Friday, December 18, 2009

Embedment: Days 2 & 3

Holy moley...I'm tired.

Okay, what to say, what to say. JMM stopped by the Lodge last night and talked to me for a bit, so that was good. Ivy McLemore (of Cigarette Girl,) came by as well, so it was a very McCarthy type of day over at the Lodge. Lots of folks hangin' out, lots of candid footage. Which is all very good, but I'm really struggling with how this is all gonna come together.

Do I pierce the veil of objectively detached footage and start talking to these people? Or, do I do a lot of interviews and just use this footage as supporting, evidentiary material? Or, do I shoot what I shoot, make no apologies, and let the viewer sort it out for him/herself? I dunno. And folk are still acting out for the camera. It's tough.

And my treacherous body is still on semester schedule, so I wake up at 6:30am no matter how beat I am and can't get back to sleep. (Well, the kitten has something to do with this, as well.)

I think I'm running headlong into my timidness - I'm so nervous around people, I don't want to just come bounding forth with release forms and then start shooting anonymous folk. It feels so blunt. But, I need to. And, do I ask them what they think of Lodge? I mean, this isn't supposed to be a "man on the street" segment. Ugh.

I guess I'm struggling to find a voice, an M.O., a whatever. It's all good, and I can still pull it together, but I am, for real, tired and feel like I need a breakthrough. I'm starting to feel a little crazy. Gotta pull it together, though - it hasn't even been a week.

Sorry, not much fat to chew on today. I'll try to include some better stuff tomorrow.

Take care,


Films Watched:
White Christmas
Funny Farm
Christmas Vacation
Saturday Night Live: Christmas Past
Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas
A bunch of other stuff that I've written down but my notebook is down in the car...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Embedment: Day #1

Clock in: 4:00 pm
Clock Out: 12:15 am

Good first day of shooting. Got a lot of conversations and met some new Lodgers. Collected two Owl tattoos I didn't have before (Chris Bratton, and Timothy Clark.) Shot some customers. Got a few of Black Lodge's unique decorations - I need to take a coupla solid days just shooting the store's burgeoning collection of magazine clippings, graffiti, movie memorabilia, etc. Mostly, though, it was people watching/filming yesterday.

And, lo and behold, a naked butt on the first day of shooting! You know, Dziga Vertov said that the documentary filmmaker could expect that on the first day (or two, or three,) the subjects would probably be inquisitive around the camera, and probably act a little differently than normal. The real documentary starts, I think, when they get bored with the novelty, get over having this new body around them, and just forget that I'm there.

Coolness! Really, really extreme coolness! Kat C. is letting me film her getting an Owl! And its scarification!! Hello opening montage!

Technical problems: There's always a movie going on in Lodge, so there's always a soundtrack to everything. Not only that, but the TV is on the opposite side of the store from the desk, so they freakin' crank it. I'm having a hard time getting clean audio. They do hang out in the back a lot, and that's cool, things sound a lot better, but I gotta experiment a bit with my mikes 'til I find a way to get a clearer audio signal.

Hopefully, I'll be able to make my way over to the editing suite on campus in the next day or two, and, if possible, I'll be throwing up some stills or some footage for your edification. Take care, and I'll be posting again soon.


Films Watched - Day #1:
Ray Charles: Live in Brazil
The Hangover (twice!)
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
Inglorious Bastards (for about ten minutes - then someone came and rented it.)
Bad Santa
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Christmas Evil

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Ground Rules

Hey everyone,

Okay, well, I have to administer a test today from 12-3pm, but then it's off to the Lodge and the beginning of a 3-4 week long intensive film shoot. I'm nervous, I'm excited, I'm dreading it, I'm eager to be involved. It's complicated.

If you have an interest in stopping by, come on down. Here are some things you might want to be aware of:

1.) If I don't drop what I'm doing and talk to you, it's probably because I'm either filming something and trying to be inconspicuous, or busy working with my equipment or doing something film-y. Please be patient, I want to talk to as many people as possible, and I really have zero intention of being a jerk - it just happens sometimes.

