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Q&A with Jim Sampas: Film, next frontier for Jack Kerouac

Q&A with Jim Sampas: Film, next frontier for Jack Kerouac (photo)

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Last month I wrote about the documentary “One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur,” a trip through the places, physical and otherwise that inspired Kerouac’s 1962 novel, Big Sur. It features a soundtrack by Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt). Check that and a trailer out here.

[The original Dharma Bum, Jack Kerouac]

I recently had a Q&A with the film’s producer Jim Sampas, whose Uncle happens to have been Jack Kerouac. Sampas encouraged me to throw the ipod out the window. I like his style. Dig that below and check your local listings for the film here!

Aside from “One Fast Move or I’m Gone,” you’ve got “Dharma Bums” and “Big Sur” feature films in the pipe. What’s behind this Kerouac salvo, or is it finally just time?

Isn’t it amazing that Kerouac is now considered to be in the canon of great American letters, taught in universities throughout the world? The next frontier for Kerouac will be film.

How did Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard come to be involved in the soundtrack for “One Fast Move or I’m Gone.”

I’d been listening to a great deal of Americana and alt country music, much of which, as with Kerouac’s work, is grounded in tales of the American heartland. Given the cadence, rhythm and intimacy of the prose of ‘Big Sur’ I thought this particular novel would lend itself to song with the right collaborator. I’d met one of the pioneers of alt country, Jay Farrar, from his work on a tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska I had produced years ago. I had read that Jay had been influenced by Kerouac’s ‘spontaneous prose,’ that he used a similar method in songwriting. Ben is one of his generation’s best lyricists, his playful enunciation and unique singing style drew me toward him. While Ben and Jay’s music differ in style, I just guessed that these two could create a fascinating blend of music.

What do you hope the film achieves?

‘Big Sur’ is Jack’s most personal and confessional novel. I am blown away by his courage in writing about his own spiral downward with such honesty and depth. My goal is that this film we’ve created influences a younger generation to embrace this work. And if people who see this film are inspired by Jack no holds barred honesty, wouldn’t that be incredible?

You’ve been involved in a heap of projects focusing on cultural figures and icons. They’re all very musically inclined, and your taste shows in the music supervising you’ve done (a glance at the soundtrack for “Condo painting” is impressive). How does music and film come together for you?

The thing I find so fascinating about producing and music supervision is the happy accidents that occur throughout the process. I experiment with many different styles of music against images, cutting and pasting things together arbitrarily. Somehow you find the right mixture.

What are you listening to lately?

Headlights, The Owls, Ane Brun, William Fitzsimmons

I’m worried that “Dharma Bums” is going to make me want to drop out of society. What can you tell me about it?

If you do I bet Jack would tell you ‘you’ll be okay’ – that the search for Dharma or ‘truth’ will not fail you. Kerouac’s dream was for his work to be made into film and I believe that moment has arrived. With technology and a hyper reality being dialed into us at a frenetic pace, our natural instinct is to seek meaning beyond manufactured possessions or feelings. Maybe we should take your lead, throw the television, ipods, xboxes, out the window, and all become ‘Dharma Bums.’

Which of your legendary Uncle’s books is your favorite?

That would be Doctor Sax, his only work that merges real life experiences with fantasy. An eleven year old Jacky watches as vampires, gnomes, and “werewolves of the soul” descend upon his hometown as Doctor Sax a mysterious, William Burroughs-like character attempts to ward off the “great world evil.” I can’t get enough of this one, and can read it over and over again, it’s sorrowful beauty bringing something new each time.


“One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur” opens in NYC on October 16th and in LA on October 20th. A limited release in top 40 markets follows.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.