Shut Up, Little Man!

“I Was a Killer Before You Were Born” : Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

« Back to history list

“I Was a Killer Before You Were Born” — The Killer Films saga (2002-2006)

Mark was working in tandem on Shut Up Little Man with the great independent film producers Killer Films. Killer had reached prominence producing difficult, dark, and provocative films in this period (Boys Don't Cry, Hedwig the Angry Inch, Far From Heaven, Safe, Velvet Goldmine, Happiness, I Shot Andy Warhol, I’m Not There). Films by provocative and visionary film-makers like Todd Haynes, Todd Solondz, and John Cameron Mitchell. The primary force behind Killer Films is Christine Vachon, and just so you can groove with me and comprehend my excitation at the prospect of working with these folks, here is an excerpt from her recent book, A Killer Life:

My strategy is to stay a moving target. I’ve got a reputation for "edgy," "dark" material — the kind of movie where you’re maybe rooting for the bad guy. I’m also frequently accused of operating with a political agenda. A gay agenda. An aggressive-New Yorker agenda. When I go to L.A. for meetings, sometimes I feel like I have to put on my "uniform" -- black pants, black T-shirt, combat boots — so that nobody gets confused and thinks I’ve come over to the bright side. Yes, I go for the kind of stories that challenge viewers, and I like to approach a story from an unexpected place. But my films aren’t all about gay people, they aren’t necessarily dark, and I’m not trying to peddle an ideology. I think that in order to realize the artistic possibilities of film, you’ve got to be in tune with the social and political realities of the times: the ravages of AIDS, or the complexity of gender, or social anomie, American-style. This is why I’m attracted to scripts inspired by true stories. When you stop retreading the conventional fairy tales — when you quit with the fairy tales entirely — you make better art. You also make people a little nervous.

You can see why we were excited and hopeful. We shared Killer's philosophy. We like art that is fundamentally provocative, emotive, real, and hopefully also redemptive - stuff that makes you think and feel, even if part of what you feel is uncomfortable. That’s why we made the Shut Up Little Man recordings in the first place. The stuff is intense. By this time our experiences with writers, directors, and producers had refined our sense of what we wanted in a film-making team working with the Shut Up Little Man material. We clearly did not want to prostitute Shut Up Little Man to a major studio that was going to crank out some watered down PG-rated bullshit caricature of Peter and Raymond.

this article continued »