2.) If you're interested in participating, the best idea is just to pretend like I don't exist. Hang out at Lodge like you normally would if nothing was going on. Pick a movie. Chat with folks. If you see me creeping up behind you, just ignore it. I'm bringing a ton of release forms, so make sure you sign one on your way out.

3.) If you absolutely do not want to be on camera, and I'm following you around like a twerp, just tell me. That's cool, and I will cut the camera off - no questions asked.

4.) As always, send me your photos of Black Lodge Owls around Memphis. Tell me where you found them. If you have a Black Lodge Owl tattoo, tell me, come talk to me, let me see it, and (if you're willing,) let me shoot it.

This is going to be an experience. I'll keep you all posted.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Where's the beef?

Hey everyone.

Turning in my treatment, budget, and formal proposal this week. It's mostly a formality, but it's the last scholastic hurdle before filming actually begins. And embedment is really close at hand. One week and change left. I really hope folk will come by, but there's something else I wanted to talk about today.

I was talking Lodge with my friend Chad the other day, and he mentioned that he has a friend that has a beef with Lodge, but isn't really interested in talking about it. From what I gathered from the conversation, this guy is under the impression that the doc is gonna be a fluff piece whose sole function is to glorify Lodge.

Look, I'm a Lodge fan, true, but I'm also not livin' in a dream world. Lodge isn't for everyone - I know that. And I think I'd be dishonest if I didn't include the segment of the population that dislikes Lodge, for whatever reason. It makes the story a little more complicated, and Lodge is kind of a complicated place.

Point being, I guess, is that nobody's talking Lodge at all right now, but if you're holding your tongue because you think this is all gonna be pro-Lodge, do me a favor and don't hold back. Bring me your anti-Lodge complaints, beefs, and general antipathy. I can't get honest about this story if you can't.

Be good!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Anomaly #2, or why JMM calls it "Black Loan"

Check it out!

Kerry snags an owl in the women's bathroom of Otherlands coffee! Great oogly-boogly! That's the way to do it! I'da never found it, at peril of criminal violation. There's lotsa reasons why folk could stand to be more like Kerry, but this is one of 'em. If you see an owl, send me a pic, or let me know about it! I'm on the hunt to track as many down as I can.

And check out Kerry's blog (,) while you're at it. Come for the breakfast brackets, stay for the trenchant and dynamic Memphis commentary. It'll do ya good.

Today I want to approach another conspicuous element in the Black Lodge dossier that seperates them from not only chains like Blockbuster (well, duh..) but also from many ("many" being pretty relative, here,) independents.

When was the last time you paid your late fee at Black Lodge? If you're like me, it's probably been awhile. And not just because they're doin' me a solid because I'm making a documentary about them. It's always been like that, from the first time I rented there.

Which is kinda crazy, isn't it? When I think about the amount of money for late returns that they haven't collected - accrued over almost ten years of operation - good grief! That's a decent coupla two three simoleons, right?

Matt and Bryan both say, though, that they're kind of sympathetic to the pathologically-late customer. They can identify with it, and as Matt says, "Why would I penalize someone for doing something that I'd do myself?" Which is pretty cool.

Also, (and, who's with me on this) how many of you folk have a couple of video stores around town that you have to avoid because you have a late fee? I mean, the late fee drives business away from the store, see? So, in a way, it's also smart business to get the customer out from under that black cloud, and back into the store.

Is it worth the sacrifice of the potential revenue stream from late fees? Does it even out? That's a good question, and one I hope to talk to Lodge staff about. I think, though, it makes the place feel a little more comfortable, and a little more personal.

I dunno...why do you think they do it like that? Is it mad? Or, maybe your experience is different from mine. Have you gotten jilted by Black Lodge for some reason or other, along these lines? As always, please, please let me know what you think, or what you'd like to talk about in re: Lodge.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Anomaly #1

Hey, folks. Sorry I've been a little lazy on the updates, but these term papers and presentations aren't gonna finish themselves, y'know. What, do you think I've got nothing else to do but hang around and talk about Black Lodge?

