Clayton Luce

Clayton Luce

Founding Editor/ Publisher
http://www.cultnation.org

Clayton L. Luce is a writer and journalist, editor, artist, event producer and multimedia production professional living in Louisville, Kentucky.
He spent 6 years in international public relations for an international NGO and founded Emagyn Production Company and Emagyn Publishing Company which were later combined into Emagyn Media Company, specializing in video production, graphic design, corporate branding and small form publishing.
Clayton is also an activist in the fields of cult abuse and political reform and is also an active supporter of N.O.R.M.L. for marijuana reform legislation.
In 2014 he co-founded GonzoToday with many other like minded individuals as a New Journalism platform to counter the ever omnipotent news and Mainstream Media industry increasingly constrained by private interests, lack of journalistic integrity and the oppression of freedom of the press and artistic expression. He currently serves as executive publisher and a board member of GonzoToday.com and its social charitable parent organization GonzoToday Group, Inc.

The GonzoToday mission is to advance the promotion and social integrity of the arts and culture as well as to provide a grassroots based affiliate network of artists, galleries, writers, publishing houses, musicians and record companies for the purpose of creating opportunities for artistic expression and ideological freedom and community as an alternative to mainstream outlets/organizations.

In 2015 Clayton was appointed to the GonzoFest Louisville creative production as well as the GrateVille Dead music festival production team. In 2016 he was granted a Kentucky Colonelship by new Kentucky Governor and general Nazi, Matt Bevin, for no apparently good reason at all.

His plans are to flee the country as soon as possible, and never return.

The Michel Negroponte Interview

 

Hello Michel, I just finished watching your film, An Autobiography of Michelle Maren. Not bad for a film I would have otherwise probably never have watched. It made me snot all over myself, and I drank a fifth of whiskey in order to get through it without having a complete breakdown.

Postcard - colors[1]At first, I’ll be honest; I thought it was some sort of midlife crisis bullshit, a long shot down a deep hole with no good end in sight. I figured maybe you had finally fallen into a creative void, and I figure we are all entitled to fail terribly every once in awhile, in the name of art. I didn’t know who Michelle Maren was, though I did see the Deep Throat movies. I probably have a copy around here somewhere.
But then I got about 15 mins into it and I became fascinated with this story. I felt like I knew this girl. This is the Real story of the American Dream.

 It’s a tale of tragedy and triumph that people desperately need to see. People are living this shit every day, and they need to see what happens at the end of the story. Life is not a fairy tale, but that does not mean it’s not a life worth living. There is a lot to be said about the film, and a lot of questions that could be asked.  We sobbed a lot, so I probably won’t bring that up anymore for the purpose of this dialogue.

 I try to fight back the tears when I’m reviewing films. They make me feel weak. I keep a sharp olive fork on a small wooden block on the side of my desk. Whenever I start to cry for any reason at all, I just stab myself in the hand with it, until it fills me with blind rage, which I can then channel into hate and back into productive literature. So I’ll start simply:

MN4Clayton Luce: For those who don’t know you, who is Michel Negroponte, and why did you choose film?

Michel Negroponte: I’m a seasoned documentary filmmaker. Actually, I don’t really like the word documentary, even though I use it all the time. I prefer the term creative nonfiction. So I’m a creative nonfiction filmmaker! That’s a mouthful. In any case, my films include Jupiter’s Wife (1995), Methadonia (2005), I’m Dangerous with Love (2009) and An Autobiography of Michelle Maren (2015).  The work has been broadcast on HBO, PBS, the BBC, and many others networks worldwide. My films have also been invited to a number of festivals including the Sundance Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and Hot Docs.
 
I started looking at films when I was a teenager in the 1960’s. It was an exciting time: American movies were edgy and adventurous. Abroad, the French and British New Wave were creating modern masterpieces. And the documentary world was sizzling with the work of the cinema verite pioneers: Ricky Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles, Ed Pincus and others. I was swept away by all of it and started making Super 8 films in high school. Then I studied filmmaking at M.I.T. with Ricky Leacock and Ed Pincus. I never looked back.
 
 
Q: Who is Michelle Maren and I why did you choose her as the subject for your film?
A: Actually, Michelle Maren contacted me after seeing my film Jupiter’s Wife 80 times. Michelle is a former beauty queen, go-go dancer, professional escort, and porn star. She now lives on disability and struggles with clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and childhood trauma. Isolated and alone, she told me she was seeking transformation and another chance through film. I was intrigued and we embarked on a collaboration that took us 6 years to complete.
AutobiographyMichelleMaren_DetailQ: Do you enjoy guns and bombs? Are you a convicted felon?

