The Void Sits Down with Fun City Editions Founder Jonathan Hertzberg For An Exclusive Interview
Our next Void screening is the grimy, crime-fueled 80s gem ALPHABET CITY. As we prep to bring it to you on the big screen in 35mm this Friday with star Vincent Spano joining us in person and director Amos Poe joining us remotely (tickets are still available here), we also sat down with Fun City Editions founder Jonathan Hertzberg, who brought new life to ALPHABET CITY over the past year by choosing it as the inaugural release for his exciting new label.
Read on to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Blu-ray release of ALPHABET CITY came to be, all the way from acquiring rights to the distribution process, and also to get a sneak peek at what's coming next from Fun City.
A look at a work-in-progress design of the ALPHABET CITY Blu-ray artwork, courtesy of Sonny Day and Biddy Maroney from We Buy Your Kids
Article by Eddie Gurrola, Cinematic Void Marketing Manager
Additional photos courtesy of Fun City Editions and Jonathan Hertzberg
Cinematic Void: We’ve really appreciated Fun City Editions and what you’ve brought to the Blu-ray market over the past year. For the uninitiated, can you explain what the label is all about and what people can expect from a Fun City release that's different from what they might get from another label?
Jonathan Hertzberg: Thank you for saying so! It's been so gratifying and really like a dream to see so many people truly taking to what we are doing, in such short order. Generally, we've tried to focus on titles that haven't been done on Blu-ray or DVD or even, in some cases, home video before. I think a mission of sorts has been to release titles that are more difficult to pigeonhole, which may have genre elements, but which are harder to pin down as this kind of film or that kind of film. I still go back to the company credo: "works of cinema and music that exist outside of their time." I wasn't sure how all this was going to go down and, to be honest, it wasn't all written in stone beforehand, either, but people seem to be getting it and appreciating it.
Fun City releases on the shelf at Vinegar Syndrome's The Archive store in Bridgeport, CT
We're pumped to screen ALPHABET CITY this Friday in 35mm, and we thought it would be fun to walk through the process of how your Blu-ray release of the film came to be. Starting with the movie itself - was this a situation where it was a film you’d always dreamed about putting out on Blu-ray, or was there something else that made it a candidate for your first release?
The folks at Vinegar Syndrome, several of whom I was already acquainted with, were working on a deal with MGM and a mutual friend put us together, so that I was able to select some titles from that catalog for the fledgling FCE to license. This was the start of becoming a partner label of VS / OCN.
The MGM catalog has obviously been very picked over by many different labels over the last several years, but there were and still are some gems such as ALPHABET CITY that had yet to be dusted off. I liked ALPHABET CITY when I saw it for the first time years ago, but I came to appreciate it more and more as it became something I was likely going to restore and release.
Obviously, like I said, it was attractive because it hadn't been done before on Blu-ray and it has myriad stylistic elements that make it a more than worthwhile film and which make it marketable. Amos Poe, No Wave, Nile Rodgers' music, down and out, pre-gentrification early '80s New York, Vince Spano, Oliver Wood's cinematography...all of these things are hooks that can be connected to better-known films and shows so that you can say, "If you like any of combination of the Safdies, Nicolas Winding Refn, Grand Theft Auto, MIAMI VICE, Abel Ferrara, SCARFACE, AFTER HOURS, THE WARRIORS, there should be something in ALPHABET CITY for you." The bottom line is, I think ALPHABET CITY is a far better and more influential film than it's been given credit for over the years. Hopefully, we've done a small part in rectifying that over the last year with our Blu-ray.
A further-down-the-line work-in-progress design for the ALPHABET CITY artwork, courtesy of Sonny Day and Biddy Maroney from We Buy Your Kids
We're curious if you can give us some insight into how ALPHABET CITY, and other films that you release, get scanned in and restored. What is that actual process like, from taking the film elements to turning it into the Blu-ray that we end up seeing on our screens at home?
For ALPHABET CITY, we scanned a 35mm interpositive held by MGM in 2K. The IP is one generation removed from the camera negative. From there we have a raw scan that is then color graded and restored. All or most of that restoration work is done by experts at VS's lab, OCN Digital.
Some Fun City releases on Jonathan's bookcase at home
Onto the distribution process - tell us about what it’s like working with Vinegar Syndrome as a partner label. Is it a group effort working together on marketing, artwork, etc, or do you complete the release independently, and they take the finished product and distribute from there?
The acquisitions, special features, art, and design is all done by FCE. We will consult on different aspects of a release with our partners at VS and OCN Distribution, but the production is done by us, from concept to completion. The finished product is turned over to OCN for manufacturing, duplication, printing, shipping, etc. and the overall VS / OCN marketing and publicity machine.
A work-in-progress design for the RANCHO DELUXE slipcover, courtesy of Sonny Day and Biddy Maroney from We Buy Your Kids
We all know that slipcovers are important (granted, to some collectors more than others) and Fun City has had some amazing slipcovers out there so far. In your eyes, what makes a great slipcover?
Wow, thank you for saying that. To answer your question, I ask another question: "Does the slipcover make viewers where there were no viewers of that film before?" Much of our audience so far are people who were not previously familiar with our films to a large degree, so the artwork has to grab them first and foremost. We've so often heard people say something to the effect of: "I never heard of ALPHABET CITY before, but holy shit, I had to have it after I saw that slipcover art." That artwork was by We Buy Your Kids, by the way. I was familiar with their work previously and I just knew it was perfectly suited to the ALPHABET CITY aesthetic. They thoroughly knocked it out of the park.
WALKING THE EDGE playing The New Bev last month (and yes, shameless plug again, we've still got tickets for our screening of ALPHABET CITY in 35mm this Friday)
Final question: We’re all about the grit and the sleaze here at Cinematic Void, and you’ve nailed it with both coasts represented so far: New York with ALPHABET CITY, and Los Angeles with WALKING THE EDGE. Are there more grimy New York and LA films that we can look forward to seeing from Fun City Editions in the months to come?
You can definitely expect more grimy New York and LA films in the near future. But first we have the grimy, yet beautiful, RADIO ON from England. It's in black and white and has been gorgeously restored in 4K by the BFI. That restoration will have its North American premiere at this year's New York Film Festival. It will play at Metrograph in NY after that, as well as other theaters around the country. I'm hoping one of those will be in LA, but we're still working on it. This is a road movie that will appeal to fans of TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and KINGS OF THE ROAD. And its soundtrack is legendary: David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Devo, Robert Fripp, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, and more.
The final artwork for the ALPHABET CITY Blu-ray release
And...one last time...our screening of ALPHABET CITY in 35mm, with star Vincent Spano joining us for a Q&A and director Amos Poe joining us remotely for a video intro, is this Friday at the Los Feliz 3! You can grab your tickets right here.