New stuff to report, though - just sent away for 100 mini-DV tapes for $215.00. That's $2.15 a tape, people! Cheap! Give it up for! And, I gotta give credit where credit is due - mucho gracias to Jason Scott for tipping me off to the special. Jason Scott, by the way, is almost painfully cool. Go see how cool by visiting him at

He is, among other things, a fellow documentary filmmaker, and (especially if you're into all things computer) has an excellent documentary on the old BBS systems that proliferated in the eighties before the internet, as we know it, came to be. He's also embarking on a project about independently run video stores, so, natch, we clicked pretty well. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, not only for the cheap tapes heads-up, but also because this guy, who barely knows me from Adam, is letting me borrow his camera so I can have a second camera for the Black Lodge shoot! Awesome!!

I need to get one more shout out before I talk Lodge, and that is to Memphis Connect, which you can find by going here: They've been good enough to retweet my blog on twitter, which will hopefully drive some business over to this here collection of ramblings. Not only that, but they've offered to possibly do a short Q&A which might go up on their site. Holy moley! So, go check out their site for all things Memphis: they're the bomb!

So, back to the issue at hand. I am continuing to prepare for embedment at Black Lodge. Looks like I'll be coming in somewhere between December 8th and December 14th, and starting the shoot. Come down and say "hello!" Or, say "hello" here! Just say it - it's gettin' lonely on this page.

There's a common theme when I talk to folk about Lodge - I'd say 20-30% of them, the first thing they notice or comment on is the fact that you run smack dab into the (diverse and spacious) porn section upon entering Lodge's front door. I mean, you can't avoid it. Some folk are turned off by it, some think it's funny. I've talked with Matt and Bryan about it and - while it's definitely part of the grand Black Lodge scheme - they are (typically) a little evasive about the reasoning behind it.

Matt says that one reason for it is to bring the largely threatening (for most folk) topic of human sexuality out into the open. Everyone's having sex (or wishing they were having sex,) most everyone is watching some kind of porn (yes, even your humble narrator,) but the going strategy is to place it in a creepy back room with lots of sinister security cams recording your every move. If Matt's theory is right, by moving it into the open (indeed, to the very front of the store,) there's a certain onus (yes onus, not onanism,) that is removed in the process.

Do you buy this?

I think what Matt has given me is a theory that came kind of after the fact. I mean, I kinda dig where he's coming from, but I also think there's a more confrontational psychology to having the porn so open and in-your-face, that probably was the first reason it is where it is. Look, I love Lodge, but they're kind of a misanthropic bunch (an aura that they gleefully cultivate.) I think there is a lot to be said for the porn being there because its a way of seperating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, customer-wise. The folk that are badly offended probably aren't the kind of folk that are interested in renting many Lynch/Jarmusch/Herzog/et. al films, anyway, right? Not that Lodge is all about arty films or arty directors, necessarily - just that their stock veers off the beaten path quite a bit.

The unknowing customer searching for Titanic (presuming, of course, that they can get past the spray-painted building with the creepy sign,) is presented straightaway with an environment that is about as candid as they come. And I think there's a certain relinquishment of control that goes along with that - another aspect of Lodge I hope to try to capture in the film. You (or I, or the customer,) are in their house. They have their own rules. You abide, or you leave. It's actually pretty freakin' honest, in my book.

Anyway - what do you think about why they do it? Am I completely off target? Let me know what you think!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Lodge 101

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

I took the day off and drove up to Kennett, Missouri to eat with the woman and her family. First time really hangin' out with her folks, and I managed not to appear too awful creepy. Which is good. I think more than anything they were probably curious as to why I was wandering around in socks (had to pull the woman's car out of a mudhole along the way, so I guess I figured it would be more anti-social to track mud in the house than to walk around in socks...) but nobody said a word.

Anyway, back to the fray. I thought that - seeing as how no-one has arrived here to talk with me about Black Lodge - I'd review the basics. Who I am, who they are, and what it is that I'm trying to do.

"Tucked back from the road on Cooper Avenue stands the unnerving sign for Black Lodge Video. For the uninitiated, the bloodstained letters coupled with the heavily spray-painted house behind it make entry seem, at best, a dicey proposition. Folks in the know, however, march right in to Black Lodge Video, a fiercely independent rental business that specializes in independent, foreign, classic, and genre films ranging from the wildly eclectic to the wholly obscure. Black Lodge Video is also the home of the owners/curators, Matt M., and Bryan H., friends and self-professed “cinephilejunkyfreaks,” who share a militant passion about film, film history, and aesthetic quality. Living the lives of film ascetics, Matt and Bryan have watched Black Lodge evolve into something of a community center since it opened in 2000. Who are the customers who identify with their vision? What is their vision? What is Black Lodge Video really all about?"

