Tempe Town Flick: Filmmaker Nico Holthaus Plans Stuck Outside of Phoenix

Categories: Movies, Q&A

Filmmaker/documentarian Nico Holthaus plans to film a fictionalized account of the Tempe music boom of the '90s with homegrown talent.
By any yardstick you wish to measure it, you probably owe Nico Holthaus a drink. If nothing else. Mill Avenue Inc, his 2008 documentary chronicling the corporate invasion of Tempe, is a talking history time capsule of the faces and places that made the Tempe music boom of the '90s happen. But it did more than that. It raised awareness about what really transpires when store chains and greedy developers choke the life and soul out of an art community and it has spawned an ongoing series of Holthaus documentaries about similar struggles throughout the country. Last year saw the Tucson chapter of this saga The Avenue which told a happier tale of how the community fought back and won.

Now Holthaus is directing a fictionalized account of those halcyon days of Tempe jangle, based on former Refreshments bassist founder Art Edwards' 2003 novel Stuck Outside of Phoenix and he's using Kickstarter (yes, that again) to get the necessary funds and is auditioning actors SAG and non-SAG this Sunday at ASU.

We spoke to him about his hopes and some of his fears on going ahead with the project. And to see him make lots of "air quotes."

Up on the Sun: How does having made Mill Ave, Inc make it easier or difficult to film a fictionalized retelling of that same period in Tempe music? Are people who've seen that documentary expecting this to be a more in-depth documentary of those bands and that time?

Nico Holthaus: It makes it both easier and harder, for different reasons. For one-- and I joked about this to my Film Studies class I taught at ASU -- I've been typecast [laughs], as a "documentarian"( air quotes) who tackles heavy, media-unpopular subjects. And I told them, "Hey, I signed in to film making fifteen years ago as an actor and writer! Not to be a 'social impact documentarian'." I've already seen some comments from people who've seen the Stuck trailer, and they ask if this is a documentary! I assure you it is not. But then there are also a lot of movies that blur documentary and narrative. I guess this could be considered something like a "docudrama or docufiction" because it is based on real events of a real time and real place.

Now, my history of these docs (and other works) is also good for Stuck because people know, first of all, that I do finish everything I start, no matter how many flakes, deaths, etc. that would normally derail a project. So even if we don't get the laughably low goals we set for the budget, I'll find a way to get it done. Another reason is a little more obvious-- more and more people are getting to know me and my projects, despite some attempts from others to hide them.

How closely will you cast these fictionalized characters to look their real-life counterparts?

This is a work of fiction, and all of Art's characters are fictional. But as the adage goes, "ya write what ya know." So of course there'll be audience members (and book readers) who, in the know, will say, "That's gotta be Doug Hopkins" or "That's gotta be Robin Wilson," etc. And they'll probably be partially right. I can't speak for Art on this, but I see multiple "real" characters in many of his fictional characters. If I see someone who happens to look like one of our "real life" musicians, and who can play instruments and can act, well, hell. Why not? It's all amorphous. Just adds to the fun of it all. There'll be lots of "wink wink"s and inside jokes, but we're careful to not do, "And then Doug said this to Jesse that night at the Sun Club after Brent Babb and Brian Griffiths did this or that..."

Who from that scene has expressed an interest in being involved?

Both Robin Wilson and Doug Hopkins's estate have given me the rights to use several of their rarer, and/or unreleased or unheard songs to use in this movie and soundtrack. Harry McCaleb and I will do mastering/remastering/re-recording if need be. And no less than 30 musicians, managers, and other "insiders" from that scene have offered to donate certain things, not to mention making cameos throughout the movie. I won't name names here, but you can safely assume almost every one of your Tempe '90s music heroes is involved in some capacity.

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Wise monkey?


Cool, please have Liv Tyler play my part.


Yep. I liked W.M.O.  And there were a TON of other bands I liked (esp. One, Rain Convention....), but when I do these interviews, I gotta use shorthand, keeping such lists short.  ;)


'Rin, you've always been able to crack me up.

Um, next time I run into her dad, I'll try really hard to sound like I want to cast her for purely acting purposes.  And I won't tell him the budget.
But yeah, you got it!

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