A: I do not enjoy guns or bombs, but it’s thoughtful of you to ask. Neither am I a convicted felon. Remarkably, I’ve never been arrested. But at my age, I think I should reconsider my penchant for good behavior. A little adventure is good for the circulation. When I get arrested, will you bail me out?

We don’t affiliate with the criminal underworld, at least on the record. But we know ‘a guy,’ remind me to give you his number.

Q: There are very heavy and heartbreaking themes throughout this film that we as an audience must confront when watching Michelle on this 6 year journey.  What was it like for you, as a filmmaker and as a man, to actually have to go through this with her?  Was it difficult?

A: At times, it was immensely difficult for both of us. The material I was working with as the co-director and editor of the film was raw and emotional. To live with that material day in, day out – for years – was a challenge. On a few occasions, I curled into a fetal position in the editing room and put my thumb in my mouth. It was that painful. It was even more difficult for Michelle. She filmed a lot of the project on her own – almost the entire first third of the film. We travelled back to her childhood homes and traced her descent into the world of porn. It was like constant encounter therapy for Michelle, a dramatic reliving of painful memories. But she was committed to confronting her demons.
AUTOBIOGRAPHYOFMICHELLEMAREN-KEY
Q: Have you ever killed an animal with you bare hands?

A: Yes, a worm.
Q: Why?
A:  I’ve liked fishing since I was a child. But now I fish with just a bobber and a bare hook. I can visualize catching a fish and that’s enough. I’m aiming for a higher spiritual plane. It’s not been easy and I may go back to killing worms soon.
Q: There was a point in the film when Michelle was very angry with you during one of her episodes. She spoke to you almost as though the two of you were married. Did you feel as though some sort of line had been crossed at some point in the project, as a film maker, and as a friend to her? Was there ever a point in the film that you felt like the picture wouldn’t be made?
Cabaret 4A: There were several times during the making of the film that we almost shelved the project. I was concerned that the process of making the film was too hard emotionally for Michelle. I couldn’t envision screening such a grueling film to an audience. I was worried about how Michelle might react to the release of the finished film.  And yes, I did wonder on occasion if I was on the wrong side of that murky ethical boundary line. I grappled with these issues a lot. But almost every time we almost quit, it was Michelle who kept the project going. She insisted, and in many respects it was her strength and resilience that got the film finished.
 
Near the end of the film, there is a confrontational scene between the two of us that is tough to watch. I don’t want to describe it in great detail, I want viewers to experience it first hand. I can say this: to some degree, the film deals with the idea of collaboration. It’s an important part of the story. Collaborations are hard and many of them end badly. But we survived, and we’re currently showing the film at festivals together.
Q: You chose an interesting format for your film. It appears that you gave Michelle a camera and had her journal her life. How did that process work? How much say did she have in what made it into the film and what did not?

A: The project began with Michelle filming herself with a camcorder I loaned her. I gave her a few basic lessons, but she quickly became one of my most adventurous students. When I saw what she was doing with the camera, I was amazed with her cinematography and lighting. Her monologues to the camera were delivered with a theatrical flair. I was floored by her material and that’s what ultimately made we want to work with her.
 
I shared rough-cuts of scenes and even longer sections of the film with Michelle throughout the entire collaboration. In general, I did the initial editing work –  editing takes a pretty seasoned eye to figure out the possibilities. But then we swapped ideas, shaped scenes and moved forward. By the way, I started editing the material from almost day one. That’s how I work. For years, I’ve been editing and shooting a film project as I go along. It’s a process I’m accustomed to. Of course I go back and re-edit scenes. I add and subtract scenes, and move them around all the time. But I like watching the film evolve as it’s being shot. Filmmaking is about process, and it creates a dialogue between the filmmaker and the
film. I listen carefully to what it’s saying.
 Q: If you could send any one person back to the future, who would it be?

A: Donald Trump. He’s an embarrassment. I’m sure he would be welcomed by Neanderthals. Damn, maybe even they would reject him?

 Q: As a documentary filmmaker, what would you like to say about this film and its subject matter that you would like to share with your audience?
A: There is a contemporary trend in documentary to choose celebrities and famous people as subjects. Or well known, high profile stories. I find that trend boring. I’m far more interested in present tense films about people I’ve never met, or places I’ve never been to. I like the sense of adventure. I like being surprised. As in any good creative non-fiction, a film needs to have it’s own personality, which is a delicate blend of the filmmaker’s DNA and the subject’s DNA. Subject matter alone is never enough. I’m also interested in filmmakers who are sensitive to cinematic technique. Like music, filmmaking needs an emotional context, and that’s created primarily by technique: it’s editing and photography more than anything else. Of course there is a long list of other considerations. One of my biggest concerns is that there is very little filmmaking in documentary filmmaking any longer. People merely aim the camera at a story, or document it. Filmmaking has to be more than that. It’s still a cinematic art form, and you have to know your stuff to make a film.
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Q: Finally, as a magazine that caters primarily to amateur and professional artists in all forms of media, what did you learn during this project that you could pass on to aspiring documentarians? Any Sage wisdom or tips of the trade?

