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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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