Heavy Metal Picnic was supposed to be Jeff Krulik‘s big break. The documentary filmmaker behind the cult smash Heavy Metal Parking Lot has made every kind of documentary over the course of two decades. But he hasn’t made anything with as big a place in the zeitgeist as the impromptu footage he and John Heyn captured in 1986 outside a Judas Priest concert in Landover, Md. When Krulik came across some footage from a totally rocking field concert held in rural Maryland in the late ‘80s, he decided to tap into Heavy Metal Parking Lot‘s magic one last time. Over the course of a year, Krulik tracked down and interviewed the festival’s major personalities and cut those interviews with footage captured by a shoulder-cam and a CBS microphone stolen from Ronald Reagan‘s second inauguration. On August 6, 2010, Heavy Metal Picnic premiered to a packed house at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. Here’s what’s happened since.
August 20, 2010: Krulik emails friends and supporters, “I expect good things in the coming months and next year, and I’ll keep you informed of future screenings, as well as DVD availability.”
October 25: Krulik writes on Facebook: “I took the plunge (to the tune of $800) and submitted it to a bunch of fests. God help me.”
December 6: Krulik receives a rejection from the Slamdance Film Festival.
December 7: Krulik and Heyn, who co-directed Heavy Metal Parking Lot, appear on Last Call with Carson Daly to hype Heavy Metal Parking Lot’s 25th anniversary. Carson Daly calls HMPL “one of the greatest rock documentaries of all time.” Heyn says that Edward Norton watched the film on the set of Fight Club, and Krulik says Norton called it “anthropological genius.” Midway through the segment, Krulik hypes Heavy Metal Picnic for 60 seconds.
January 8, 2011: Krulik receives rejections from the Berlin Film Festival and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Krulik emails some friends to share his disappointment. “This all started with Brendan Conway convincing me that I should enter Sundance. $1,000 later we entered 25 or so and are down to 20. I think. I’ve stopped paying attention. Well, not exactly. If I wasn’t paying attention or caring I wouldn’t be bothering you with this. Conway is not unlike the kid who made the frozen telephone pole tongue dare in A Christmas Story. And I’m the kid who sticks his tongue on the pole. Once, Conway dared me to go ask Harry Connick Jr. a question at a cable TV banquet. Connick was standing there talking to that Victoria’s Secret model girlfriend of his. Conway dared me; he even called me ‘yellow.’ So I went up and asked. And Connick and his girlfriend completely ignored me. Pretended like I didn’t even exist and I was standing right next to them.”
January 18: Krulik receives a rejection from the Noise Pop Film Festival: “Hello!I hope this finds you well! I wanted to thank you for your submissions to the 2011 Noise Pop Film Festival! While all of the submissions were wholly appreciated, we have not chosen to screen your film in this years festival.” In size 14 font, Krulik writes, “The uncoolness continues.”
January 31: Krulik receives a rejection email from South by Southwest Film Festival. “We’re very sorry to say that receiving this letter means ‘Heavy Metal Picnic’ did not get accepted to SXSW 2011. And we’re sorry that we have to send the news in a bulk email.” As a consolation, SXSW offers rejected filmmakers the early bird discount on admission to the festival. Writes Krulik: “All together now F**k This S**t!”
February 1: Rudy Childs, a major character in Heavy Metal Picnic, emails Krulik a hastily mocked up flier for the film. “Come see what has the critics ranting and the film festivals refusing to screen, one of the edgiest films about the 80s,” reads the tagline. In lieu of praise from critics, Childs lists one-sentence snippets of rejection emails. Krulik politely tells him to never show the flier to anyone. “It’s going to be best to just let the film festival route fizzle out, and take the high road. We will have other screening opportunities, and some are already emerging.” Later, he writes me: “I would have much much much much much much much much rather gone to the racetrack with” the festival submission money. In the same email, he takes stock in the fact that the James River Film Fest in Richmond and the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee have agreed to screen the film, noting that neither required a submission fee nor even a screener.
February 21: Krulik receives a rejection from the Vail Film Festival.
February 24: “Heavy Metal Picnic REJECTION # I’VE LOST COUNT” reads the subject of Jeff’s latest email. This time it’s the London Documentary Film Festival.
