By Kris Vagner
Some artists think Nevada is a great place to make their work. Some think it's a great place to grow up and leave. The Nevada Museum of Art is preparing to screen "Made in Nevada," a series of films by Nevadans and Nevada expats who see it from both points of view.
• Rockin' at the Red Dog
In the 1960s, a Virginia City saloon played a part in the ascent of West Coast counterculture. With the gold-mining boom long over, the small hillside town, along with nearby Sutro, had become something of an outlaw enclave. As the psychedelic rock scene thrived in San Francisco, the Red Dog Saloon attracted bands, such as the Charlatans and the Grateful Dead, and the small mountain town became a popular outpost. Rockin' at the Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock chronicles the saloon's story, as told by the now-gray-haireds who were part of it, in a straightforward, talk-to-the-camera manner.
Carson City filmmaker Mary Works, a professional sound editor (she worked on Titanic) wove the reminiscences together with finesse, letting her subjects tell their stories but avoiding those disengaging "you-had-to-be-there" moments.
"I got them all together in one place to interview them," she says. "That was really key. I hoped the magic that was between these people would happen again. There was just this zing in the air. It was a magical time in their lives, and they wanted to express that. It wasn't just nostalgia for the past."
• Road to Colossus
Erik Burke, presently from Reno but inherently nomadic, is an artist who treads the boundary between public space and private property with his multi-media murals and "gallery" exhibits that take place anywhere but in a gallery.
Last summer, he and fellow artist Derek Yost went to Gurdon, Ark., with the hope of either finding or not finding legendary graffiti artist Colossus of Roads. The two traveled by bicycle, carried video cameras and slept wherever they could afford to (RN&R, "The roads less taken," 6/9/05). Their aim was to collect documentary footage, and Burke said he was prepared to switch gears if necessary. He seemed content with the possibility of a film about a fruitless search for an elusive mythical figure. But he found Colossus, also known as BuZ Blurr. The artists all hit it off immediately. Burke and Yost stayed for days, checking out Blurr's artwork and collecting stories from bemused residents of the small Arkansas town.
This year, Burke completed Road to Colossus, a 60-minute film about his trip that mixes the seductive myths of the American road-trip movie with poetic imagery and self-effacing honesty about the doubts and triumphs of being an artist.
• Silver State Cinema Makers
JT Gurzi is a Los Angeles-based cinematographer who grew up in Reno. He's shot episodes of HBO's Six Feet Under and was on a break from a TV shoot when he spoke with RN&R over cell phone.
"I love Reno," he said. "I wish I could do what I'm doing there, but the industry just doesn't exist there." Gurzi has organized fellow Nevada-expat filmmakers to contribute to a series of short films called Silver State Cinema Makers.
Some are students; some are University of Nevada, Las Vegas film school graduates; some have day jobs, movie-industry jobs or no jobs. The Silver State roster includes films whose frames have been painted on by hand, stop-motion animation using everyday objects and a few Sundance award-winners.
October 21, 2006
By Kris Vagner