The above paragraph was the initial pitch I made to my professors at U of M to be able to do this project. My name is Patrick Buttram, I'm the filmmaker, and the Black Lodge documentary is my thesis project for my Master's degree. I'll be embedding myself at Black Lodge Video over the Christmas holidays and into the New Year. As in, sleeping on their couch, and sharing some living amenities with Chris Bratton, the guy who lives upstairs. And, hopefully, over the course of those thirty days or so I'll be capturing a LOT of footage.

The documentary has evolved a bit from when I first started working on it. I'm a lot more interested, now, in the community of individuals who make up the Black Lodge core - it's not just about movies, you know, a lot of folks are there because it's a place where they feel, more or less, normal and accepted. I also am interested in talking about the threat to Black Lodge (and other places like it,) that comes from services like RedBox and Netflix. These independent video stores are really up against it in the coming years. Matt Martin (co-owner of the store,) speaks pretty catastrophically about the coming years for Black Lodge, while Bryan Hogue (the other owner,) seems to be a little more optimistic.

So I'll be talking with Matt and Bryan and quite a few others (Coffin Joe, Farmer, Brooke, Chris Bratton, Patrick Halloran, local filmmakers and cinephiles, more and more as I find them.) This is where, hopefully, you come in. I've canvassed, posted flyers, and now I'm doing this blog to try and find folk that are interested in talking about Black Lodge. If you're out there and have a story to tell I would really love to hear it. This isn't necessarily a gloss piece, either, so if you've got some bad blood for Black Lodge, you'd find a willing ear for that too, here. Anything and everything you've got - I'll take it. Be advised, you may find yourself sitting in front of a camera and telling your story there, as well.

So, there are the basics. Read, think, respond! It's a collaborative age, people! I need your help.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Lodge Memories #1

I remember that I had been in the store. I knew that I wanted to get to know the folks that worked there. But, Crispin Glover gave me a reason to break the ice.
Y'know, I'm pretty socially stunted. I don't really know how to small talk, I'm socially skittish, and just generally misanthropic. I knew I liked Black Lodge a lot, but hell...what was I supposed to do? "Hey, nice store. What, are you into movies?" I just didn't think it would fly. I felt like I needed a reason to talk, to introduce myself.
When the Memphis Flyer announced that Crispin Glover was bringing his Big Slide Show and his film What is it? I marched my ass into Black Lodge and got a ticket. And got to say "hello." And that was cool.
The show was mad. I mean, Crispin is sort of the potentate of the peculiar anyway, but I remember him stopping the slide show halfway through because he was certain someone was taking piuctures. Really just ground the show to a halt for about thirty minutes and made people come up and show him their digital cameras and phone-cameras so he could verify that no one had snapped any illicit shots. And the movie was beyond description: salt on snails, Downs Syndrome on Downs Syndrome violence, Downs Syndrome and Downs Syndrome sex, puppets, blacklight tapdancers, heads full of eggs, and a man with cerebral palsy getting a handjob from a woman in an ape mask.
I hear Crispin is on the road again. I noticed a friend of mine in Olympia, WA bemoaning on facebook that he had to work and missed the show. I hope he comes by again - I know he's not about being around a camera, but it'd be great for the documentary. I'd have to try to get an interview out of him.
Anyhoo, point being, I guess, is that that was the first time I got to get a feel for Lodge beyond them just being a cool video store. The community is out there (literally and figuratively,) they were at the show and came to see. That's what's big about the Glover show for me. There's odd folk in droves around this town, and they're out there in a way that I'm really intrigued by, feel really comfortable stewing in. I guess I'm intrigued by the Lodgers because they coalesce around film the way tape traders in the eighties coalesced around vintage LP stores. I mean, I dunno...its just all very unconventional and rebellious in the most askew way.
So, thanks Crispin, thanks Matt, thanks Hogue.
Were you at the show? Tell me what you thought! Got your own Black Lodge memories? Tell me about them. I'll be embedding myself at the store here in a couppla two three weeks. I sure would like some meat to think over before I get there, so throw me a comment here or there!
Be at peace.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Know Your Owl!

