the time to get on board, but if gives you an idea of the kind of project this is going to be if it gets a green light.
OO: You having ties to both, the hip hop and hardcore scenes, as well as many other genres as well as other forms of media; you have been able to see the evolution of the genres joining forces. Can you talk a little bit about what you have seen and what you think for the future?
JF: Music and film and all other art are ever-evolving and amorphous, and all genres eventually cross and become one. I believe that God lives through ideas, in and throughout art in all forms. As for predicting the future, I’m really not a media guru, I leave that to the tech-heads and armchair theorists. I’d rather look back on the past in deep appreciation.
OO: What projects are you currently involved with?
JF: Over the past two years I’ve produced and filmed about seventy-five shows for National Geographic, History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc. It’s a lot of fun, I get to meet and work with amazing people. Its hard work, though, and I’ve produced under some extreme conditions: alligator infested bayous, urban badlands, intense desert heat, mountainous terrain, severe ocean storms, and dangerous blizzards.
I’d say my biggest accomplishments were producing archeological shows where we excavated the only surviving artifacts from the Hatfield / McCoy Feud, and validated the controversial final skirmish of the American Revolution. It’s a good feeling to have added a few sentences and footnotes to the history books!
But what’s true to my heart and art is the r-release of the classic CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) video series in high definition, starring Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Chris Raab, Rake Yohn, and the rest of the CKY crew. This is a very expensive and time consuming endeavor; I’ve spent over 2000 hours on it already, just digitizing footage. We’re currently talking to distributor who will back the project. I’ll get it out, eventually.
Also, I’m producing a film tentatively titled “Where’s My Needle”, a feature documentary that chronicles the life and the addiction of Brandon Novak (Jackass, MTV’s Viva La Bam, etc.). The film is directed by Jason Chapman (Charm City Skate park), and I can promise that the film is going to be one of the most shocking and insightful counter-culture films of our time. That’s all I’m allowed to say right now…
OO: What would be your ‘Dream Project’ or have you already been able to do your ‘Dream Project’?
JF: I’m currently living out my dream is to live and thrive as an artist, but I wish there was more time to live life. One day I’ll be dead and the dream will be over.
OO: Who have been your major influences?
JF: Heroes and influences: Peter Bagge, Alfred Hitchcock. Fritz Lang, The Three Stooges, Abbot And Costello, Dobie Gillis,Tommy Kirk and Kurt Russell Disney movies, Don Knotts, Fangoria, MAD Magazine, HATE comic books, Weirdo comic books, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Ansel Adams, Norman Corwin, Igor Stravinsky, Orson Wells, Film Noir, Doctor Detroit, Woody Allen, King Kong-1933, Mel Brooks, American Pop, Ralph Bakshi…. Okay, I’ll stop now; the list goes on and on, though.
What is the one thing you wanted as a kid and never got that you would still fork out some dough to get?
JF: I always wanted, and never had… The Atari 2600! I was the only kid who didn’t have one; we were just too poor to afford it! I’ve made up for it, though; I have several stand-up arcade machines in my house with built-in emulators that allow me to play every arcade game I ever loved as a kid, hundreds of them. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Jungle King, Galaga, Tempest, Dragon’s Lair… You name it, I have it. Wow, this interview is making me want to beat my old high score in Zoo Keeper, so I should go. Thanks, and God bless!