A: As in any art form, it takes patience and persistence. You have to do the work, and you have to be very disciplined. I tell my students that writers write, painters paint, and musicians make music. Filmmakers have to do the same, unless what you’re really interested in is producing films, then you merely tell people what to do. I don’t think that’s real filmmaking. I might even go so far as to say you have to shoot and edit your own work.  I think the best storytelling is filtered though a singular perspective. Nonetheless, the most important thing is to create a schedule and to stick to it. One of the greatest contemporary American writers was Raymond Carver. By the time he was 25, he had a family to support. He took any job he could find: pumping gas or working in a laundromat. Somehow, he managed to write every night for two hours, only short stories. By middle age, he had published three of the most beautiful and celebrated collections of short stories in recent history. I think Raymond Carver is a great inspiration.

 

Well Michel, this is one hell of a film! A tragic yet inspiring rollercoaster ride into the Inner Pain of the Prozac Nation, a daughters yearning for love and acceptance in a world gone mad on liquor and madness and hate; a must see obituary for the death of the American Dream. This one will make you hold your loved ones tight tonight, thankful for what you have.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us and we wish you the absolute very best on whatever terrible new journey the future may hold for you.

-Clayton L. Luce

An Autobiography of Michelle Maren is another gripping portrait from the Michel Negroponte, the director of Jupiter’s Wife. Once again, Negroponte’s subject is a haunted woman whose past will not release her. The film begins with an email from Michelle Maren to the filmmaker because she has seen and admired Jupiter’s Wife.  A middle-aged former beauty queen, go-go dancer, professional escort, and porn star, Michelle lives on disability checks and struggles with clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and childhood trauma. Isolated  and alone, she is seeking transformation and another chance through film. What unfolds is a cinematic blend of exposure therapy,  psychological investigation, and confession. Secrets are revealed and the film builds to a startling conclusion that is as riveting as any fiction. 


 

An Autobiography of Michelle Maren
Doc NYC  US PREMIERE
A film by Michel Negroponte and Michelle Maren
80 MINUTES / 2015 / USA
                             9:30 PM, Sun Nov 15, 2015 | Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
10:45 AM, Fri Nov 13, 2015 |  IFC Center
“An intense, challenging and supremely artful documentary that will haunt you long after the final frame.”
-Doug Block  Filmmaker (51 Birch Street)
“Exposure therapy and cinema collide in one of the most intense documentaries you’ll ever see.
-Nina Davenport  Filmmaker  (First Comes Love)
 
 
“A fascinating, sometimes harrowing journey into an unusual woman’s psyche. Once again, Negroponte tests the limits of where documentary can go, what it can reveal about the inner lives of others – and by extension, of ourselves.” 
 
-Ross McElwee  Filmmaker (Sherman’s March)
 
“What a triumph in filmmaking. I’ve never seen anything like it”
-Chico Colvard  Filmmaker  (Family Affair)

A New Light in the Hunter S. Thompson Kitchen

originally published in Leo Weekly

From Kentucky to Denver and Beyond- One Gonzo Spirit Road Trip

A few weeks ago Clayton Luce (Gonzo Today publisher & Founding Editor), Nick Storm (Storm Generation Films & Pure Politics), and I (Gonzo Today Poetry Editor) took a 72-hour non-stop road trip to Denver, Colorado, where we had a One Gonzo Spirit Summit with Juan and Jennifer and Will Thompson. Historian Douglas Brinkley and publisher DJ Watkins also stopped in for a visit. On the drive back Clayton and Nick and I took turns reading a proof copy of Juan’s new book out loud to each other. The book will be released in early January. Here’s what I wrote about the book: 

“Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson is the book every Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo fan has been waiting for. Stunning. Gut Wrenching. Brutally honest. Eloquently written. A revelation. On the entire high speed emotional roller coaster ride I laughed and I cried. Juan F. Thompson has done a heroic job of revealing the dark terror and inspired beauty of being the only child of one of the greatest writers in history.” 