March 10: Krulik is accepted to the Frederick Film Festival, which will screen both Heavy Metal Parking Lot and Heavy Metal Picnic. “We are finally getting some screenings planned for Heavy Metal Picnic,” he writes. “Including the Nashville Film Festival, Richmond Virginia and an encore at the AFI Silver on Friday, June 17.”
March 18: Krulik receives a rejection from Hot Docs Canada and Atlanta Film Festival. “But we are in Frederick Film Festival and Nashville Film Festival and the James River Film Fest,” writes Krulik, “where at the conclusion I will jump into the James River and cleanse myself of my sins. Hallelujah!”
March 24: HMP and HMPL screen at Frederick Film Festival.
Arpil 9: HMP and HMPL screen at Richmond Film Fest.
April 16 and 17: HMP screens at Nashville Film Festival.
April 18: Krulik reports that the Nashville screening was a hit. “Word from Rudy Childs on the ground in Nashville is that the two screenings of Heavy Metal Picnic at the Nashville Film Festival were well attended and well received. The Sunday night screening was a sellout too. And Curtis Merkle and Rudy were feted and interviewed on the red carpet. I hope that footage makes it onto a blog or TV story.”
June 2: A marketing agency emails Krulik and Heyn with a request to screen Heavy Metal Parking Lot at Bonnaroo. “How much money is in this for us? Nice of you to wait one week before Bonnaroo to ask our permission,” Krulik writes back. “But at least you asked. So thanks. But how did this come about? Seems like we’re an afterthought to me. I’m not sure what the upside is.”
June 17: Encore screening of HMP at AFI Silver.
June 29: Krulik is interviewed by NPR’s Bob Boilen about the 25th anniversary of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and manages to “shoehorn in a mention of Heavy Metal Picnic.”
August 3: Krulik announces the DVD release party for HMP. “November 19 in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance. Unorthodox will reunite (featuring Ronnie Kalimon and Dale Flood of Asylum) and it should be great fun,” he writes in an email.
September 2: Krulik announces screening events for HMP in Coney Island, Montreal, and San Francisco. HMP screens in Pittsburgh.
Sept. 6: Peter Sallade, a programmer at the Beijing International Film Festival, emails Krulik:
Hey, so my friends own this popular American BBQ joint right by the US Embassy, which is the perfect venue for your documentary. Normally we try not to show anything without Chinese subtitles, but this’ll be easy since pretty much everyone who comes to the place understands English to a degree.
I’ve booked it for October 17th, billing the evening as our ‘Budgetless Bombs’ night, where we show the worst movies we’ve ever received,” Sallade writes. “That gives me an excuse to show some unintentionally funny stuff as well. I hope you don’t mind getting lumped into this category. It’s all in the name of making the event promotion interesting and getting some more movies into the mix that we wouldn’t be able to screen otherwise!
What kind of imbecile would tell someone they are being accepted into a film festival, but lumped into ‘the worst movies we’ve ever received?’ What do you think? Of course I mind being ‘lumped into this category.’ Did I pay an admission fee for this honor? Do whatever you want. Have fun.”
In an email to Heyn, Krulik writes, “I cannot wait for this year to be over so I can move on with my life.”
September 7: Salade responds to Krulik:
Ok, sorry about that! There’s really no intention to offend! Some filmmakers don’t mind, like Andy from Troma, who also lives in Beijing and might bring over some Troma movies! These screenings are free of course! Never an admission fee to come have a party and laugh at the silliness projected. Thanks for your patience and understanding and we’re grateful for your permission to show “Heavy Metal Picnic” at the Budgetless Bombs night! It’ll go great with pulled pork BBQ and beer!
Man you’ve got some balls, and I gotta say, I’m impressed. I called you an imbecile and it bounced off you like teflon. You’ve got what it takes to succeed in this business, and I’m not joking.
Best of luck with your fest and screenings.
September 23-25: HMP screens at Coney Island and in Montreal.
Sept. 28: Krulik emails supporters with reactions to the Coney Island and Montreal screenings. “They loved us in Montreal! And at Coney Island there were about 12 persons there, and they enjoyed it as well, but maybe not as enthusiastically as Montreal. Glad to hear it. Onward to DVD Release!”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery