The blog of author Dennis Cooper

DIEDIEMAOMAO Presents… 5 New Videos by Nick Toti

DieDieMaoMao is a semi-anonymous, loosely organized filmmaking collective whose most active/visible member is the Los Angeles-based filmmaker, Nick Toti. In addition to producing Toti’s recent work, DieDieMaoMao is also involved in DVD production/distribution and has hosted numerous screenings of work by DIY/underground filmmakers.

For more, please visit: vimeo.com/diediemaomao
For updates, join the DieDieMaoMao mailing list HERE

 

5 New Works by Produced & Directed Nick Toti

#1 – KILL, KOBEK… KILL!

Toti: This project came about around the time I finished another collaboration with the author Jarett Kobek. He asked if I would be interested in documenting his attempts to pick public fights with right wing media personalities as part of the promotional efforts for his new book, Only Americans Burn in Hell. We spent about three months in the fall of 2019 reaching out to conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens trying to find anyone who would be willing to have the Kobek on their shows. Would Kobek defeat his enemies on their own turf or suffer the humiliation of public defeat? Either way, it sounded fun to me. The end result is a self-deprecating exploration of the state of publishing in America, the death of democracy, and the theological values of failure. On a formal level, I was interested in making something that had the sort of dumb, self-consciously dark or “evil” aesthetic qualities of black metal. Kobek plays around with these ideas in his book too, so it seemed appropriate for this project. In fact, the whole movie turned into a kind of distillation/ rearrangement of the various themes and sensibilities of Kobek’s book.

 

#2 – Vive la fantaisie / Ceci n’est pas une fantaisie

Toti: My friends Lily and Simon are a married couple who perform around Los Angeles as a harp/cello duo called Strange Interlude. We had been talking about collaborating on something for a few months and eventually made this. The piece they’re playing is by Camille Saint-Saëns, though it was originally written for violin and harp. Apparently, in some classical music circles, switching instruments for a piece like this is considered controversial or iconoclastic, so I wanted to approach the video with a similarly subtle sense nose-thumbing. I liked the idea of taking imagery that’s stereotypically “French” (the colors of the French flag, the Pierrot figure from the commedia dell’arte, etc.) but then perverting it into something totally meaningless. The whole video also has this slightly disorienting quality because you can’t quite tell where the live music is coming from due to the dual screens. These little games make filmmaking (an otherwise unrewarding process full of countless disappointments, in my experience) much more fun.

 

#3 – JORDAN CASTRO READS 12 POEMS BY JORDAN CASTRO

Toti: This footage was shot the same night as Megan Boyle’s epic reading of her novel Liveblog. I happened to also record a reading by Jordan Castro (who was one of Boyle’s opening acts at the same event), which I found completely charming. I really love his deadpan delivery, and you can tell that he’s completely controlling the room despite the fact that he presents himself like he’s embarrassed to be there or something. For some reason, about fifteen months after shooting this footage, I got the idea to make this little movie. The screen-within-a-screen is actually the livestream that Megan Boyle was shooting all night from her laptop. I first added it in to help cover up some of the sound issues I had with my camera that night, but then I liked how it looked with the second screen in the corner, so I kept it. Jordan is also reading off his phone, so there’s actually three screens featuring these poems at the same time (which seems appropriate for these “alt lit” writers).

 

#4 – SO WHAT?

Toti: I went to college with a guy named Franklin Cline who’s become a pretty good poet in the time since I first knew him. His first book was published at the end of 2017, and we reconnected when he passed through Los Angeles on a reading tour. He lives in Milwaukee now, which is coincidentally a city that I’ve had to visit numerous times over the past two years while working on a documentary about the local musician Sigmund Snopek III. Franklin and I try to hang out when we can, and one of these times I interviewed him on a whim. At the end of the interview, I asked him if he wanted to recite a poem, which he did without hesitation. I made this short video from that footage while I was teaching myself the updated layout of a new version of Adobe Premiere (specifically, I was getting used to the changes in how one adds text to a video). It’s probably worth mentioning that Franklin’s book is titled So What and every poem in it is also titled “So What.”