Okay, so, the woman was chatting with me about my most recent blog post, and began to advise me about a local antique dealer that keeps a lot of antique owls in stock. Which, is cool.

Not, however, the type of owl I'm looking for.

So, I figure I better spell this out. See the design in the picture up above? Not the circle part, but the diamond in the middle with wings? That's a Black Lodge owl. More specifically, its a Black Lodge owl tattoo, and even more specifically a Black Lodge owl tattoo worn by Farmer, a Lodger who you've probably seen working the desk if Matt or Hogue aren't around. These are what I'm looking for. I hear estimates that there are some 35-50 owl tattoos that are specifically Black Lodge Video inspired (interestingly, Matt tells me that he has had the experience of meeting someone with an owl that was a fan of the Twin Peaks television show before they ever heard of Black Lodge Video - how far out is that?)

I've talked with Hogue and Matt about this phenomenon...I mean, bars have regulars, restaurants have regulars, all stores have regulars, but not all stores have regulars who go get a tattoo of the store logo, right? I've gotten some interesting answers out of them and others as to why this happens. Some of them are kind of "Church of the Subgenius"-style answers: it's a cult that's anti-cultist. Others roll their eyes and say it's a fad that everyone will regret sooner or later.

Why do you think they do it? Or, if you have one, why did you do it? Even better still, are you thinking of getting one? What is that process like?

Finally, I wanna get down on a major "thank you" to Kerry Crawford, and her totally rockin' I Love Memphis blog. Go check out her stuff at If it can be done in this town, Kerry's clearin' a path and goin' and doin' it. Food, music, culture, local product, local celebrity, local sport (Go MRD!) She's got it all, so go have a look-see.

Be good to one another,


Footage Follow-Up

Okay, just after looking at the tapes from Friday night. Yeah, as I suspected, the audio levels on the band are a little messy, but perhaps not irretrievable. It's amazing what you can do with FCP and Soundtrack.'s gonna be tricky.

The video, on the other hand, is actually a lot more solid than I expected. The band footage is pretty good - it is a little dark, but I'm cool with it. The only problem I see there is that I (that is camera 2,) was doing a lot of cutaway shots as well as wandering around the Lodge and getting footage of folk just kinda hangin' around the store and not necessarily in the room where the band was playing. Then, when I came back to do cutaways of the band, I didn't re-white balance. footage is decidedly more red than camera 1 footage, which is predominantly blue. Gonna have to spend a LOT of time color correcting to get this to look right.

More good news, the conversation I got downstairs looks great! I'm really looking forward to getting more of this candid-style interaction amongst the Lodgers. I mean, the piece is as much about the community as it is about the store itself. The more I can get of this style of footage, the better as far as I'm concerned.

Next is a bit of a waiting game - I've got about three weeks and change before I embed myself at the store over the holiday break. I'll be dropping into Black Lodge a lot just to check in, but this is the period of time where I really need your help. What can you tell me about Black Lodge that I don't already know? What do you think of Lodge? What have been your experiences? Do you think you have a perspective that would be good for inclusion in the documentary? I'm really hoping to start hearing from people who want to weigh in on this piece. And, again, you don't have to be a fan, necessarily. If you've got a beef with the Lodge, now's the time to let it out!

Also, I'd really like to gather the owls. If you have an owl, and are willing to let me get a photograph of it, I sure would appreciate it. And, there's owls all over this town. Seen one? Let me know so I can go shoot it. I know of a couple on campus, one at P&H, one at Huey's downtown. Where are more?

Alright, off to teach. Be careful out there.


Saturday, November 21, 2009


Got the second camera for last night's shoot! Just in the nick of time!

All in all, things went well. I'm really curious to see how the audio is gonna come out...the band didn't run through a sound board, so, me and Matt Bowling were riding the levels on our cameras all night. Still, it looked really cool. If you haven't been up there, the Micro-Dome is really dark - not a lot of light to get yer textbook exposed picture. But, hey, it's a freakin' "black" lodge, right? I'm cool with dark.

