Local Filmmaker Colin Duerr Releases New Short Film, “John Panich Is Dead”

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John Panich Is Dead

Progressive. Passionate. Persistent. Young Detroit filmmaker Colin Duerr is set to release an innovative new Detroit-centric project on March 1st…a long-awaited film that encases nothing but originality. You may remember Colin from his documentary (which achieved incredible viral success) on “Dreadlock Mike,” a well-known Detroiter who was tragically killed in a hit-and-run car accident last year. Colin is also known for other inspired works of art, including Detroit band Passalacqua’s music video for “Sirens,” and for his contributions to The Ded Dave Show, which previously aired on CW50.

Colin’s new project, “John Panich Is Dead,” is a short film shot in the style of a music video, and it follows the new song from local artist John Panich, entitled “My Asteroid Wants to Kill Your Planet.” It depicts John Panich in his final hours on Earth and his first hours in a “hallucinogenic afterlife.” Sounds pretty intriguing, don’t you think? It’s a bit different than what you might normally see and an interesting concept to think about.

John Panich Is Dead
(credit: Joe Petrous)

The film showcases Colin’s eccentric and handmade style with unique set designs, custom-made costumes, and inspired make-up. Colin is known for his unconventionally exciting filmmaking and that’s what sets him apart from most local filmmakers. He’s out to make real art – to inspire and release something that comes from his heart. His work is undeniably honest, visually captivating, and the messages conveyed are sincerely moving.

Not only does the film center on Detroit local artist John Panich, but the film will also feature Joe Average from Of Mice And Musicians and Jimmy Doom of Almighty Lumberjacks Of Death. Plus, keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for choreographed dances from Tunde Olaniran and guitar from Dave Taylor of The Amino Acids. It’s a project that is filled to the brim with local Detroit talent.

“It accomplishes a short story as well as an abstract dissection of the mystery of death and our place in the cosmos; it’s horror and it’s hope,” said Colin. “John Panich Is Dead” is set to premiere – after being set back twice for a more perfected piece – on Saturday, March 1st at Detroit’s The Jam Handy. You can find more information on the release here.

To watch the trailer for the film – click here!

CW50 was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Colin and talk about his project and his aspirations as a filmmaker.

Check him out!

Colin Duerr and John Panich
(credit: Joe Petrous)

So, Colin, tell us about yourself…

I lay bricks and labor as a day job and make movies and videos as part of a greater life ambition.

What about the film, “John Panich Is Dead”?

It’s a music video that mutated into a short film for rapper, John Panich…aka JP from the HP.  He gave me total freedom to build something around the song and this is the result. It follows the topic in the song – of death, of leaving the world behind and the inner grief that lead to it.  It’s an intense song and the short grew from the feelings I got from it and some things I was feeling at the time I first started thinking about it.

How do you know John Panich?

John and I have been BFFs for years now and have supported each other in our respective goals.  I’ve done a lot of video work for him before, and this time, I thought I should just go all out.  Take no prisoners. Give people something to really gaze at and brood with.

Why make a film around him?

Since I had my creative freedom on it, I really don’t know. The way I work these days is bizarre and I can never really trace ideas or make sense of them. It’s become an intuitive thing that always begins with one feeling or picture in my head that gives me a feeling in my stomach and from that moment on, other ideas kind of leech on. A lot of the ideas here are narrative; from how we see his Mother (played by Sandy Stewart) grieving and seeing the face of death, to a depraved Mortician (played by JL Cappella) taking certain liberties with his corpse. There’s something to follow that unfolds and has a climax. Then, there are these abstract layers where we see the faces of oblivion, the cosmos, Saturn, the sun. It’s hard to explain and I’d rather not try to. I’d much rather people watch it and then give their own meaning to it. It’s packed full of ideas about existence and jokes about mortality, but I can’t word them out. It’s terrifying and hilarious to me.

Is there a goal with the film, or a message you’re trying to convey?

