Franco Parente Talks Churchill's Pub Documentary, Little Haiti Rock City
Photo by Marta Xochilt Perez
Churchill's the Movie is currently in production, and there's a Kickstarter campaign raising funds to help complete Little Haiti Rock City.
The dude responsible is Franco Parente, a freelance filmmaker born and raised in Miami. He has won numerous film festival awards. He has a French television series development deal. And he has directed commercials for corporations like Burger King.
He and co-producer Angel Markoulis recently quit their jobs to devote all their energy to the Churchill's Pub project. Here's what Franco has to say about Marilyn Manson, Peter Buck, and U2.
See also: Churchill's Pub: An Oral History
County Grind: How'd this idea come about?
Franco Parente: It's a piece of Miami history that people don't usually associate with Miami. It's an important part of the city that's been sold, and even though the walls will stay up, and the doors will stay open, there's new owners, the place is gonna change, and it's important to document it and remember the way it is.
What's important about it?
There's been a lot of history as far as musicians and artists that have started there and then gone on to share their music with the world. People don't know that they started at this dive bar in Little Haiti.
Who are some of these bands?
Iron and Wine, Marilyn Manson, The Mavericks...all different genres of music. One is a platinum selling country band, one is a multi platinum selling hard rock metal band, one is a platinum selling folk/indie artist, and they all played the same stage.
Who have you interviewed so far?
We already interviewed The Mavericks at their sound check at the Parker Playhouse for their reunion tour. We've spoken to Sam from Interpol who has pledged to help out with the project however he can, and we're in conversations with Marilyn Manson's people.
We've interviewed all the staff, or at least most of the staff, a lot of the bands that have history there like The Holy Terrors, Quit, Load, Charlie Pickett, Hank Milne. Those last two are South Florida punk rock legends. Hank is in the band The Three Jacks, who play Celtic rock all over the world. Him and Charlie are both now attorneys and they still rock out. That's who we've gotten thus far, and the funds we're asking for is to be able to continue and get Marilyn Manson, Iron and Wine, Sam from Interpol, he's from right here in Miami, and everybody else.
Why $79,000 and what are you going to do with it?
We're raising $79,000 in honor of 1979 being the year that Churchill's opened. And we're running the Kickstarter for 35 days in honor of the 35 years that Dave Daniels ran the place. We have a private investment for securing the music rights we need, and for post production, and now we're raising money for the actual production of the movie.
Who is working on it?
I'm producing the movie with Angel Markoulis, and our co-producer is Nicky Bowe, who has been the bartender at Churchills for the last 12 years. Nicky was also recently named on of the 20 most influential people in Miami. And I'm the director as well.
What's your relationship with the place?
I started going there when i was 17 to check out a friend's band, the Young Turks, back then they were signed to Geffen Records, then they broke up and never did anything, but even back then I always wondered 'What the hell is this place doing in the middle of Little Haiti?' For whatever reason it just works. Bars have come and gone, and places in Miami seem to have a shelf life, but this place has lasted in one of the weirdest places in town. Ive booked shows there. I used to manage bands who played there. I performed spoken word pieces there with my eyes wide open in front of people that understood where I was coming from. I shot my first music video there. I shot my first movie there. It's been a part of my history and the same goes for so many other people in this town. If this movie doesn't get made and the place changes, we miss the opportunity. That's why we do this now.
Why should people contribute to the making of this movie?
Just remember that crowd funding is something new, and it's difficult to ask for $79,000 for a movie, but If everybody that reads this gives ten bucks, we're not asking anybody to sell the farm or give up their rent check, we'll have it. We're just local filmmakers telling a local story that has international appeal, and that's a good way to spend ten bucks.
What makes it an international story?
It's an international place. Miami is known for it's cultural diversity, but those that know this place, especially if you're born and raised here, know that Miami is also very cliquey. Most people here stick to the same places in the same neighborhoods, but Churchill's is a place where everybody from everywhere goes to. Everybody sitting right there at the bar next to each other, or hanging out outside. It's one building, and nobody judges. You have a millionaire next to a starving artist, and that's pretty hard to find in this town.
It's one of those stories of if you build it they will come. This white British guy comes to Little Haiti in 1979 back when it was still Lemon City, and opens a pub, a pub in the British sense, where he lives out back and is also part of the community. After a hurricane people come and get power off his generator, or ice out of his ice machine. And it shows that if you do something with heart, and you do it right, and you treat people with respect, you can be successful.
And that's how you're making the movie?
All I can say is it's a labor of love. Myself and Angel have basically quit our jobs and jumped in with both feet. We're turning to the same community we're trying to capture, and get just a little bit of help back. We're trying to preserve a piece of the community we're from. We're just asking the world to believe in the story and help us out to get it done.
Who else do you want to interview?
The list is long, but there's a lot of people like Peter Buck from REM who has a great story from Churchill's about how much REM loves Charlie Pickett. They used to come and hang out just to watch him play, and they supported each other on the road, and he produced his last album. U2 came to watch a soccer match here and Mr C charged them a hundred bucks at the door.
We have to call and see if we can make it happen. That's all part of being a documentarian. It takes a lot of time, it's a lot of legwork, and a lot of belief in the project. I'm lucky to have the best partner I could ask for in Angel. She saw what I was doing, and then she just started showing up to all the shoots, and from there she picked up everything I couldn't handle. And now it's become a reality and that's why we're pushing forward. Nicky believed in it since day one. It's just the right place at the right time. We wish Dave the best of luck, but it's important for us to remember everything he built. Whatever changes come to Churchill's history has made it impoprtant for us to capture it.