 

#5 – RINGU: MEME ORIGINS

Toti: This is the outlier of my recent work because it’s the one that most resembles a “normal movie” (which is to say: it has actors playing characters from a script, a crew, decent equipment, etc.). We actually shot the movie three years ago, but it was only released online a couple months ago after an extremely underwhelming festival run (out of about thirty festival submissions, it only played one). The backstory of the movie is that a friend of mine–an incredibly smart/talented nonfiction writer with no prior screenwriting experience–decided to write a short screenplay. He sent it to me, and I thought it was incredibly funny in a very odd way that I had never quite seen before. I didn’t really want to make the movie myself, but I also felt certain that no one else ever would. So I decided to do it just because I wanted this thing to exist. My thought going in was that, in order to work, the movie would have to look as “competent” as possible (which clearly is not usually a priority for me). Despite my usual DIY working methods, I have a decent number of respectable film industry connections, and I exploited every one of them for this project. I love how the movie turned out, but making it was a complete drag–I much prefer keeping things as small as possible. As for the movie itself, it’s set in the same world as those Ring movies about haunted videotapes, but instead of a horror movie, it’s an absurdist comedy about memes–both in their popular online form and the more cultural/scientific usage (i.e. memetics). It has a twist ending that only a small minority of viewers seem to appreciate. This was another one of my little personal games: When the project began, the ending was culturally relevant; as time passes, the meme loses its meaning and falls into obscurity. The whole movie a a recycling of dead cultural objects.

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GLOBAL PANDEMIC BONUS PACK: 5 Older Works Produced by Nick Toti

If anyone simply can’t get enough content while under quarantine, here are some older works that Nick Toti produced (or associate produced) but didn’t direct. Most of these were made in Austin, Texas between 2012-2015. Chris Knudsen’s movie was made in New York City from 2015-2017.

 

#1 – YOU ARE YOUR BODY / YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY
Directed by Matt Latham, 2014

 

#2 – MASTER CLASS
Written & Directed by Justin Wright Neufeld, 2015

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 4:

Episode 5:

Episode 6:

Episode 7:

Episode 8:

Episode 9:

Episode 10:

 

#3 – IT FELT GOOD TO HAVE THIS PAIN
Written & Directed by Matt Latham, 2012

 

#4 – DISENCHANTED
Directed by Galen Church, 2013
Produced by NeuSpaceChurch Productions

 

#5 – there is no god and he will kill us all
Directed by Christopher Scott Knudsen, 2017

 

 

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p.s. Hey. Those of you who frequent this location have come to know the work of the fantastic LA-based filmmaker Nick Toti given that he has generously had the world cyber-premieres of a couple of his feature films right here in my humble abode. Today he returns to give us a potpourri of short films, both his and ones he has produced, starring both total strangers and lit. superstars like Jarrett Kobek and Justin Castro. And that’s your cue to use today start working your way through the filmic gifts, and I hope you will. Thanks, all, and mightiest thanks to Nic himself! ** Milk, Hi, Milk. Well, it depends on what real means. Those profile texts and comments are real, written by them and just line edited by me in some cases for concision. On the other hand, having spent a lot of time in the slave/master sites gathering those profiles for the last many years, I think it’s very safe to say that, oh, 90 or more % of what they say they actually want and say they do or have done is just a bunch of guys fantasising aloud with and to each other because, let’s face it, if even a fraction of what they want/do/have done was authentic, there’d be tons of missing persons and dead bodies all over the place and all sorts of real world consequences, and those sites would not just be sitting out there with no outside interference. So there’s my educated guess. ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, a very magnanimous slave, that one. And, yes, that accusation is well known about over here. ** Bill, Talk about creative use of the pandemic! We could all learn a lesson from those wild-brained horndogs. May your ambivalence justifiably transform you into the blushing bride of your brilliant ideas! I’ve got a couple of streaming things on the agenda for today unless I decide to end up just wasting my time as per more usual. What were yours? ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Everyone, a two-bie from Mr. Erickson today. (1) He’s proud of this brief stab at writing horror movie soundtrack music. (2) He has reviewed Quentin Dupieux’s film ‘Deerskin’. Have at them! I’m telling you, the pandemic has turned the S&M set into Dostoyevskys. I’m excited for ‘Medea’. Hopefully today. ** Misanthrope, He wins yesterday’s prize for stick-to-it-ive-ness. If we don’t count the ‘successfully’ ‘snuffed’ ones. Well, what about you, George? Don’t you feel like being worshipped? Hm, dilemma there re: your invitation. Are there cops cruising the streets looking for excessively long distance drivers? Mozart! Or … Mozart?! ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Yes, the slaves are using their lockdowns as golden opportunities to burst with creativity unlike us, or unlike me at least. They should do Zoom tutorials. Huh. About the print. Yes, several years ago that print was supposed to get a theater release here followed by a Blu/Ray DVD, and I don’t know what happened. I wish I was still in touch with Guillaume des Forêts, the star, who you might recall I met and had a long amazing talk with soon after I moved here. Anyway, I haven’t dug into the rarefilmm print yet. Today. Definitely way too early to know what the fiction idea would be or if it will progress past the interesting seeming idea stage. I’m working on it though. So far so pretty good. Are you working on your novel? Yes, RIP Tony Allen. What a big loss. A serious genius, that guy. I had the massively great fortune to see Africa 70 live in Amsterdam in the mid-80s, and whoa! ** Right. Nick Toti is your go-to for today, as I explained, and give yourself the pleasure, folks, and do pass along any thoughts, even slight, to Nick in your comments should any thoughts occur to you, thank you very much. See y’all tomorrow.

