Short film by Exene
Cervenka (X, Knitters) and Modi Frank stars Dave Alvin, Michael Blake, Kevin
Costne, John Doe, Chris D, Julie Christensen and others. Made in 1986, the film has never been seen by
the public – until now. Available on a “pay what you want” basis,
with all proceeds going to Gulf
Coast aid organizations.
See the awesome trailer, below.
By Blurt Staff
The film is called Bad
Day and it’s the brainchild of Exene Cervenka and Modi Frank. Go to the
official website (http://www.baddaymovie.com/)
for details on how to watch it. Here’s how it all came to pass:
one night in the good ol’ days, Exene Cervenka,
writer/singer for the celebrated Los Angeles band X, and independent filmmaker Modi Frank brainstormed a
shoot-’em-up starring their talented and twisted circle of friends, of which
every member was headed for a full-size future in music, movies, and more.
This was the mid-80s: a time when
there were no prepackaged labels like “alternative” or “indie.” There was only
punk rock, and you either were or you weren’t. For a very short time, punk
music and its fans symbolized anything and everything that wasn’t buttoned
down, bar-coded, or flag-waving. There were still some strings attached to our
modern “do it yourself” attitude for women, though, so when two music scene
chicks wrote, cast, produced, directed, and shot their own film, our being
impressed didn’t come off as patronizing.
Exene and Modi wrote Bad Day together
as a salute to the roots-rock and cow-punk scenes that were flourishing in Southern California at the time, and also because they
were surrounded by artists and musicians who were eager to work together. They
wrote the script to capture a moment, to protect an important picture with a
“Exene was always running around
back then with her Super 8 cameras, shooting X’s tour footage and more. She was
a natural cinematographer: perfect to shoot our film,” remembers Modi, who
served as the film’s director. As co-producers, Modi and Exene cobbled together
a crew, costumes, funds where possible, and of course, the players.
Casting began with the role of “Tripped-out Cowboy Priest” being filled by X
front man John Doe, inaugurating his enduring push into professional acting.
Joining Doe is prominent Los Angeles writer-poet
Doug Knott, as well as Chris Desjardins, author, producer, and creator of those
pioneers, The Flesheaters. Also coming aboard was Chris D.’s then-wife,
folk-jazz singer/songwriter Julie Christensen.
Grammy Award winning American
roots-rock scholar and former Blasters lead guitarist Dave Alvin narrates the story
and plays the film’s wandering, dusty troubadour. Fittingly, Bad Day’s acoustic
soundtrack comes courtesy of Dave Alvin and X’s D.J. Bonebrake and is infused
with their love of all things California.
The role of “Little Mae” is played by
Jenny Aust, daughter of rock critic Chris Morris, whereas “Town Sheriff”
features author Michael Blake, who a few years after the making of Bad Day would be best known for his Academy Award-winning adaptation of his novel, Dances
with Wolves. Blake’s buddy, Academy Award-winning director and actor Kevin
Costner also signed on as a lovable guy whose sudden inheritance turns him into
the nevertheless-still-charming town drunk.
The late and dearly missed Peter Haskell, an artist-photographer whom Bedlam
Magazine described as a “generous, talented, larger-than-life guy who led a
determinedly bohemian lifestyle,” approached his own role (as the villain)
the only way he knew how – with passionate dedication to Modi &
Exene’s vision of the story’s notorious gunslinger, Johnny R Walker.
Shot in 1986 at a secret location
near Chatsworth, California, the short film features an
inspired cast of irregulars playing the residents of a small town on a bad day.
Call it what you will: a cow-punk time capsule, a mock-Western, a guerrilla
film forerunner – or just plain proof of a time when everyone didn’t take
themselves so seriously.
“Everyone came through, it’s a great cast,” observes Exene today. “I’m glad we captured our friends on film. We all just jumped off the
cliff, artistically. We were fearless. While the torrential rain and mud
helped make the story, it was crazy to shoot through such heavy weather.
Modi and I had so much fun writing and making Bad Day. It was one
of the best times I ever had.“
Photographed on black and white film
by Exene Cervenka, directed by Modi Frank, and written by Modi and Exene in
1986, Bad Day is a wayward tribute to the early silent film days of
one-reel Westerns. It’s a short film that throws a saddle over the back of
mid-80s punk, yanks the reins of shoot ‘em up satire, and smacks this horse’s
ass with the anything-goes spirit of its two gifted creators. Not bad for a
film only rumored to exist until now.