-Ron Whitehead 

Part-1

It-was-going-to-be-a-fast-tripand a long ride — eighty miles per hour across the heart of the nation, running along the main artery towards Denver. We brought along the cooler with iced drinks, camera bags, audio equipment and other provisions, and the mad poet had traded his shiny red convertible for a compact import car that might make the trip but certainly wasn’t going to draw any attention. This trip would require absolute stealth. There could be no sudden run-ins with cops, poorly executed lane changes, or anything at all that might give any sort of law enforcement a reason to search the car. The kit bag was in the trunk, along with a large pile of miscellaneous stereo equipment, books, rolls of artwork, CD’s, framed paintings, exotic fragrances, official documents and a heaping pile of other crap that would be necessary for the trip.

Ron “The Bone Man” Whitehead and his documentarian, Nick Storm, pulled up to my house at 4:30A.M., late as usual but still too early for me. My wife was sobbing desperately, begging me not to leave with what she repeatedly described as “vicious savages.”  I was trying to pack, think and weasel my way out of the house at the same time, as she wailed and heaved and cried out into the darkness, her voice echoing down through the predawn mist of the lower Highlands as lights flipped on and people awoke to the sounds of sorrow.

“Don’t  worry,” I said, “Try not to think too much about it. My odds of surviving an 11,000 mile trip are somewhere in the neighborhood of around 25,000/1. These are good people. We have all that we need. We are ready.”

Four hours later we were barreling through St. Louis, Whitehead at the wheel jabbering hysterically about attorneys and vicious thieves and liars and cheap money pimps somewhere in the Dark Valley. I remember hunkering down in my seat, covering my head in the pillows we had thrown in the back and trying to block it all out. I awoke again about half way through the great state of Missouri at a rest stop. Ron had apparently come down from whatever adrenaline rush he had been on for the previous eight hours, and now Nick Storm was going to take the pilot’s seat. I had time for half a cigarette before they hustled me back into the compact, and we sped off again, heading west as conversation drifted into a dull murmur and then silence.

Continue reading

GT Flashback Nov. 2014: Fear & Loathing with Colonel Leonard

 

by Clayton Luce

“Somebody once said that DNA moves in mysterious ways.”

Dear Stockton,

I know that as of late our recollections have been hazy and perhaps it is from too many years of abusing our bodies and minds or maybe it’s just the government. All that I can say for sure about these past few years is that something has gone very wrong. There are strange rumblings in the desert and there is nothing good coming out of the news.

A close friend of mine described it as a Darkness and I would tend to agree. Continue reading

GonzoVille Tonight | Hunter S. Thompson Legacy Kickoff Party-GonzoFest Louisville

Doc Jeffurious Higgason is broadcasting live from deep within the subterranean basement complex of Louisville City Hall and The Mayors Office. This time he is jabbering about the Hunter S. Thompson Statue Legacy Kickoff Party, as the launch of the GoFundMe campaign to pay for a life sized bronze statue of Hunter S. Thompson in Louisville.

The Mayor was regrettably, unable to attend but sent a dozen bottles of Chivas and a Richard Nixon mask to support the cause and a button that said: I WANT YOU!

The Mayor likes us, but he doesn’t like us camping out down here in the basement. In fact, it sounds like someone is coming as we speak. Time to flee…

SUPPORT THE STATUE:
https://www.gofundme.com/HuntersStatueLou

An Open Letter to the Thompsons & Acostas

Clayton Luce
9/17/15 Louisville, KY

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Deborah Fuller, Jennifer Winkel Thompson & Juan Thompson at DJ Watkins’ Gonzo Gallery in Aspen

Dearest Jennifer, Juan, Deborah Fuller & Will Thompson, and Stephanie & Annie Acosta (and RALPH OK),

On behalf of the entire GonzoToday family from sea to oil-sludged, radioactive sea:

There have been a lot of new and wildly significant and loved faces from Hunter’s life and legacy on the HD satellite observation monitors of all things Gonzo down here in the virtual “GonzoToday Tower of Madness.”

Duke started screeching, and the Great Owl flapped when we heard that the Real Owl Farm was back on the block.

I realize that a conference style group intro like this might be a bit unorthodox, but we are anything but orthodox. I know a lot of you have been curious about who and what GonzoToday is, what our motives are, what’s going on with GonzoFest, etc.

I also know some of you have probably heard some wild and terrible things about us. Some of them are true . . . but one of the lessons we have learned is that The Greedheads have a solid hold on everything pure and beautiful that Hunter stood for. And for 15 something odd years Gonzo fans around the world have watched replays and monetized reenactments of Hunter’s conflicts, personal battles and weaknesses. In effect, the cartoon that seemed to overtake his life has only grown bigger and more detrimental to his personal legacy than it did during his life. Continue reading