a short film by Jim Spring
based on Ron Kolm’s story
by Mark McCawley
ad Karma, directed by Jim Spring, dates from the mid-90s. It is taken from a short story written by Ron Kolm, first published in Michael Carter’s Redtape magazine. Jim Spring and Elana Fisher produced it, and the film was edited by Andrea Newhouse. The director of photography was David Morabito and the art director was Soraya Rashid. Patricia Dunnock played Jill, and Max Mankind played Duke. The two main characters sell magazines, etcetera, on the streets of the East Village. Kim Gordon’s band, Free Kitten, plays in the early part of the film, and Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth, pushing a stroller in the crowd watches them. The film — much like Kolm’s Duke and Jill stories — captures a time and place in New York City that has all but disappeared.
Mark McCawley: When did you first learn there was be a film based upon one of your Duke and Jill stories?
Ron Kolm: Some twenty years ago I met Jim Spring at an Unbearables get together. We were drinking and plotting strategy at the Pyramid Club, or the Limbo Lounge, I forget which, and this guy sits down next to me and says he knows Michael Carter, the editor and publisher of Redtape magazine, and he just read the latest issue, Redtape #7 [Tragicomix], and that he really liked my story, ‘Bad Karma,’ which was in that issue, and that he could really identify with the main character, Duke, because he, Jim Spring, had sold stuff on the street, too, when he was broke. He pointed out that he wasn’t broke anymore, and, in fact, he was now directing music videos for the fledgling company, MTV, and would I consider letting him make of film of ‘Bad Karma.’ I was shocked that anyone had actually read my story; forget about making a film of it. So, of course, I said ‘sure.’ And that’s how it all began. I later saw a number of his music videos: Dinosaur Jr., Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, RailRoad Jerk, Shady, Bongwater and the 360s. I have them on an old VHS tape, and I really should get them transferred to a better medium. He really is a terrific filmmaker.
Mark McCawley: Was there a screenplay? Who wrote it? Or was it loosely based?
Ron Kolm: There was a screenplay loosely based on the story, and it was written by Jim Spring. I trusted him totally, so I never interfered with what he was doing.
Mark McCawley: Were the cameos in the film planned ahead of time? i.e. Kim Gordon’s band, Free Kitten; and Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth, pushing a stroller in the crowd that’s watching them.
Jim Spring, the director and scriptwriter for Bad Karma, responded with:
“I know Kim and Thurston from rock scene osmosis. I did a photo shoot for Free Kitten, Kim and Julie Cafritz’ band. I was pretty tight with Julie for awhile and I thought they were kind of cool grungy ny almost no wavy thing that straddled my time in ny and also that of Duke and Jill’s.
Bad Karma starred Max Mankind and Patricia Dunnok, it premiered at the New York underground film festival.”
Redtape #7 [Tragicomix] was one of seven zines edited and published by Michael Carter in the East Village between 1980-1992. The magazine communicated innovative artistic ideas and divided its pages between literature and graphics. Redtape encouraged the collaboration of writers and visual artists. Michael Carter, editor and publisher, said that the purpose of the magazine was “to explore new possibilities and forms of expression, to develop craft and technique without becoming sequestered in an intellectual or academic ivory tower.” Redtape featured comics, fiction, poetry, graphic art, and photography. It also provided a venue for both established and emerging artists and writers of the downtown New York scene. UG