7 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    Wow — It’s a Little On-line Film Festival! Merci Nick!

  2. _Black_Acrylic

    @ Nick, thank you for this tremendous bounty that I will tackle more of this coming weekend. I took in the shorter films (Lily and Simon’s musical performance and So What) today and enjoyed them a great deal.

  3. Steve Erickson

    My essay on DANCER IN THE DARK is now up:https://thequietus.com/articles/28194-film-dancer-in-the-dark-anniversary-lars-von-trier, as is my SPACESHIP EARTH review (although the film doesn’t start streaming till next Friday): https://www.gaycitynews.com/raisers-of-a-new-ark/

    I can see tutorials on “how to write a successful slave personal,” although of course that depends what measure of success is.

    On Bandcamp 100% artist proceeds day, I downloaded the HKH CRYOSPHERE compilation, featuring experimental electronic music from South and East Asian artists.

    I also commemorated surviving this dreadful month by making a Spotify playlist of the best new music I heard in April: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2zmaArKwKY8BIpHGRDZfoU?si=3UWEZqV4RgyR8Dy-PbXWoA. When I mentioned it to my dad this morning, he asked “What is Spotify?” and said that he and my mom constantly get pop-ups asking them to sign up for it. It’s strange that they would get them because they have no interest in streaming music, so I’m sure they have never even clicked on the site.

    @Nick–RINGU: MEME ORIGINS was pretty funny. The actress who plays the mom chews the scenery with great delight. The joke may play better now that the Harambe memes themselves have faded into the past, much like the pop culture presence of the RINGU movies and their many sequels and remakes. (It’d be funny if the women’s house was filled with DVDs of Gore Verbinski’s remake of RING.)

  4. Bill

    I really enjoyed Nick’s earlier Complete History of Seattle. Look forward to checking out these soon.

    Like Steve, I was kept pretty busy checking out the bandcamp May Day releases. Jeremiah Cymerman’s Systema Munditotius, vol 1 sounds pretty good for starters. I was grumbling about him not releasing any recordings for a couple years, then there’s two already in 2020!

    Not much to show today otherwise. I blame a long socially distanced walk in the park with a couple friends. I promise to make a less pathetic effort over the weekend.

    Saw Tsukamoto’s “A Snake of June” last night. Beautiful, but I was pretty unhappy with the ending.

    Bill

  5. Misanthrope

    Nick, Great work. As usual. Kind of like telling a pretty girl she’s pretty, you know? Redundant. But yes, kudos and bravo!

    Dennis, Yuck, I think I’d be kind of creeped out if somebody wanted to worship…ME. I’d be like, um, what the fuck is wrong with you? Like, I understand wanting to be enslaved in the master-slave sense here than wanting to worship…ME. That’s some fucked up shit. The other stuff? Wouldn’t even blink an eye compared to that.

    That’s the question! I don’t think they’re doing that in MD or VA. But you never know…might have one of those rogue-ass cops sitting around, you know. Or get pulled over for something else, and then, “Btw, where are you going?” Or: “Let me see your papers!” 😛

    I might bail on that thing anyway. Woke up this morning with inexplicable pain and stiffness in my ankle that only got worse and stiffer. Don’t know what I could’ve done. No swelling or bruising or anything, but man, it hurts. I did exercise Sunday and Monday and it hurt a little then but quickly went away…then BAM! this morning, ugh.

    I hope you have a good weekend. I shall try. About halfway through The Emigrants and really liking it. 😀

    (Oh, and yes, Mozart! Or Mozart?! I’m just full of surprises, no?)

  6. Nick Toti

    Hi Dennis. Thanks again for running this! I’m getting that weird thing where I can’t see the comments, but that usually only lasts for a day for some reason. I’ll check back tomorrow and read them.

  7. Corey Heiferman

    I was tone-deaf to all memes but Harambe and still enjoyed Ringu very much. Very spooky child performance, certainly on par with horror movies with much bigger budgets and casting departments.

    Another fiction idea? Already? Ah, the interesting seeming idea stage. I’ve come to accept an inevitable lag time between the interesting seeming idea stage and actually doing anything. I used to write this off as pure procrastination but maybe it could charitably be called germination?

    I’ve long thought of Mozart as the Beatles of classical music so similarly I don’t go out of my way to listen yet I dare not attempt a takedown.

    My dad is handling chemo about as well as anybody could. We were on the phone yesterday and in the middle of the conversation he said “shit, I forgot to ask my oncologist something” and I got nervous. Then with deadpan delivery he continued with “I should’ve asked him to inject me with disinfectant and shine a light on it.”

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