I don’t really have a goal other than to make it satisfying to watch on a personal level.   However, I can never really watch my own work once I’m done with it. I make it so I can experience it with tiny increments of pleasure while editing and deliver it when I think I’d like it after not seeing it for a year. Like I said, it’s an intuitive thing; I just feel my way through it until it feels right. I’m never conscious of a goal or lay those intentions out. I’m not concerned with a message, ever. I’m concerned with a feeling. One true conviction I can say, blatantly, is that I’m happy it happened this way and people can watch it. The world has become so lazy. Every time I make something, that’s in the back of my head. I want to be part of a new movement that revives what humans are capable of, organically. It’s pretentious, but I’m trying and aching for this. I find it important to be in touch with some real sense of artistic struggle. This video contains hand-made sets, costumes, make-ups and performances and vibes that are rare for this level and in this realm. The process should not be easy, especially if you want it to be worth it.

Filmmakers don’t suffer or have an adventure like they used to and their work shows it. A real purpose can be re invigorated if people would just punch themselves out of these comfort boxes. Come on; let’s give them something to really remember. From our hearts.

It’s premiering on March 1st, could you tell us a little about the premiere?

We’re having a full-blown celebration for the video’s release at The Jam Handy (2900 E. Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48202) on Saturday, March 1st. We’re screening the video before JP performs, and our buddies, Passalacqua, will also be performing.

It will be premiering all over the web through Vimeo after that. My website will have it; JP’s website will have it. It will be on our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. We’re also planning on bar-hopping and showing it on the TVs and inventing drinking games with the locals based on it. Don’t worry, we’ll cab it.

Tell us about the filmmaking process…

It was shot in my loft in Detroit and in Hazel Park. I built massive sets in the loft like I did for “Sirens.” The process was long, strenuous, confusing, and adventurous. Many ups and downs.  A lot of trial and error. We started shooting it in April of 2012 and shot intermittently between other works. It features the talents of many of my closest friends and some of Detroit’s finest talent. Kristi Burgett, of Detroit Vintage, lent her severely talented hands in creating costumes, Tunde Olaniran choreographed a dance sequence, Joe Average (Joe Pelione) sings the hook of the song and acts in it. Speaking of acting, Sandy Stewart, who plays John’s Mother, totally wowed us with her performance.

I’m so happy to have discovered her and introduced her with this and plan on casting her in many projects in the future. I also added the guitar sounds of Dave Taylor of The Amino Acids, whom I’d previously collaborated with on The Ded Dave Show. He’s my favorite Detroit guitarist and I was happy to have worked with him again.

Originally it was set to release last year, can you tell us why you’ve decided to wait to release it?

We pushed the video back because I just wasn’t happy with it, yet. It was pretty good, but, it’d have been rushed to meet the deadline and I had other ideas I wanted to keep pursuing.  Deadlines can be unhealthy at this low/no budget level as you have to really strive to squeeze big ideas from small places. In that sense, when it was time to wipe, we still had some pushing to do. Ya dig?

How does Detroit fit into the film?

It’s made by Detroiters and Hazel Parkians. Thematically, there is nothing “Detroit” about it.  But, what’s more “Detroit” than people going to their hellish day job and then going home and being creative? This is an after-work music video and I’d love if it became synonymous with the city and its art community because I’m sure people are falling asleep at more shots of the train station by now.

Closing words?

Watch the greats. Experiment. Stop ripping off Wes [Anderson] and Harmony [Korine]. That nightmare or wet dream you had last night? Make us see that.

My generation has a lot of catching up to do as it’s so spoiled by the easily-accessible technologies, DVD commentaries, film programs, film funding, ‘everyone’s a winner’ attitudes and the soul sucking anti-productivity machine known as Facebook. We all need our own “Bruce Wayne with a beard and Ninja training” type experience so we can brew our own convictions beyond what TV and movies have taught us. Nobody seems to have a real voice anymore. That can be cultivated through experimentation.

You can find more information on Colin Duerr here on his website, and on John Panich here!

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