And got some cool music, too. Want to give a shout out to Tiffany Harman, Other Stories and The Ideal Setback for a great show. The Ideal Setback is Todd Chappell, and his stuff is ambient, spooky, with lots of loops and neat distortion and stuff. He and I talked a little bit and I think I'm gonna be using some of his music for the background track. It works well with the atmosphere I'm trying to get with this doc. You can check out his stuff at See Tiffany Harman, Other Stories, and Tiffany Harmon and Other Stories at,, and, respectively.

Got some interesting conversations from folks down in the store proper, too. I really think that's gonna be the trick of making this thing look and feel a little more authentic. Me going down with a camera, postin' up in a corner somewhere, and just being very silent and unobtrusive and getting people speaking off the cuff without worrying (or, even, knowing,) about me being there. The best stuff I've shot so far for this documentary was just folks talkin' who had no interest in the fact I was making a documentary at all. Boss. Very direct cinema.

So, mucho mucho going on today. I've got to get little Vertov over to PetCo and do some kitten things. Out to the Orpheum with the woman tonight. Play practice this afternoon. Point being, I'm not gonna be able to look at the footage til Sunday at the earliest. In the meantime? Shit...I dunno. Start gettin' ready to embed, I reckon. Finish my papers for my other classes, too. Damn! I just realized I'm freakin' busy!!


Thursday, November 19, 2009


Dropped by Lodge tonight to check out the set-up for the show tomorrow. Talked to Matt and Tiffany Harmon and the collective known as Other Stories. Looks like its gonna be a real laid back show, which is cool. I'm kind of wondering how it fits into the documentary though. Well, in a way I am.

I mean, the average Lodge show tends to be a little more punk, a little more industrial. This being the case, is what I'm getting typical? Is it emblematic of Lodge events? Probably not. On the other hand, it is an ontological happening. It's "real." I'm glad I'm gonna be shooting it, regardless, Tiffany and her colleagues are cool folks. So...its all good. It's all gonna work out.

Just wish I had that second camera. Dang.

Also talked to Chris Bratton for a second. Looks like we're gonna be one happy family for Christmas. This is gonna be tough. I'm embedding myself at Black Lodge for a month, and it's gonna be different. Difficult. Hopefully, rewarding. I just don't see any other way to get the story of what Black Lodge is really about without being there and soaking in it. All of the interviews I've done so far and the footage I've collected amount to a film about a store with a bunch of movie boxes all over the wall. It just doesn't...I doesn't live and breathe. It looks like a 20/20 human interest segment. Ugh.

So....we'll see how it all works out.

Again, come out tomorrow. 5 bucks. Cheap.


Currently on loan from Black Lodge: Cassevetes' Shadows

Prepping, prepping...


I'm off to the Lodge tonight to check out the setup for tomorrow's show. Tiffany Harmon and Other Stories and The Ideal Setback are playing in the microdome, and I want to get some footage. I'm still not sure how this is all going to work out. Matt Bowling has been good enough to volunteer to run some sound and just generally be an extra set of hands, but visually speaking what am I supposed to do? Get coverage of the band, sure, but get coverage of the crowd and just the whole "scene." And I've only got one camera. Dag, yo.

Anyway, I got my equipment checkout sheets okayed, so I'll be picking everything up tomorrow after my speech class. Then I'll probably try to squeeze in a nap, get at Lodge around 5. Figure whatever happens, whatever I can get, it's all still good footage.

I'm tired of waiting around for this thing. I feel like I've done a lot of good prep work, but the prep period has gone on FOREVER, and I'm still no closer to really understanding what it is I'm so drawn to, what story it is I think I'm trying to tell. Much less how that story should look - how to make it visually apparent. I'm such a fucking dumbass sometimes it's fucking depressing.

Still - got to remember to print out a whole buncha release forms...I've GOT to remember that. I'll probably forget.

So, if yer not doing anything, head down to Lodge tomorrow evening. Check out the show. Come say something about your Lodge experiences. Come memorialize Cooper. It's a good thing to do.


Currently on loan from Black Lodge: Pink Flamingos & Wet Hot American Summer