The documentary “Off The Boulevard” gives a behind-the-scenes look of the entertainment industry. Seven independent artists share their struggles, failures and accomplishments while dedicating themselves to the pursuit of their artistic dreams.
Musicians Keith Jackson and Nick Nicholson, filmmakers Troy Duffy and Jeff Santo, actors David Della Rocco and Sanel Budimlic, and stand-up comedian Bob Rubin share their journeys while struggling and persevering on the path of independence. The documentary also includes insights from industry stars, including Peter Fonda (“Easy Rider” and “Ulee’s Gold”), Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”), Gilby Clarke (Guns ‘N’ Roses), Sonny Barger (Hell’s Angels), Dan Haggerty (“Grizzly Adams”), and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam).
Let’s get the nit-picky technical out of the way — which, overall, consisted of a few minor problems. The film was clumsy in parts, especially when the camera lens peered through a car windshield and, in another part, an airplane window. I was trying to listen to the narrator but couldn’t help but notice a bird pooped on the windshield. A few times the camera was out of focus, sometimes it was not centered. There were a couple instances with audio problems but, as Tripper said in “Meatballs,” it just doesn’t matter!
I soon forgot about these technicalities because it’s not about cinemotography, it’s about the meat of the film — the story. It took me a little ways (about 20 minutes or so) to become fully on board but when I did, I was rockin’ and rollin’ and felt a part of the conversation. It’s like meeting someone new — give the person a chance before passing judgement because if they turn out to be cool — or even awesome — it was worth the time.
That’s what happened with “Off The Boulevard.” I kept watching and soon became engrossed with these men, from the well-known Duffy of “Boondock Saints” fame to the lesser known Budimlic of “Jake’s Corner,” who although not mainstream yet has a powerful and moving story to share, a story he shares with modesty (hint hint … nudge nudge … Budimlic and Santo are working on “Made in Bosna.” Google it.).
I love the laid-back aspect of “Off The Boulevard” because these men share personal and difficult aspects of their lives — from Budimlic fleeing the Bosnian/Serbian war and living in a refugee camp for 7 months before coming to the U.S. to Duffy fighting to get paid for the first “Boondock Saints” (which grossed $150 million). I felt like I was sitting in the room while they discussed their hopes, dreams and failures.
I became engrossed. How could I not?
This movie has heart: from Budimlic first learning to act when soldiers frequented his home during the Bosnian/Serbian war to loot, forcing him to act like this was fine so he could stay alive — “We don’t need this anymore! Go right ahead!” — to a peek at Santo’s documentary “This Old Cub” where his father, famed baseball great Ron Santo, silently puts on his prosthetic legs after losing the limbs to diabetes (I did not just tear up, I cried).
This movie has humor: how could it not with in-your-face Bob “The Rube” Rubin, who’s philosophy is if you don’t get my jokes then go f- yourself?
This movie has anger: Duffy fighting tooth-and-nail to get his cult classic “Boondock Saints” filmed only to later fight even harder to get payment for himself, his producers and the principal cast. Duffy also fought — and stills continues to fight — against the stereotypes about his character expressed in the documentary “Overnight,” which left viewers with the image of Duffy as extremely arrogant and prone to explosive outbursts.
Above all, “Off the Boulevard” is about dedication to achieving your dreams, which all these men share, especially Nicholson, a country singer and military veteran who perseveres through bad gigs and managers until, finally, his sweet tunes hit the right ears and his hit-song is played on the radio! Yes, money would be nice. Fame? Of course! But with true artists, it’s about a dream they are drawn to with a mystical urgency. These men don’t sing, write, act or direct simply because they want to, they do it because they have to.
The film is like Dr. Seuss’s “The Places You’ll Go” for adult independent artists, which is ironic because Santo teaches at a film school. Save yourself a class fee and check this movie out for well-knowns and not-so-well-knowns sharing the reality behind the curtain of Hollywood — red carpets, paparazzi, corporate, oh my!
This reality is also conveyed through honest words-of-wisdom delivered by men who have been there, are still there, and know. Jackson (“The Glass Heroes”) sharing, “I don’t want anyone to tell me what’s good or bad, I’m gonna figure that out on my own.” Della Rocco (“The Boondock Saints”) commenting, “There’s only a few of us that can live this life.” Duffy remembering, “Sometimes you (Santo) and I will be sitting there crying into our beers, looking at each other, and then we’ll both start fucking laughing because it’s ridiculous. Kids don’t know how bad this can get.”
If you’re a dreamer — isn’t everyone, more or less? — if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, actor or musician, or if you’re like me and simply enjoy an inside look at the human spirit and seeing celebrities unveiled as everyday human beings, watch this film.
“Every artist must take a risk. With that risk everything becomes uncertain, the destiny you hope for, the destination you move towards, all is uncertain. When you are in these waters of uncertainty, the rules for every artist is to hold tight to one living thing and one living thing only: Your Dream. It’s that life that survives.”
“Off the Boulevard” is directed by Jeff Santo and written by Santo and Christie Collins. For details, check out www.santofilms.com. — Kate Vendetta
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.